The quality of a business internship program is largely dependent on the amount of structure and guidance the company gives its interns.
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Strong job descriptions, clear expectations and honest feedback are a good start – but they're not enough.
A training manual for interns collects the information interns need in a central, organizing document. To be useful, your training manual will need to address a comprehensive list of internship topics that quickly and efficiently integrate them into your workplace. All interns should receive a copy before they begin active service. They should also understand that failure to comply with the terms described in the training manual could jeopardize their internship status.
- Program term. Since internships are limited in duration, the internship handbook should clearly identify the program term to avoid the possibility that some enterprising young person might mistakenly think they've been hired permanently.
- Policies & procedures. The meat of the handbook will contain a list of office policies and procedures. What you include in this section is entirely up to you. But internship veterans have found it useful to discuss things like office hours, workplace attire, computer usage, cell phone usage and a multitude of other items that have the potential to create chaos or disruptions.
- Instructions. Interns need guidance about basic workplace functions that you and your employees take for granted. Instead of taking the time to personally walk every intern through basic functions like setting up an e-mail account, using Microsoft Office or filling out reports, codify simple instructions in the intern training manual.
- Evaluation methods. The manual you give your interns should discuss the process you will use to evaluate their performance. At the end of their internship, they will expect to receive a letter of recommendation. The evaluation process you describe in the handbook will make it easier to write a recommendation that has real value.
- Housekeeping items. Interns have lots of questions about mundane items you don't even think about anymore. Restroom keys, lock up procedures, alarm system operation, kitchen use and many other things can be handled in the manual so you can avoid tedious details during intern orientation.
- Disciplinary policy. Occasionally it will be necessary to terminate an internship before its term has expired. It's not something anyone looks forward to, but if the intern is not working out it's better for both of you to cut your losses and move on. Articulate how your company handles intern-related problems as well as the circumstances that may necessitate termination of the relationship.