The most common period for interns to stay at a company is between 3 and 6 months. This is a relatively short period for when the intern needs a lot of industry specific knowledge that requires training. However, it is easy to say that therefore an intern wouldn’t be worth it. In this article I will explain why training and selecting an intern based on soft skills accelerates their added value.
In the article ‘What Is A Good Intern?’, I explain how important shared values and vision are between the company and the employee, and that soft skills are often more important than education and hard skills. Before going into how you could train and motivate the intern to add value, I would like to mention that looking beyond a candidate’s factual data, such as education and software they know to work with, it is important to see where you can accelerate them in. Training them a certain process based on soft skills they simply don’t possess and are not eager to possess is a waste of time. Remember, they are still students, they have not gained years and years of training in a certain expertise. This are still to be taught. Therefore, you’ll have to look in what they will accelerate in the most and select your intern based on that. Look for their skills. These skills don’t have to be obvious. Sometimes you will have to analyze and observe well to see them. Pay attention to them in the first weeks to see how to can accelerate and eventually add value.
How They Will Lose Value
Let’s say that you just hired an intern for 6 months, you will have to be aware that 6 months of training should be done carefully in order to gain value from the intern. As described in the Lean Startup from Eric Ries, education should be more personalized in order to gain the most out of each student. The same goes for the intern. Co-founder Stijn Wollerich and I have both done multiple internships and we have seen that most companies had the training package ready before we even arrived at the company. However, this is not accelerating someone’s potential. These packages were full of assumptions that claimed what would be effective for us.
For example, my main soft skills are the ability to rationalize and see things from a bird’s-eye perspective. My first internship at a large Dutch insurance company gave me a manual on my first day with the exact steps of all the tasks that I would be doing for them the next months. However, this hundreds of pages long document only contained the process, but not the purpose of the process and steps. For me, giving a hand-out to read for two days before being involved in the processes was not accelerating my potential to add value for the company. Instead, I was highly discouraged since I did not get my answers for why these processes were used and why certain steps were taken. Without knowing the rationale behind these steps, I was not able to innovate these processes and make it more efficient/effective. After a week I started to investigate with colleagues why certain steps were taken in these processes, but I did not get any answer, because they simply didn’t know!
How They Will Add Value
Now they managed to have someone in charge of processes that was not able to optimize a single thing for 6 months! This was not adding value, but losing value for the company. That is the reason why accelerated training is so highly depending on understanding the intern. Knowing what their skills and values are. Ones you know these, you can elaborate on what they are good at. Using this example, the company could have hired someone who is passionate about optimizing processes through IT solutions. That would have saved time. But with my passion and values being within innovation and adding value to the business, I was at the wrong place, wrongly trained. Besides, the fact I did not have an eye for detail also made me bad at executing the processes. The company selected me on my study program, International Business and Management Studies, but never looked at soft skills.
My advice is therefore to look beyond someone’s study. Look at what they are good at, and what soft skill you can accelerate on. Invest time in doing it right, and your investment will become profitable.
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