Return of the Prodigal Intern

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Long back in the land of a growing company, yes the story starts this way. This is no fairy tale but a real story with a happy ending.

I was once talking to an intern who was interning with the company for 6 months. He sounded very lackadaisical. To change the tone of the conversation I started talking about his hobbies, passion and college life. At once, he had the missing zeal in his eyes and intensity in his words. With the help of it I kept the conversation going and probed him further about his tenure in the company and that’s when the entire story came to light.

He was in the company for two months, but he had learnt nothing related to the work he wanted to learn. He had no one to help him out as his seniors were too busy with their own tasks, he had never met the MD and had no understanding of the company’s line of services. He had lot of ideas, but had no one to share it with. Most colleagues would only talk to each other during lunch time, which meant he hardly got to know his co-workers. He wanted to learn, apply his knowledge, wanted to be a good performer during his term, but his passion & energy were killed because of the culture. He was no longer excited to come to work every day. He had started taking leaves, coming late to office and refused taking up any extra work given to him. His attitude had changed, spirits dampened & fervor lost. He would eagerly wait for the hands of the clock to turn to 6:00 pm when he could leave for the day. He was frustrated and had developed an aversion to corporate life and to work in general.

This got me thinking. Really, what precedent are we as companies setting for the workforce that is young, full of energy, wanting to contribute and willing to work hard? It is as good as sitting on a gold-mine & not knowing about it.Are companies killing their enthusiasm to work by giving the wrong first impression? These individuals can be groomed into the culture of the company, way of working and can be trained for the skills required by the company.

Having interns on the team is a two way benefit program. Students get the experience of working in a corporate company with the chance of getting employed full-time and the company benefits from fresh ideas and getting work done at zero or minimal cost. However, most times interns are ignored or don’t get the time or  required guidance from the seniors.

I’m sure you will agree with me that getting the right fit for a growing company is the biggest challenge where the work pressure is high; salaries are not exactly matching the market rate and no brand name to take advantage of. In the light of such scenarios it becomes difficult to find and retain the right individual. If companies start taking the internship program seriously getting the perfect team wont be just a dream. Selecting interns with right attitude, who clearly share the company’s values & passion, can be groomed and trained. They can be converted into the kind of team that you want. This will take care of the recruitment challenges that you face.

As they say,

“Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.”– HubSpot’s Culture code

This intern had clearly given me a road-map to solve the recruitment problems of my client. I discussed my findings with the MD and we took quick actions to make the internship program strong.

We ensured that every intern

  • Would be groomed by the MD for 15 days
  • They would be made to work in cross functional teams so as to judge where they fit best, what interests them and also a way for them to get introduced to all the co-workers
  • We started recognizing the good work the interns were doing in front of everyone thereby inspiring them to give their 100% to the task they were performing.

My client ensured that we made the work environment positive for the interns. This indeed helped and we started seeing major changes in the performance of these new interns.

An intern is in your company for more than just learning. Treat them with respect and see the performance level of your company rise drastically .

‘It was his workplace now. But it was not till he had drifted away from it and returned to it with more energy & passion. Now was the return of the Prodigal Intern. ‘

 

 

Create a positive culture

Gauri Palekar

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