With 56% of employees saying that positive company culture is more important than salary in a 2019 Glassdoor multi-country survey (1), building culture in a virtual world must be a priority for companies, despite other struggles COVID-19 has created in the communal workplace. Specifically, internship programs need to focus on communicating this culture to new interns. Successful communication will result in interns feeling valued, essential, and needed, ultimately increasing companies’ intern retention and investment return. With a few changes and implementing these four key strategies into your internship program, you can make a significant impact on your interns’ remote work experience through positive company culture.
Welcome your New Interns
Remote work doesn’t make your interns any less important or critical to your company's success. Their presence matters, regardless if it’s in-person or virtual. Introducing new interns to the entire team immediately signals a positive company culture, where warmth and openness is a basis of all interactions. Following this, assign each intern to an employee as a way to create a space for you interns to feel comfortable. If your budget allows, send your interns welcome bags or treats for the first day. Small gestures go a long way as they result in smiles and appreciation. You need your interns just as much as they need you and it’s important to express that to them while working in a virtual world (2).
Take Time to Learn about your Interns
Empowering your interns and making them feel heard is critical in building company culture virtually. Great company cultures come from positive interactions between employees and interns. Arranging casual calls between you, your interns, and full-time employees is a way to create these meaningful conversations. Making your interns feel comfortable in expressing themselves, their passions, and ideas is critical in building a memorable company culture. Learning about your interns is key to any successful internship program, but specifically to a virtual one. Remote work allows for minimal contact, engagement, and conversation, thus making the extra effort makes your new interns feel appreciated and connected to your company.
Embrace Video Interactions
Remote work isn’t going anywhere, and it’s time you embrace video interactions. When employees/interns cameras are off and muted, not only is engagement lacking but no sense of culture is being created. Wellness Leader Cindy Coleman emphasizes that “video conferencing is much more human when the camera is going” (3). Rather than starting each meeting with work related announcements, instead socialize with your employees and interns. Ask everyone to share something that made them feel happy today or simply how they are doing. Encouraging video interactions foster a sense of connectivity interns look for in and crave to experience at the company they're working for (4).
Remote work calls for constant availability and communication at all hours of the workday, and sometimes even after. This does not have to be the case, and it’s your responsibility to express that. Explain to your interns the importance of disconnecting as a remote worker, for the sake of both their mental and physical health. Your interns haven’t experienced the small movements that come from working in-person, such as moving conference rooms, going to the bathroom, or a water break. Don’t let interns feel guilt in replicaitng these small movements at home remotely. Instead encourage them. Tell them to take a walk, sign off for lunch, or read a book for 30 minutes. From a culture-building standpoint, this is critical. Your interns are more than working machines and valuing them and their health immediately expresses a strong company culture (5).
Interns crave to feel energy from their colleagues and value at their company. Working virtually doesn’t change that. Building a company culture and articulating it through remote work keeps interns engaged, excited, and wanting to return. That’s an exciting result, for both you and your interns. Put the effort in because it won’t go unnoticed.