How to Create an Engaging And Productive Virtual Internship Program
In this guest article from Jenna Bunnell, Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Dialpad, you’ll learn five tips for how to create a virtual internship that benefits both your organization and your interns.
In today’s competitive landscape, a degree isn’t enough to get the job you really want. Young people realize that, with many students starting an internship even before graduating.
We find ourselves in a changing world. When the world shut down due to the pandemic, nearly a quarter of employers revoked internship placements, and the rest struggled to move online.
While some businesses and institutions found the transition problematic at first, many are now enjoying the freedom and flexibility of virtual work, and the demand for online and hybrid internships is growing.
Granted, as an employer, you may need to put more effort into cultivating certain things that come naturally in an office. Fortunately, online internships bring undeniable cost-effectiveness and flexibility that allows doing precisely that.
If you’re creating a virtual internship program within your organization, here are some key things to keep in mind to ensure both you and your interns get the most out of it.
1. Recreate the In-Person Atmosphere
To lead a successful virtual internship, connection needs to be on your mind at all times.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to meet your interns before the commencement of their placement and throughout.
Realistically, though, this might not always be an option.
But losing this in-person touch doesn’t need to have catastrophic consequences. You just need to up your online communication game. Have a team lunch online. Take a digital tour followed by a virtual team building activity. Exchange numbers and keep the conversation going!
A virtual landline is a must for remote businesses, so consider securing an online phone number that allows you to chat on multiple devices. That way, your interns can reach you and your team at all times.
In the absence of a ‘real-world’ meeting, company swag is another thing that can provide your interns with a sense of appreciation and belonging. Get creative with practical gifts to make your remote team feel a part of your company, despite working from their own homes.
Leave no room for confusion and awkward waiting around. The first thing to tick off your to-do list should be compiling all your interns’ numbers, emails, and addresses.
The same attention should be given to all technical matters.
Distribute logins, software, laptops, and phones with enough time in advance. Researching your options of document editing and sharing by checking out things like the DocuSign pricing model can help speed up this process.
Allow enough time for installation and shipment to avoid bothersome delays and take into account that some interns might need a moment to familiarize themselves with the new technology.
Provide training to your existing team before onboarding the new talents, and make sure everyone knows who to contact with any questions.
Staying in contact is one thing. Making it worthwhile is another–and it’s crucial. The last thing we all need is another boring video call.
Swap the water cooler chats for something more engaging. Brainstorm some icebreaker games and themed socials to bring your team closer.
Or enlist a virtual team building activity.
If you’ve ever wanted to take part in your own Family Feud-style competition, this is your chance! With Virtual Friendly Feud Social, you and your colleagues will break out into teams to compete through survey questions focused on culture and human nature.
And, as an added social element within the game, each round of questions will be followed by a guided social mixer where you’ll have the chance to take part in a group discussion and more deeply explore the survey questions from the previous round.
An up-and-coming actress has been found dead in her hotel room the morning after an awards show. Now, you and your remote team need to channel your inner detectives as you review the evidence, assess potential suspects, and determine the method, motive, and murderer in the crime.
In this online game for groups, your remote team has been transported into a pyramid cursed by a restless mummy. Now you must uncover the secrets of Ancient Egypt in order to lift the mummy’s curse and return before the portal closes forever.
Your team’s problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills will be put to the test, as they race against the clock (and their peers) to solve the mummy’s complex clues and puzzles.
If your remote team is eager to socialize, have some fun as a group, and channel their competitive spirit, we’ve got just the thing for you! With Virtual Jeoparty Social, you and your colleagues will step into your very own virtual Jeopardy-style game show—equipped with a buzzer button, a professional actor as your host, and an immersive game show platform!
Best of all, this game has been infused with an ultra-social twist: players will take part in a unique social mixer challenge between each round.
You wouldn’t write your business strategy with a dull pencil, so why waste time with the electronic equivalent? Investing in the right software will make your team’s life easier, save your company money, and leave everyone more time to spend on fulfilling activities.
Whether you’re dealing with inventory management strategies, conducting research, or working in marketing, using the right software is key. Above all, you will need reliable video conferencing software to meet your team, relay instructions, provide training, host company socials… the list goes on.
Networking, for instance, can be difficult to do online – after all, there isn’t one designated space where everyone can hang out and converse naturally. Consider making virtual networking sessions a regular event to help interns get to know each other and make new connections.
Remember that for many interns, this may be their first-ever venture into the professional environment. Interactions and feedback from seasoned team members are therefore vital.
Emphasize that asking for help or clarification is encouraged, and make sure all interns have a full-time employee to direct their questions to. Setting up an account with an international call provider helps ensure your meetings flow smoothly and you don’t lose productivity by sorting technical difficulties.
Define clear goals and schedule regular check-ins. Individual and group meetings prove invaluable in tracking progress and clarifying any doubts. You may start your meeting by asking about the development since your last meeting, whether they have encountered any obstacles, and finish with a mental health check-in – the possibilities are endless.
At the end of the day, it is most important that you make your interns feel valued and seen – especially those in unpaid positions. Being reachable, approachable, and empathetic goes a long way.
Sometimes, the main benefits of virtual internships (such as flexibility, cost-efficiency, and independence) come at the cost of human connection. With our tips, you shouldn’t struggle to bring together talented people from across the world and leave them feeling like appreciated members of your team.
Want to Learn More About Cost-Effective Group Skills Training Programs for Your Organization?
For more information about how to support the success of your team and your organization through group skills training, reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.
Jenna Bunnell – Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. She has written for sites like NtaskManager and LuckyOrange. Check out her LinkedIn profile.