How To Keep Your Startup Interns Engaged – For Real

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Many young startups rely on interns (paid or unpaid) in the first stages of founding. Despite interesting work, it can happen that there is a high fluctuation rate amongst startup interns. Here’s how to keep them engaged and happy with their work:

An internship can be an exciting way for students or recent graduates to gain experience and take their first steps in the startup world. There is a growing number of startup interns and many of them hope to become a founder themselves one day. Ranging from marketing to business development to operations, interns are a valuable resource to improve your business.

Below are five steps to give them the energy and motivation they need to help themselves and your organisation grow:

#1 Keep Them Focused

Focus is all-important in startups. Because of limited resources, many startup interns are working part-time and have many other things they work on. This may cause them to lose focus on your company. Make sure that when they work for you, they are there 100%. Some tools are to have regular one-on-one meetings to check in, giving them space to explore and praising good work. That way, they will enjoy coming to your office and investing energy into their jobs.

#2 Share Your Overall Progress & Mission

If interns know what they are working for, they are more likely to stay engaged. This means a good onboarding process, a good check-in culture and a good off-boarding process.

Onboarding is important because that’s where you can tell your startup interns your mission and vision. This can be many things – improving the world, making life easier or shifting perceptions. Throughout their internship, keep updating them (and your team) with progress so they can see the impact of their (and your) work.

#3 Involve Them In Everything

Tying in with the last point, startup interns are one of your most valuable resources. They are young, motivated and may have a completely different outlook on life than you! They must not be underestimated for input and feedback. Including them in planning and strategy sessions would be a great move for your startup. Encourage them to speak their mind and give opinions. It may greatly improve your business and lift their spirits at the same time.

#4 Offer Them Benefits

They can offer you their skills and ideas, but what can you do for them? How can you ensure that after the internship, they will speak highly of your startup and encourage others to follow you? The answer is benefits. This goes especially for unpaid interns who are donating their time and knowledge. In exchange, make sure you offer them something also. Benefits can range from experience (taking them to meetings) to other goodies, such as connections, attending conferences, giving (and trusting them with) responsibility and freedom in their work. Free lunch is also always greatly appreciated.

#5 Keep Their Progression In Mind

There are many different reasons why someone would apply for an internship. Some are just eager to try out a new area, while others see it as a stepping stone into a permanent career direction. Spend time with your interns and ask why they applied to work for you. Depending on their answers, make sure that you keep their goals in mind throughout the internship. If they want to found themselves one day, try to connect them with relevant contacts. If they want to stay in their area, see if you can give them more responsibility in this area. If they are just checking out the scene, find out what else it is they wish to do. By mapping out a career progression path with them, you are able to help them during and beyond the internship. This ensures that they feel included and that you have an interest in their careers.

There are thousands of ways to keep your team members happy and motivated. Also: different things work for different people. Yet, the most important one is to make them feel included and invested in your startup. That’s when they deliver their best work. Much like storytelling, vision-sharing is an essential tool. For more ideas, check out this website and this guide.

How do you keep your startup interns involved? Share ideas in the comments below!



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