3 strategies for successful Intern Onboarding

Intern Onboarding takes a slightly different approach from regular onboarding, here's how to think about it.

 min. read
July 24, 2023

Thinking of hiring interns at your company next semester? With so many great programs in place, and the opportunity to truly help the next generation of workers get experience, this is an awesome thing to do! However, before they start, you will want to re-think how you onboard interns in comparison to regular full-time employees or contractors.

We talk often about how the first 90 days at a company are crucial to employee success, however, an internship may only be 90 days. The fundamentals for good onboarding remain true for intern onboarding, except you must target more expediency given their short tenure while layering in extras given their lack of workplace experience!

When you think of intern onboarding, here are 3 essential focuses you'll want to consider.

1. Back to Basics

For most of your interns, it may be their first time working in a professional setting. It is easy for one to overlook the importance of introducing key workplace tools these to new workers. Depending on the software and tools you use at your organisation, you may want to have a 1:1 with your intern to give them an overview on basic tools that they need during their internship, for example:

  • Google Workspace
  • Slack
  • Notion

Aside from a 1:1, you can also share "How To" guides & videos for them to consume as part of their onboarding plan. For example, Google Workspace has an entire Learning Center they built.

Your interns may also be unfamiliar with certain employment terms or tax requirements. It is important to ensure they have touch points with an HR representative, or leader, at your company to answer questions they may have.

Lastly, you might want to spend some time with your interns to go over basic communication etiquettes. This may include:

  • Setting up an email signature
  • Professional greetings
  • Tone/language

While these things come naturally to working professionals who have practiced them for years, it's new territory for your interns. It is important to be mindful about these considerations while designing your onboarding plan.

2. Role Specific Training

While it may have been common for interns to make thousands of paper copies (or duplicates in the G Drive 😂) and multiple coffee runs (or UberEats coordination 🤷‍♂️), we challenge you to really think of the intern as an extension of your team capacity for both the growth of your employees and your organisation.

To maximise the learning experience at your company, build role specific training that is focused at intern-level team members. The training plan should outline clear goals and milestones for the entire duration of the internship. This gives your interns a structure and highlights the expected outcomes during their time with your organization. Ensure you and your intern equally benefit from this experience.

You should also pair your role specific training with mentorship opportunities with senior employees in their respective departments to further enrich the learning experience. One easy way to incorporate this is by ensuring the intern is having weekly touch points with a mentor to:

  1. Discuss role specific questions
  2. Provide additional training opportunities
  3. Share resources and strategies to excel in their role
  4. Discuss career goals in the field

A well organised training plan and mentorship program will keep the interns on track to meet key deliverables and ensure they are doing more than basic grunt work.

3. Expedited Processes

The goal is to make your interns feel like they are going to be a part of your organization for many years, even if it'll only be for 3 to 6 months. How do you achieve this with a shortened onboarding plan? Think crash course. This is where you come up with (exciting) ways to expedite the process of onboarding your people. We have highlighted 3 crucial ways to speed things up!

1. Preboarding

With internships, you want to get most of the work done before your intern’s first day. Preboarding will bring your intern up to speed well ahead of their start date. Things to think about:

  • Batch interns' around a fixed start date.
  • Email the first day’s tasks in advance to strengthen your intern’s preparedness.
  • Invite your intern to company socials before the start date to introduce them to the team. This will expedite your intern’s integration into the company without affecting some of that precious work window.
  • Have an assigned buddy reach out to the intern one week prior to their start date. This gives your intern an opportunity to clarify any questions before they even join.
  • Collaborate with your IT department to ensure all systems and accounts are set up before their arrival so that they don't spend the first half of their week troubleshooting email access issues

2. Automation

Thanks to technology (like Aboard 👀), we can automate mundane & time consuming tasks. With a shortened intern onboarding plan, automating is all that much more important.

Few ways you can automate onboarding processes include:

  • eSignature tools for all paperwork
  • Webforms/surveys for other data capture
  • Remove paper, no printing/scanning necessary
  • Integrate intern data across platforms (similar for employees)

On that last point in particular, having integrating systems will offboarding those interns just as quickly. Just do onboarding in reverse. Winding down intern accounts & access will never be easier.

3. Short Feedback Cycles

To ensure the intern integrates seamlessly into the company’s processes, it’s vital to have numerous, tight opportunities to provide feedback during the first 2 weeks. This should include:

  • Daily 15-minute touchpoints with assigned buddy for first two weeks
  • Feedback surveys after week 1 and week 2
  • Weekly touchpoint with direct manager

Touchpoints give interns an opportunity to discuss their progress, ask any general or role specific questions, and discuss expectations they may have for their time at the company. At the same time, it gives leaders a chance to provide feedback, establish goals and monitor how well interns have taken to their role.

To summarize, onboarding interns is like a "trailer version" of onboarding full-time employees (e.g. the main event). To make sure you provide an impactful onboarding experience in a short time, you should consider to:

  1. Introduce basic tools
  2. Provide role specific training
  3. Expedite onboarding processes where you can

Still not sure where to begin? Let Aboard help!

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