How can you create a friendly work environment for interns?
Contrary to popular belief, interns are assets in an organization. They bring fresh perspectives and energy, and ensure diversity. Collectively, they reduce the workload and eventually, the labour costs. When amply supported, they can rise to be valued full-time employees thus reducing the hiring investments and enabling long-term talent acquisition and retention.
But interns face many challenges. Some of which force them to quit after a while and warn others against joining the company.
From a distance, these challenges may look harmless, but the opposite is the case. In extreme cases, they can manifest as reputational damage or poor talent attraction, hence the need for HR’s consideration.
As a human resources professional, it is your duty to ensure and foster a positive working environment where all people can contribute and grow. And to create a friendly atmosphere, you ought to know what makes up a pleasant workplace, what interns want and incorporate in planning processes.
This article will enlighten you on how to create an intern-friendly workplace to increase intern-to-employee conversion rates or guard the company’s image. Whether you are revising the work culture or drafting for the first time, the information caters for all learning quests
1. Familiarize yourself with workplace needs of interns
There are tons of resources that advice on how to create a good working environment. Although helpful, most of them have a common shortcoming; they ignore the personal needs of the group they are trying to cater for. In consequence, the strategies designed fall short of expectations.
This means that following the trend you risk joining the statistics. To create a friendly environment for interns, you need to follow a targeted approach; start from the end. Understand their needs and do your best to incorporate them into cultural policies.
You will soon realize that interns do not need much; just an environment where they are valued, treated humanely, can learn, earn, and advance their careers, and can see how knowledge is transmuted into valuable products/services.
Familiarizing yourself with their needs will help you to align the environment accordingly. It is important to note that by catering to the needs of interns, you are helping everyone in the company.
2. Note the challenges they may be facing
Whether you are a human resources manager of a small or large corporation, you handle many roles each day. In consequence, unless the signs of dissatisfaction amongst interns become very distinct, the challenges they face will elude you and gather roots. But still, even the visible ones will not give much information about the actual matter. This is why you should inquire about the challenges, the frequency, their effect, intensity and the number of people affected. This will reveal the true nature of company culture and assist in reformation processes.
To fully understand the culture from an intern’s perspective, create a safe space to enable meaningful communication.
Educate them about acceptable workplace behaviour and the role of each person in maintaining a positive culture. Inform them about confidentiality and the need for honesty about the challenges they may be facing.
Assure them that their opinions matter, both currently and in future. Allow them to voice their concerns without dismissing and lastly, assure of prompt attendance to the challenges.
3. Seek suggestions on how to resolve
It is one thing to know about toxic behaviours and another to resolve them fully. As an HR, you may not see the workplace as an intern. This is why seeking suggestions about how to resolve the issues matters. It may better highlight a germinating challenge and a common interest. Whether you will implement the recommendations as they are or not, you will know best how to approach the matter.
You can also invite other leaders to assist in the resolution.
4. Encourage communication about toxic work culture
The phrase ‘toxic workplace’ has become popular. As a result, many companies are finding themselves in #MeToo tags and suffering in unimaginable ways.
To protect your company from such labelling, encourage communication among interns about toxic cultures. This will help in early diagnosis of problems that would otherwise harm the company.
You can use platforms that assure anonymity, choose a representative, or allow for group discussion whenever possible. We also recommend seeking training on strategic HR organizational and development. This will equip you with the knowledge needed to spearhead positive culture.
5. Take action
It may be hard to admit that some things have been happening behind your back but for the company’s future, investigate the matter quickly, objectively, discreetly, and thoroughly. This will not only give confidence about your commitment to establishing and maintaining a good positive environment but protect the company from talent shortage.
Upon gathering the information, design a plan that will resolve the matter fully.
6. Check culture in other companies
Even with the intellectual input of interns and other leaders, you may not find the best ideas on how to create an ideal workplace environment. This is where checking the culture in other companies comes in. Implement the practices that propagate a suitable work environment as they are or customize to fit the organization.
7. Lead by example and advice executives to do the same
Sometimes harassment of interns perpetuates due to the behaviour of executives; some of which is unconscious. That is their attitude, words, and actions. If they are constantly and disgustedly shunning interactions with interns, other employees may follow the trend.
This, however, is not meant to justify unprofessional behaviour. Instead, it is a call for you as the human resources professional to inform all executives about the existing challenge and their role in its resolution. Lead by example and advise them to do the same.
Training on leadership and management will come in handy in effecting change from top to bottom.
Soon enough, the rest of the team will pick up a positive approach towards interns.
8. Implement the plans and monitor
Fixing a toxic work environment is largely a physical activity. Hence, implement the strategies and monitor the progress. For excellence results, inform everyone about the changes in workplace policies. Stay alert to performance and behavioural as they provide factual information about the impact of the plans and make changes whenever necessary.
The company culture directly impacts on the performance and image. By making strides of creating a friendly environment, you will be paving the way for easy talent attraction and retention.