Internships are learning experiences.
Most interns have business theory down pat, but what they're really craving is a real world, workplace experience that tests their skills and facilitates their professional growth. Employers, on the other hand, often view interns as little more than cheap labor. That's a mistake because unless both the intern and the employer are onboard with the same goals and objectives, the internship has little chance of success.
Evaluations for interns identify the lasting value of the relationship, hopefully affirming that it was a good experience for both the intern and the company. To get there, employers have to appreciate their role in their interns' professional growth – and the interns' role in helping their employers create a better internship experience.
- Criteria. From the outset of the intern's relationship with the company, it's important to discuss the criteria you will use in your evaluation of their performance. Goal achievement, skill development and professional growth are the most common criteria business owners use to evaluate their interns.
- Feedback. Effective internship programs feature regular feedback from supervisors and key leaders. Most interns crave the input of seasoned business veterans. If they have to pull feedback out of you, it means that your feedback hasn't been consistent enough. Instead of waiting until the end of the internship to provide honest feedback, be intentional about offering feedback throughout their relationship with your business.
- Mentoring. Although the internship may not be structured as a formal mentoring relationship, business leaders who supervise interns have a responsibility to play a quasi-mentoring role during the intern's time with the company. Anyone can point out an interns' weaknesses. But a mentor offers suggestions about how they can overcome those weaknesses and achieve their full potential.
- Moderation. Honest feedback is important. But avoid overly negative comments when you evaluate your interns. Interns tend to be very sensitive to feedback from business owners and supervisors. Negative comments that seem insignificant to you can be very significant to your interns.
- Reverse feedback. At some point during the evaluation process, ask your interns to evaluate your internship program and other aspects of your company. The insights you gain will be invaluable for improving your internship program on a go-forward basis.