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How to Prove the ROI of Your Internship Program

January 17, 2023
Parker Pell

With smartphones at their fingertips and a self-awareness unlike any other generation, Generation Z is on pace to become the future leaders of the workforce. We know that Gen Z talent is motivated, hungry, eager to learn the ropes and contribute to company culture, so it’s critical that your organization maintains a consistent pipeline of early-career talent joining the company to fill open roles. Enter, interns.

Unsurprisingly, internship programs are the number one strategy for companies to fill their early-career talent pipelines. For employers, interns bring fresh perspectives and ideas, are low-cost labor, and can be a way to identify potential future employees. They are crucial pieces to the recruitment funnel: data shows that interns are much more likely to convert into full-time employees at the same company and stay longer at the company. For candidates, internships provide exposure to real-world skills and knowledge, an opportunity for networking, and the ability to explore various career paths.

Based on the above, it’s easy to see why investing in an internship program can be useful. Many employers are struggling to find and retain skilled labor and look to internship programs to help fill their talent pipelines. Lower-cost talent with a higher likelihood of converting to full-time employees? A statistical chance they will stay longer with the company compared to a net-new, external hire? It seems like a no-brainer: 

Yet, at the same time, it can be difficult to distill these reasons into tangible metrics or outcomes. Below, we help hiring teams make better, stronger arguments to gain leadership buy-in to their internship program.

Demonstrate cost savings

Calculating intern to full-time conversion is a common method for proving the effectiveness of an intern program. As a baseline, the average conversion rate for interns in 2021 was just shy of 52%, according to NACE. Companies that maximize their intern conversion rate can easily create a secondary, organic talent pipeline to fill full-time positions. Another benefit of converting interns to full-time employees is their retention impact: NACE reports that internal interns are 31% more likely to be retained than external interns, and 90% more likely than new hires who lack any type of internship experience. ERE Media postulates that this increase in overall retention “may be attributed to the improved cultural fit that an internship can help both identify and foster.” And let’s not forget - employee retention has major implications when considering cost savings. 

Show its impact on your employer brand

Your employer brand is the business identity of your company: it creates and maintains customer loyalty, engagement, authenticity, employee retention, and perception. Simply put, an employer brand tells candidates why they might want to work for an organization.

Employer branding also impacts retention. Glassdoor reports that companies actively investing in employer branding can reduce turnover by as much as 28%. When we consider the role of interns, there are no better advocates (or critics!) for your company: interns act as organic brand ambassadors in relaying their experience to their peers. And, even if an intern doesn’t convert to full-time, you are still helping support early career talent and maintaining a larger community that can advocate for your company and internship program.

Outline how you decrease time to productivity

Internships provide students and recent graduates with valuable real-world experience. Unlike classroom learning, which often focuses on theoretical concepts and principles, internships allow individuals to apply their knowledge and skills in a practical setting. This can be especially valuable for individuals who are just starting their careers and may not have a lot of practical experience. It can also act as a “pre-training” for interns who may be looking for subsequent full-time positions.

Use feedback to your advantage

With mid-point evaluations, mentor check-ins, final presentations, and final evaluations, it’s only natural to collect candidate feedback during the course of an internship. Gathering input for future suggestions and iterations can be a great way in understanding program effectiveness, orientation/training efficacy, and career readiness. You can also use feedback like testimonials to show the impact of your intern program.

How Abode can help prove the ROI of your program

Understanding the return on investment of your internship program is imperative to gaining (and maintaining!) leadership buy-in. Outlining tangible, measurable outcomes can help facilitate the conversation: we suggest starting with cost savings, impact on employer brand, decreased time to productivity, and increased employee retention when making the argument for why and how your internship program fits into the greater recruiting team’s efforts.

If you’re not yet tracking this data or are, but want more sophisticated insights, consider Abode. Abode’s all-in-one platform facilitates intern program management, candidate engagement, and communication. Provide a community for candidates to connect, view resources, and share documents prior to joining your organization, and, on the back end, track candidate engagement turnover. For more information on Abode’s capabilities, schedule a demo with us today.

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