What's the best way to motivate interns?
Being an early stage business, I don't have cash to pay people. I have found that interns are fairly easy to find in the fashion industry. But what's the best way to create a sense of urgency, passion and commitment?
I know this response is a little late, but I have had a couple internships over the past few years and would like to weigh in. My experiences were at medium and large companies, so my opinion is colored as such. As a disclaimer: I really enjoyed all the internships I've had, and I'm speaking critically in order to explain how my experiences could have been improved and/or optimized.
Namely, I wanted structured failure in my internships and I never got it. This is largely because I didn't realize that's what I wanted while I was an intern, so I never asked. For some reason, my employers never asked either.
My idea of success:
Baby your interns excessively for two weeks and socialize them to believe that they can, and indeed, should, contribute now. This will bring them up to speed quickly, keep them interested, and set them up well for the remainder of the internship. Once you've done that, proceed to kick them out of the nest with a set of instructions to operate the jet packs that you've kindly strapped to their backs. Anything less is a squandered opportunity for both parties.
Giving interns (1) adequate confidence and training to execute on some project or task, and (2) letting them make decisions from there--good and bad--will help them grow tremendously more than having them sit at their desks and text friends for three months. It will also give the business a return on investment orders of magnitude greater in every metric.
This presupposes that your intern has drive and ambition to quickly learn to operate a jet pack, else he or she will continue texting friends while falling to his or her doom (which might be good, as you don't want those people in your company very long). I think, however, that many interns are quite capable and grossly underutilized at companies, and if you give them the opportunity AND a proper set of tools, they will--wait for the cheesy punchline--fly.
If you disagree with any of this, please let me know. I'd like to know your thoughts.
We often hired our interns when they were finished -- they were already trained!
* Room for growth
* Foot-in-the-door opportunities (opportunities to move on to bigger companies with big pays; or get hired full time)
* Opportunity to work on real-world challenging problems to build their resume
* College credit
Well relax, it is not always about the money and interns know for a fact that they won't be able to make a whole lot of money from internships.
So here are a few things you can do to get the best out of them.
1. Be nice- the fashion industry is typically not the most polite place to be at. So your interns are likely to arrive, expecting to be treated badly. So when you are nice, it creates an instant favorable impression and you can get them to do things for you with ease.
2. Be the mentor- take charge and express your role as the mentor strongly. Teach them about the fashion industry and offer them insight which they wouldn't have got through following fashion blogs and mags.
3. Involve them in projects- even if it is something small, explain the importance of doing that task right. Talk to them constantly.
4. Offer them feedback and experience on paper- It would be a good idea to offer them an internship certificate with their performance detailed. If they are good you can also offer them referrals. This would be a great addition to their resume and will definitely come in handy when they are looking for jobs.
Follow these and you should be good to go. Word will also spread fast that your company is a good place to intern at if you take care of your interns well.
We give our interns to create their own outcomes. We call it the "Resume from The Future"; this gives them the chance to set their own goals based on their aspirations as well as our needs. We also give them a 15 minute one to one mentoring meeting.
Goodies! i know i would love them when I join an organization. it helps me get comfortable in the environment and prepare myself to perform.
Experience (portfolio, referrals, letters of rec.) is a big selling point. You can also sell it as a long term job position that they can work into if the company starts generating revenue.
I also suggest equity, because once they own a slice (very small) of the pie, they want it to get bigger and will work harder because of their vested (literally) interests.
Being an early stage business you have a wealth of knowledge you can share with your interns that established companies can not provide. They can learn what it takes to succeed from the start. They should already come to you with the passion - if they are not passionate about fashion they should not intern for you. That passion will drive their sense of urgency and commitment.
To foster you will need to meet with them as a group, explain what phase of development you are in and how their roles help the business succeed. Give them mini-projects that build on each other and make yourself available for their questions.
You may not be able to pay them but you will need to keep them involved and interested. Interns are there to learn about the business and from you. Create the loyalty by giving them both.
Yes, not always with cash, there are other ways. Get them involved in some project which can add value to their CV. I am recruiting a lot of graduates/interns at the moment and find that they are looking for jobs where they can add value and not just do basic things like updating databases, file, and make the coffee. Those things might also need doing but it is not going to add value to their careers - which is of course the need to do an intern job. So make them part of the team and give them some goals. Everyone wants to walk away from a job feeling like they've either made a difference or added value.
Give your interns control of a small project and make a big deal of it. They will feel a greater sense of pride in their work and if enough praise is heaped on will feel that greater sense of commitment and passion without the pay check. Stroking the ego can get you a lot when money isn't an option. If they are made to feel they are a larger part of the process their commitment level should grow.