Remote Working - 8 Tips For Running a Successful Remote Internship Program

Can I handle a remote internship without regular face-to-face meetings? 

What should I do to manage remote interns effectively?

How can I give direction to a remote intern that has lost focus?

If you have ever asked or tried to answer any of the above questions, read on. Despite the advent of COVID-19 and the trend of companies going remote, many are still sceptical about taking remote interns. Some business owners believe interns cannot function properly without physical guidance. This is, however, false. Just as on-site internships need planning, so too can virtual internships be conducted successfully with adequate planning. The following are the eight things that will help you manage remote interns.

1. Regular communication

Communication is key to the success of every venture. Be sure to communicate your expectations with your interns. Before an internship fully commences, define the framework of the internship and the related tasks. To ensure the students and you get the best out of the experience, inform your interns about what you want, when you want it and how you want it.

Clarify the tasks and priorities and make it clear which parts of projects your interns should focus on. Also, be clear on how quickly you want interns to respond to messages, what your company's' primary mode of communication is, and decide whom interns should meet with remotely when they have a pending problem. 

2. Trust your interns, don't micromanage 

If you took them onboard, it means that they are up to the task. Let your interns have that sense of ownership and responsibility. Resist the urge to be all controlling and give your interns space to do their own thing. Be more focused on the outcomes rather than monitoring their every activity. The interns came in willingly because they want to have the experience, so trust them to get the tasks done. Just be sure to arrange sufficient mentoring meetings with the interns to ensure they are learning as planned during the internship.

Interns have innovative mindsets, but micromanaging can suffocate their creativity. Some years ago at CareerDC, we had issues with getting companies signing contracts timely due to e-signatures. An intern we had at the time researched and introduced Adobe Sign to us. This greatly boosted our client base as we got more companies to sign contracts quickly and easily. Now imagine if we had micromanaged that intern - well, your guess is as good as mine.

3. Onboarding opportunities

This is the best way to ease your intern into your work practice and make them feel like a part of the company. This is also the perfect time to instruct interns of their tasks, planned learning outcomes and your expectations. This should be done via video chat as it helps bridge the gap created by distance. Ensure to introduce interns to other employees and your key executives. It will create better working relationships and increase familiarity.

You can also create and provide an organisational chart that shows the structure of the company, which can be inspirational for a young intern keen to build towards their future career. Provide electronic versions of important documents, policies, and procedures such as a code of conduct. It will be beneficial to have a reference guide which can be in the form of an intern’s handbook.

4. Make your interns a part of the team 

Include your remote interns in your regular team meetings to give them a sense of belonging. Student interns with particularly positive experiences remark that they were integrated into the team and felt that the company cared about their welfare. Give your interns real tasks to do and let them feel like a part of your workforce. It does not have to be the grandest of your projects, but something that the interns can get stuck into to apply their learning and to gain experience. The interns must have real practical tasks to work on so that they can learn. Also, the interns need quality tasks to refer to on their CVs when they eventually showcase what they did with a company during their internship. 

Create an online structure for mentorship, support, and education. Assign an onboarding buddy and a mentor to interns. This should be an employee that the intern can relate comfortably with and meet for guidance. This enables the intern to get familiar with the online work environment and other team members. 

Select appropriate projects that are important to the people in your business to ensure there are as many people as possible who have a vested interest in the interns’ success. It also widens the scope of available mentors who are knowledgeable about the project and can assist.

5. Use the right technology 

There are several platforms for video conferencing, such as Zoom, Hangouts, and Google Meet. Perhaps you are already using some of them or another platform.  As to files sharing, you can use Google Drive or Dropbox, for example.

Whether you are familiar with these platforms, or some other platforms to enable remote working arrangements, it is important that you clearly advise your interns of the technology used for your business’s various functions. Using the right software makes work and communication easier for everyone.

6. Give feedback and ask for feedback 

Give feedback on the tasks completed by interns and identify areas for improvement. Ask your interns about their goals and aspirations and what they are doing to achieve their goals. If you detect an attitude that contravenes work ethics, be sure to discuss that with your interns and correct them gently.

You ought to ask your interns about the challenges they face, how they went about a task, the problems they faced and how you could have helped. Get regular updates on your interns’ experiences and whether their expectations of the internships are being met.

7. Use a good project management system 

Project management software has the capacity to plan, organise, and manage the projects and tasks your remote interns are engaged in. There are various software and tools to manage your projects and create effective milestones efficiently. For example, CareerDC facilitates internships via it’s platform. It was inspired by experience gained from working with internship host organisations. Other platforms include Workzone, JIRA, Notion, Trello, and Asana.

8. Be flexible and real 

Schedule regular check-ins to check on the interns and their activities. You can start with a couple of times a week for the first few weeks and then limit it to once a week or so, depending on each intern and their progress. Just be sure to arrange for an avenue for the interns to contact their mentor or supervisor as and when the need arises.

Plan a weekly or monthly presentation for interns to discuss what they have learned. You can also prepare a logbook for interns to record their daily activities. This will greatly improve excellence and accountability. Inquire about your interns’ welfare and how they are faring outside the workspace. Show that you care. 

Give incentives to encourage your interns. Reward them for their hard work and exceptional qualities. This will spur them to achieve more. The reward can be monetary or access to a paid certified course, or the chance to get employed by the company and so on. The idea is to motivate your interns to do more and be happy that their effort is recognised.

Organise online get-togethers and socials for the interns to meet and interact with the team in a less formal environment. Create an avenue for them to unwind whilst still having an opportunity to network. 

Those were our tips for managing interns remotely.  With the trend of remote work and fast advancements in technology, virtual internships are fast becoming the new normal. Get prepared and design the right structure for that productive experience with your remote interns.

Need help with setting up a remote internship program?

With over 3,000 young students and recent graduates successfully placed into internship programs, CareerDC has connected hundreds of businesses with interns and have coordinated mutually beneficial internships to the satisfaction of both the business and the young interns. We can help start-ups and SMEs transition into remote internship arrangements. Ask us about the benefits of becoming a host organisation.

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