6 Lessons to KEEP your UNPAID Interns at Start-up!

Why would entrepreneurs or business owners choose to have such kind of labour? Interns help a business grow exponentially without the need of real money. A talented and productive team of interns help entrepreneurs focus on other major duties and busy work.

New business owners like start-up founders may not have money to invest, especially in the workforce. With a team 3-5 and a strong will, owners usually do not carry any other resource.

So, interns (may be unpaid) are the only best option left with them. Well, not just start-ups with no great recognition in the market, but also high performing MNCs do keep internship programs frequently. Interns in return get a valuable certificate and experience to work with such great brands and respect.

But, why would an intern show interest to work for free with a start-up team? How do you attract and retain them?

Here are the lessons to keep unpaid interns and cheap labor at your start-up?

6 Lessons to KEEP your UNPAID Interns at Start-up

Welcome with a warm orientation

A start-up with not so much to attract or provide assurance of being at the right place, it becomes sole responsibility for the owners or gatekeeper (reporting manager) to give them a brief orientation of the company and culture.

Simple and impactful activities like welcome lunch or team briefing (even if it is of 2), can help engage interns and settle them with an assurance of a great journey ahead. Make them familiar with the energetic company culture with whatever you can.

With successful onboarding, now that you have got the intern at the base make use of the resource well. Better first impressions, productivity throughout will be better. Interns tend to deliver more than expected when the first impression is up to the mark.

Make the ‘WIIFM’ clear

Since the interns, whether college students or through LinkedIn connections, are young and passionate and always look for benefits, you need to clear the benefits of an internship at your company. The WIIFM i.e. what’s in it for me must be cleared on the very first day.

This can develop the morale and interest of interns in working with you. Along with certification and LOA (Letter of recommendation) what else you could offer? Give them opportunities like future opportunities to work full-time on pay if they meet expectations or bring a pre-decided sales mark. Job assurance is one of the most valued essentials for job pursuers on today’s date.

Make sure your benefits and rewards match the millennials’ expectations. This could be tricky!

Provide great responsibilities

Now that you have unpaid interns on board and they have started performing well in the designated area, it becomes an important duty for the gatekeeper to study his/ her capability and skills. Talented interns can further be assigned duties in other areas of business. Increasing responsibility and expectations are one of the greatest tools to retain the worker.

If you want to keep the intern retained or perform more, provide better opportunities at the base. See what else could be done by them. Long term projects based on their recognized interests can hold them for a few more months. 

Do not overdose your part-timers

Overdosing of work or overwork can be one of the prime reasons why interns leave. Treating your part-time interns at full-time employees can be harmful to you. A start-up like yours cannot sustain wastage of time and efforts on finding an intern. The project manager or the reporting manager must have a clear idea of his/ her responsibilities. Also, see to it they are not overburdened.

Keeping interns at positions whom you need for a longer period or would have a great set of responsibility, would not be a good idea. Instead, you should look for full-timers.

Ensure a single gatekeeper

Well, to understand this, you first need to know why one prefers doing an internship? Why part-time unpaid interns? To have an added experience to upgrade their resume? Well, that’s correct. But, there’s one more – they need to do it in their free time and that’s hardly 2 or 3 hours a day. Not with very great attraction or dedicated to. Yes, it’s no hidden.

So, if you expect them to report them to 2 or more managers on their work updates, I don’t think that may work for them. Instead, keep a dedicated gatekeeper for them and updates must be taken by them only. It also shows a strong structure of employee management.

Adopt performance management system

Having an organized performance evaluation tool at the base gives a separate impression of the company. Also, it keeps motivated for better performance with degree feedback by selected parties. The automated performance management system allows you to select feedback questions and ratings along with a group of members who hold the responsibility to provide feedback to either intern or any permanent employee.

The members could be project manager, reporting manager and colleagues he/ she worked with. Regular feedback on work motivates me to deliver more next time.

These were some of the most popular and promising tricks/ lessons to keep up with your unpaid interns and better employee management. No matter whether you pay them or not, the right tools and activities at the base can still keep them oriented with the organization.

Last words

Having a business of yours is just applaudable! But there comes huge challenges along and needs strong determination as well. One of the challenges is discussed here – retaining your unpaid part-timers. If you follow the above lessons, I am sure you can win at retention for sure.

Keep up with the latest updates and technology like HRMS. Up-to-date employee management tools can help in solving challenges at your base.

Follow your employees’ likes and keep them motivated with rewards and responsibilities and you are set. That’s it!

Good luck. Wish you success at your start-up!

Thanks for reaching us!