Managing Interns Without Losing Your Mind? Yes, You Can!


Ah, sweet summertime.

Sleeping in late. Watching ice cream melt and drip into sticky puddles on the floor. Long lunches followed by lazy afternoons. Unbridled laughter and exuberant chatter as friends recount stories of those hot summer nights.

And that’s just in your office.

Let’s face it---adults feel the same way about summertime as they did as kids: it's a season of “taking it easy.” And that feeling doesn’t get left at the door when they come to work. But, as a small business owner, you know you can’t afford to slack off (and neither can your employees). Here are six ways you can make sure your office productivity doesn’t take a leap off the high dive when summer begins.

1. Plan Beforehand

The first step in successfully managing interns and summer hires is to prepare for them. Game plan exactly what you want the next three (or however many) months to look like and what you hope to gain from the hire or hires. Think about what you want them to learn from you. It’s important to put some thought in to this and then write it down so you don’t waste time (yours and theirs) and money.

2. Make Your Expectations Known

As soon as your new employees arrive, tell them exactly what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. And this is important: be clear in stating your goals for their time with you as well as your company’s policies.

One article calls this setting the stage: let your interns know how their performance will be evaluated, how they will be paid, and who they can go to with concerns.

Giving clear instructions won’t just set the tone for the rest of the time these employees will be with you, it can also save you the money and hassle of dealing staffing changes and retention issues.

3. Give Them A Project They Own

Of course, it’s not fair to dog interns and summer hires if you’re not giving them anything to do. They are eager to show they can help, and you might be surprised at how insightful their fresh perspectives are in solving problems, identifying weaknesses, and improving strengths. The tasks you assign them don’t have to be important, necessarily, as much as purposeful. Do you have any less urgent, yet purposeful, tasks on your desk that you never get to? If so, consider delegating these tasks!

4. Guide Them

The other angle? Interns are with you to learn how the real world works---and how they can work in it. Giving them a few projects that matter will show them what it’s really like when someone depends on you to do a job well without giving you cardiac arrest if they make a mistake (and they will!). You’re in a unique (and pretty awesome) position to show someone who has no experience what the “real world” is all about, so take pride in it.

  • Institute an open-door policy: let them know from the beginning that the more questions they ask, the more they’ll learn, and that’s why you’re there.

  • Take time to give feedback.

  • Be honest when it comes to giving recommendations.

5. Guarantee Your Peace of Mind When You’re Not Around

One summer in college, I worked with someone who refused to answer the phone. Every time it rang, this employee either walked away or picked up the phone and set it back down---hanging up on probably hundreds of potential customers in the short time I worked there.

I’m not sure how our supervisor found out this was going on, but I do know it took months. I imagine thinking about the potential lost profit made my boss ill. Temporary and summer employees are a golden example of how a tool like call recording can make a huge difference in your business. If my boss had known about call tracking and recording, she wouldn’t have had to wait months to find out about the dozens of callers who never got through (she’d be alerted almost immediately that there was a pattern of dropping calls). And instead of having to let go of a teary-eyed employee who didn’t know how to do a job (and who just hung up the calls), she could have used recording phone conversations as a training tool, not only for that employee, but for all future employees (to make sure the situation never happened again)!

6. Have Fun, Too

Managing interns and summer hires is a lot of work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Not only do you get to help form someone’s first work experience (a huge life event!), but you can potentially gain an exceptional member of your team. Enjoy the experience, and then stay in touch with those who go above and beyond; use the training ground you provided for your benefit (not your competitiors’!).

With these tips, you’ll not only gain an outstanding employee, you’ll improve your company---and be on the way to becoming one of the businesses every potential employee wants to be a part of. Let us help you get there.

P.S. What’s the best (or worst!) summer job you’ve ever had?