In this guest post Enternships head Alain Desmier suggests that properly paid interns can provide valuable help to small businesses.
The payment of interns (or lack thereof) has been hot news in 2012. Retailers, high street fashion labels and even politicians have all been exposed in the national media and asked to explain themselves.
Let me be clear from the start: I believe that interns should be paid properly for the job they do. In the next few paragraphs I’ll set out why hiring and paying an intern is the best decision your business can make this summer, and why your business will reap the benefits.
Hiring an intern isn’t just about giving students and graduates valuable work experience - although that’s a worthy cause. It’s also about helping your company grow. I’ve run two startups and I’ve always built my businesses by hiring interns and then making their roles permanent if there was a fit on both sides.
Interns you hire this summer will more than pay for themselves in the following ways.
I was horrified the first time I opened a bill from a recruitment agency to find I’d been charged the price of a family holiday to Barbados simply for them to have forwarded a few CVs to me! A recruitment company will charge you £3-4k to place a member of staff. This compares to as little as £100 for posting on some quality web-based jobs portals (and I have a vested interest here). If you plan to hire a graduate in the near future, I strongly recommend that you “try before you buy.”. By recruiting someone as an intern first, you will have the chance to see if there is a good fit between you both. You’ll save money by cutting out the recruitment fee and in exchange you’ll get a highly motivated student or graduate who wants to prove themselves.
Familiarity with new technology
Interns can also play a valuable role in your business’s online life. I graduated in 2005 and I’m constantly astonished at how far behind I am compared to students and recent graduates who have only ever known life with the internet. If you’re wondering why your Facebook page isn’t ‘liked’, or why customers find a blank when they look for you on Twitter, it’s probably because you don’t have the skills in house to deliver a concerted social media campaign. Social media is second nature to graduates leaving university this year, and if you lack an online presence, investment in an intern could bring you up to speed.
Managing directors and CEOs spend sleepless nights wondering why their staff are resigning ,and tend to take it quite personally when the “I’m leaving because…” letter arrives. There is no short term fix for holding onto staff. Building a culture where staff feel valued, trained, and rewarded is something that must be at the very core of a company’s mission. Giving an intern their first chance of employment and supporting them with training will help you build a company of committed employees who see you as more than just a pay cheque. Poaching a young, talented sales exec is a short term win but what happens when a someone else arrives with a bigger pay day? Build your company around developing your staff and they’ll stay put.
A new perspective
Focus groups were made famous by the Blairite pollster Phillip Gould, who was famously obsessed with public opinion. On that theme, when was the last time you asked yourself a strategic question about where your company is heading, and asked people for their feedback? I find that I have to mentally prepare as hard when I interview someone as I do when I’m the interviewee. I’m always keen to ensure that my company’s focus can be rolled off the tongue, so I find the whole recruitment process extremely useful in arranging my thoughts. Before I wrote this article, I asked the three interns I currently manage to give me their thoughts on what they think they bring to the company. Their insight then helped me write this piece. Mentoring is not just about receiving sage wisdom - it’s about asking people their honest opinion and objectively analysing what they say. Hire an intern this summer and get them working on those “big ideas” you’ve had locked away because you were too busy.
This point almost didn’t make the final edit as it sounds a bit cringe-worthy - but I love working with interns because of the sheer enthusiasm and passion they bring. I think we all secretly wish we were still able to go the union bar and have enough time to finish that essay due at 9am. The interns I’ve hired push me for jobs. They don’t want to sit in front of a computer pretending to work. They want to get real experience of what it’s like to work. Of all the reasons to take on an intern this summer, I think this one is amongst the most compelling.
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