5 Tips to Build a Virtual Internship Program

One of the most formative experiences in any professional’s journey is their internship. This is a time to learn new skills, get exposure to a company’s work culture, and acquire domain experience.

2020 was a redefining year for internships. As COVID-19 set in, companies across sectors began canceling or postponing internships. However, innovative, agile businesses leveraged online tools and platforms to quickly take internships online.

Students also began signing up for virtual internships. Here are five learnings you can derive to build a robust virtual internship program and make it a win-win for companies and interns. 

1. Ensure Superior Communication  

In a virtual internship, team leads have the opportunity to use multiple modes of communication – email, communication tools, video conferencing, and messaging apps. Using too many modes can lead to chaos and communication fatigue. It’s preferable to use just one or two modes.

The second aspect is to make the reporting structure clear. Interns need clear instructions on who will be their team leaders so that they do not get derailed by instructions from multiple team members. 

2. Set the Right Expectations 

It’s a good idea to set up a framework that guides interns on their roles during the internship.

For instance, if they are working on a specific project, they must understand what exactly they are expected to do on a daily basis, who they will be working with, and what outcomes they will be driving. This brings in ownership and also motivates them to bring their best to the role.

Simple things like timings, when to log in and log off, and how to inform bosses in case of a leave of absence must be communicated clearly. 

3. Provide Tools and Guidance 

Matching interns with a mentor and a buddy can help them access the support they need beyond daily interactions with team members.

Building a structured mentorship framework will bring more accountability and value to this relationship. Buddies can do regular check-ins to support interns on a more general level.

In addition, providing them with resources connected to the business – vision and mission, case studies, and the business model can help them understand the work as well as goals better. 

4. Set Them up with the Right Technology  

Companies today have a tech stack for all communications, customer relationship management, file sharing, and other functions.

Setting up interns with the right technology is important, especially if they belong to Gen Z. This generation was born with digital fingers and functions effectively with access to the right tech tools.

Having said that, interns from any generation can perform better from Week 1 when the right tech access is part of the induction.

Today, HR teams can access a unified platform to build a robust induction program and host training and other activities to enrich an intern’s experience without overwhelming them.  

5. Enable Interns to Know Team Members 

Interns are more likely to perform well if they have the chance to build a rapport with team members. Creating opportunities to meet individual team members who can share their roles and work in the company can motivate and educate interns.

Moreover, hosting fun ice-breakers can create opportunities for lighter interactions. Other events such as hackathons can give interns a platform to collaborate with team members and showcase their talent and skills. 

The Takeaway

Today, interns can be from any generation – Gen Z, women returning after a career break, and seniors looking to change their fields.

Building an age-agnostic, robust, welcoming virtual internship program by leveraging best practices can help companies attract and retain a talented pool of interns as the next generation of drivers and leaders of a sustainable, profitable business. 


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