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Six top tips to manage interns in a small business


There are many good reasons for an SME to take on an intern. Our top tips can help you provide an ethical and mutually beneficial experience.

An intern provides an extra helping hand and offers you the opportunity to nurture the next generation of businesspeople – and possibly find your next employee. Internships are also the best way to determine if a candidate is a good fit for a close knit team. Om Ruparel, the MD of Recruitmentology.co.uk, offers some simple but effective advice.

  • Offer paid internships. No one should lose money while they are gaining experience and adding value to your company. At least pay for travel and lunch expenses. Lunch expenses can be set at a limit and paid as a weekly allowance or by using a system of handing in receipts.
  • Don’t assign tasks that a paid employee should do. If they are performing duties a regular employee would then pay them. Ultimately, if you have an intern who is performing a set of duties during a regular set of hours and is generally contributing to your company, an intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker.
  • Offer regular feedback. Interns require the same one-on-one attention as permanent employees. A good manager understands their staff and is always available to speak with them so meet them once a week. People work much better when they feel comfortable and like their presence is valued.
  • Set the intern goals and targets. Clear goals ensure they are performing and will aid their improvement, as well as giving you a benchmark to ascertain their growth. A well-structured programme benefits both your organisation and your intern by managing the expectations on both sides and reducing any guesswork. Think about your internship program as a dynamic and hands-on way to introduce young people to your industry. Consult with the intern’s designated mentor when writing the job description – this will help both the intern and the supervisor on a day-to-day basis.
  • Be approachable. Your intern should feel comfortable asking questions so be approachable and keep lines of communication open. An information pack is handy but will not contain all the answers to queries that may arise.
  • Provide valuable experience. Whilst it is important to work your way up the ladder of the company, making tea and coffee all day isn’t helping an intern. All jobs come with admin, but interns should have other tasks as well. Interns should be considered a valued part of your work force and they should learn the nature of your business and come away with an understanding of it. Make sure your intern works on a variety of projects to give them some broad experience – make two of those projects more in-depth, to hone skills. There should be at least one project that your intern sees through from beginning to end as a member of the team. It is important for them to feel the satisfaction of completion.

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