Human Resources

7 Best Practices for Better Intern Onboarding

Published on April 28, 2022 • Updated on June 7, 2022 • About 8 min. read

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Best practices for intern onboarding

A successful internship program can connect your company with the local community, give young people invaluable on-the-job experience, and have a real impact on business performance.

So what makes the difference when it comes to intern onboarding? How can you improve your onboarding so it’s not only efficient, but stands out as one of the most memorable aspects of an internship? And why is it so important, anyway?

To find out the answer to these questions and more, read on.

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Why is intern onboarding important?

Many companies and HR departments fall into the trap of focusing all their employee onboarding efforts on new permanent staff. But your processes for intern onboarding can be just as important to the team and business as a whole.

Here are three key reasons why it’s a mistake to underestimate the value of intern onboarding:

  1. Interns aren’t just unfamiliar with your workplace, they’re often unfamiliar with any workplace. Certainly, it’s unlikely your interns have enough experience to be highly adaptable, confident, and fast to settle in. So interns need the support of a well-organized and structured onboarding process to positively contribute to the team – or they could end up being a burden.
  2. Also, most internships only last for three to four months. So without some all-important onboarding, they could easily spend half that time simply learning the basics. Internships can be a fantastic learning curve for students and college graduates, but the relationship needs to work both ways. Without proper onboarding, they could struggle to get to grips with your digital tools, preferred methods of communication, or day-to-day processes before the duration of their internship is complete.
  3. Finally, if your team welcomes a new batch of interns every four to six months, you need a smooth onboarding process that’s quick and, where possible, autonomous. Without an efficient plan for intern onboarding, any internship program could end up being hugely demanding for your department – essentially, you’ll be playing catch-up all year round.
Intern onboarding

7 best practices for onboarding interns

Don’t undervalue the impact of a well-organized onboarding process for interns, who can provide huge value to any organization with their impact on the working atmosphere and culture of a team. See our top recommendations for successful intern onboarding here:

Handle paperwork during pre-boarding

There’s arguably even more value to a complete pre-onboarding process for interns than there is for permanent employees. To get them settled in as quickly as possible, do the following before their first day:

  • Confirm their first day and standard hours of work, ideally in a face-to-face call, which can help them feel confident and give them the chance to ask you any questions
  • Complete paperwork, including for banking forms and other requirements, such as an NDA
  • If they’re working in an office, have their desk space and computer set-up, ready, and waiting, along with any other equipment needs
  • Provide access and permissions for all the digital tools and services they’ll be using, for example, Slack, Google Drive, or Microsoft accounts

Also, though it’s important to be introduced to the team in the first days of the job, where possible, also introduce starting interns to one or two colleagues during pre-onboarding. By setting up a face-to-face video call, you can further help negate any first-day nerves.

Share goals and expectations

Providing clear examples of what’s expected from new employees is particularly valuable to interns who may not have any experience of a typical working environment.

One effective way to do this is by sharing key company or team meetings from the past year, quarter, or month. Not only will they have the chance to pick up on company goals, principles, and processes, but they’ll also be able to see how team members behave, communicate, and listen.

With Livestorm, users have unlimited replays – so use that to your advantage and give your interns some meaningful context to what they’ll experience from their first day onwards.

Communicate with their school or college

Interns can sometimes become overwhelmed when trying to balance their internship with their school life and whatever other responsibilities they may have outside of those. So, transparently, maintain open communication with their school.

In doing so, you’ll demonstrate a commitment to their wellbeing, and will be taking proactive steps to provide the additional support that all workers can benefit from, including interns.

Listen to what their teachers have to say, adjust their schedule where necessary, and ensure you always have oversight of their workload and that it’s never unmanageable.

Person communicating with intern's institution

Map their journey

Share with your intern what they’ll get out of their time with you. Seeing the kinds of projects they’ll be working on and what skills they’ll learn will both reassure and motivate them.

By mapping their internship with a timeline showing the tools they’ll use, the special tasks they’ll complete, and the technical skills they’ll develop, you can also more easily track their training and progress.

Then the company can recognize each new achievement in one-to-one appraisals with their manager, or by sharing how they’ve helped the team in group communications.

Tell the team who’s starting and when

Be sure to let the team know there’ll be a new intern starting before their first day. This will give them the chance to prepare a welcome (even if it’s just a friendly Slack message), set aside time for a meeting where applicable, and ensure your intern isn’t met with a succession of blank faces because everyone’s too busy to notice a new starter.

Meanwhile, the intern’s manager or team leader will have time to fully prepare the intern’s introduction to their role and initial tasks (which hopefully aren’t too demanding).

Give them a fantastic introduction to the company culture

Everyone remembers their first day on the job and interns are no different – and how people start their new role can set the tone for the rest of their time with an organization or team.

So demonstrate the care, attention, and togetherness you wish your interns to show in their future tasks and interactions.

Here are some of the live touchpoints you can plan for new interns so they understand the value of a strong team ethic and begin as you wish them to continue:

  • A breakfast the morning they arrive with other interns. This is important as it will set new interns up with peers they can always turn to.
  • A live meeting with the team and manager they’re joining. Make sure interns meet as early as possible with their teams. This will help alleviate much of their anxiety and give them the chance to start developing a rapport with their new colleagues.
  • A brief daily one-to-one with the manager for the first week. This will give the manager the opportunity to provide extra support, answer questions, and track progress.
  • A daily lunch with another team member or intern for the first week. Social lunches aren’t for everyone, but in the first week of the job this will help avoid any intern feeling alienated or unsupported.
  • A brief weekly one-to-one with you for the whole duration of the internship. Interns will have the opportunity to ask you for any additional help, while also giving you feedback on their tasks and projects. Meanwhile, you can gauge their sense of comfort and where you may need to make improvements to the onboarding process.

Engage, engage, engage

People perform best when they’re engaged. Engaged with their team, their objectives, and their tasks. This is especially crucial for interns as they’re probably only with you for a short time. So you need their buy-in from the start.

We’ve already touched on some of the most important actions you can take to engage interns, such as mapping their internship journey, offering recognition for all their achievements, and creating live touchpoints with their team, peers, and managers throughout their first week and beyond.

But what if your interns don’t work in an office with the team and you’re onboarding remotely?

In fact, creating a highly structured, engaging intern onboarding process can be facilitated by remote working. Since everyone’s interactions take place via an app or platform, it means you can use automations to have more control over how to guide, time, and shape those interactions.

For example, with onboarding automation, you can auto-generate tasks, automate emails to be sent out to interns, trigger team announcements, and auto-schedule special meetings and reminders. All of which allow you to focus less on the paperwork and more on the interns themselves.

And with a video engagement platform like Livestorm, you can easily organize group calls and encourage team members to use engagement features like emoji reactions, polls, and breakout rooms. This way, team members can really express themselves and enjoy each other’s company during meetings.

Help interns gain confidence
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Read this handbook on remote employee onboarding to learn how to source, hire, and onboard remote employees.

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Let interns make the most of their internship

By taking care to provide interns with an engaging onboarding experience that connects them with peers, teammates, and managers, you can pre-empt many of the challenges they often face, such as a lack of experience in the workplace.

And when you use digital tools like Livestorm to engage interns in remote groups, one-to-one meetings, and event replays, you help them understand the underlying culture of the company, which does so much to bond workers and focus them on shared goals.

This will not only give you more time to concentrate on providing the personalized attention that the best onboarding processes have, but it will also allow your interns to make the most of the fantastic opportunities that a successful internship offers.

Frequently asked questions about onboarding interns

How can I onboard a marketing intern?

The best way to onboard marketing interns is to:

  • Complete any required documentation before their first day
  • Set up their equipment, workspace, and accounts before they start
  • Map their journey showing tasks and skills they’ll learn, which might include copywriting, social media management, or even basic graphic design
  • Show them how to track key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure their success
  • Schedule meetings with the team throughout the first week and beyond
  • Stay in touch with their college throughout their internship
  • Use digital tools throughout the internship to engage them in their tasks and team

What makes a good intern onboarding email?

A good intern onboarding email will show them you’re excited to have them as part of your team. They’ve worked hard and most likely went through a few interviews in order to land the internship.

Let them know they are a valued part of the team and you’re excited to help them grow their skills. Communicate things like dress code, start and end times and any other important information in the first email along with contact information if they need to get ahold of the person above them.

It’s important to engage with new interns as early in the onboarding process as possible. So in your first email communications with interns, you should:

  • Express your excitement at their joining the team
  • Share what they can expect to gain from their internship in terms of skills and experience
  • Share what their first-day schedule will be, who they’ll meet, and what they’ll do
  • Ask them to complete any required paperwork, including clear instructions
  • Share replays of key recent online meetings and calls to communicate goals and company culture

How should you welcome new interns?

Socialization in a new work environment is crucial for confidence and teamwork. Introduce the intern to their team and have a fun ice breaker activity! Whether you’re in person or virtual, getting to know people through questions and games is a good way to make your new intern feel welcome.

Can you onboard new interns virtually?

Virtual onboarding can be highly efficient because using digital tools for your communications and work processes allows you to automate the bulk of your tasks. Also, with a video engagement platform like Livestorm, it’s easy to organize all your one-to-one and group meetings. With onboarding automation in place, you can spend more time reviewing the onboarding process as a whole and providing personalized support.

How to Onboard Remote Employees
How to onboard remote employees ebook cover
Ebook Ebooks

How to Onboard Remote Employees

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