How to structure meaningful remote experiences
As 2020 wrapped up, so did many of the lessons learned from the forced shift to remote internship programs. The year that left nearly half of U.S. internships canceled, transformed the core building blocks of corporations’ early talent pipelines. According to research conducted by URx in partnership with Symba, 54% of employers made the bold decision to go remote, out of which 49% reduced their program length, and 25% their program size. More than expected, completely shifting to a remote internship program turned out to be a major challenge for over 90% of university recruitment leaders.
However, the challenges of suddenly standing up remote programs lays a foundation to forge forward. Over 70% of employers are pledging to host their internship programs remotely this year. If 2020 was the trial run, 2021 gives employers the full subscription to draw from lessons learned and establish meaningful remote programs. Informed by the experiences of over 5,000 internship programs, here are Symba’s three steps to foster engagement and collaboration among remote interns.
1. Set your program up for success with clear goals & standards
As last year so vividly exposed, remote internships are a different experience than an in-person internship. Stellar preparation, or lack thereof, can really make or break a remote internship program. It is crucial that employers define what a shift to remote means for each stakeholder, including intern managers, mentors, and company leaders. Designing a successful remote program needs clear leadership and definition. Here is how you can set your program up for success through clear expectations:
- Support factors: Successful internship programs set communication standards before the interns’ first day. This involves establishing key stakeholders, defining projects, and setting communication expectations. Along with these standards, we often advise hosting virtual onboarding sessions specifically for intern managers.
- Learning goals: Motivate your interns to identify where they will stand at the end of their internship. An important way to motivate interns is to ensure that their assigned tasks enable them to work towards their learning goals, which can be captured in a learning agreement at the beginning of the internship.
2. Include engaging remote programming
Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey found those who feel a sense of belonging to their team are able to contribute more meaningful work outcomes. In order to foster belonging in a remote setting, internship programs should encompass regular virtual activities outside of work-related projects. To ensure you are structuring meaningful remote experiences, be sure to plan in advance, get creative, and have fun! Here are some ways employers can foster engagement and collaboration among interns:
- Team building activities: Themed Zoom calls, virtual scavenger hunts, and even Harry Potter-style House Cup games are some of the most original engaging activities we’ve seen so far.
- Space for dialogue: Let’s face it, it’s hard to recreate the human aspect inherent in in-person internships; however, teams who have successfully implemented remote tools to connect their interns are yielding higher collaboration and NPS scores than other programs. Providing a space for your interns to discuss shared experiences can be as simple as a ‘Hobby’ related Slack channel.
3. Host an end-of-program send off
Just as in-person programs, remote internship programs are only as valuable as the learning gathered by their participants. By the end of a successful remote program, interns should be able to trace their impact and feel part of the organization’s larger mission. In order to highlight your interns’ contributions, it crucial to host an end-of-program celebration that includes the following aspects:
- Virtual presentation to senior management: As the program comes to an end, a virtual send off provides the space for not just interns to present in front of top management but for program coordinators to highlight the overall success of the program and the contribution of their interns.
- And 1: It’s important to invest in your interns’ professional development beyond work-related projects. An “And 1” concept encourages interns to work on a passion project or initiative outside of their work deliverables, such as volunteering for a nonprofit organization, building their own app from scratch, or learning a new language or instrument.
All in all, fostering meaningful remote experiences ensures an atmosphere of responsibility, belonging, and purpose for interns while guaranteeing that your virtual program is as valuable, if not more than the traditional internship. By implementing these aspects and structuring your programs to house engagement and collaboration as the main pillars, you are paving the way towards successful and meaningful remote programs.
For more resources on standing up remote internship programs, we invite you to visit Symba.io.
By: The Symba Team
About the author:
Paula Mora is a social entrepreneur with a background in international business and a founding member of Symba. Symba, an all-female founded tech startup, is helping companies prepare for the future of work through remote internships. Prior to joining Symba, Paula completed her graduate studies at IE Business School in Spain and worked at the World Bank. Paula is passionate about professional development for at-risk-youth, immigrants, and people of color.