At this point in the summer, intern programs are winding down and it’s likely that interns are feeling motivated and eager to have an opportunity to return for another internship or - excitingly - as a full-time hire. However, the months between August and the Summer 2024 can be daunting for early career teams. Fall career fairs are around the corner, and with that, candidates are being wooed by other recruiters, companies, and offers.
To make the most of your intern program, it’s important to consider the keep-warm process - or the time spent between the program end and when candidates return. Remaining connected, engaged, and communicative with your incoming hires is key to building an engaged and committed workforce. In fact, research shows that former interns have a higher retention rate (nearly 72%) compared to other full-time employees.
Our co-founder and CEO, Ben Siegel, recently sat down for a conversation with Mollie Wasser, Senior University Program Leader at Fidelity, and Al Dea, Speaker, Facilitator, and Podcast Host to chat all things intern conversion, the importance of community, facilitating manager buy-in, and what data points to track as you hone your keep-warm approach.
Take a “surround sound” approach
Converting interns to full-time hires is a strategic, calculated, and comprehensive process. Aligning intern opportunities and responsibilities with what a full-time position looks like is key in setting and maintaining expectations - both for the candidate and the company. “At Fidelity, “we really make sure all the internship roles we hire for are going to convert to a full-time opportunity,” Mollie says. Timing matters, she adds. “We plant seeds as early as the interview process. We really want interns to feel a sense of community and camaraderie we have to offer them.”
Al deems this approach “surround sound.” To him, it’s important for hiring teams to comprehensively and consistently reinforce the value of an internship program. Setting expectations around “this is who we are, this is what you can expect, this is how your internship is going to benefit your career is important leading up to, during, and after that summer experience,” he advises. And companies are taking note. Leveraging the right technology and aligning teams can create a true “surround sound” experience for candidates where they consistently hear of the value and benefits of your internship program.
Create an accurate depiction of life at your company
“Surround sound” doesn’t mean oversaturation, however. “You have to strike the right balance - what are we offering interns from a programmatic perspective? And what amount of time are we giving them to dedicate to their team?” Mollie says. There’s a fine line between balancing all the program events, resources, and action items versus getting plugged into their team and manager. Ensuring a strong connection to their manager is key, she adds, “because that’s what their real job will be like.” At Fidelity, Mollie’s team sends weekly newsletters out to managers letting them know what programmatic activities interns will be involved in to keep them aware of what else interns are doing.
“It’s very easy to conflate activity and action with progress,” adds Al. Time is already a scarce resource for interns - so giving them too much to balance between hiring teams and managers can have a reverse effect on experience. “Giving an intern a great experience doesn’t equal giving them all the things. It’s better to figure out what you can take away, or the proverbial ‘addition by subtraction,’” he says.
At Fidelity, it means balancing being supportive and providing opportunities without overly handholding. “We’re still working on that,” Mollie laughs. One of the “soft skills” interns are exposed to at Fidelity is navigating competing priorities within a corporate environment. This is reflective of full-time positions at the firm, says Mollie, noting that exposing interns to that early, while they still have comprehensive support, is key in showing them what it’s like to work at the company.
Incorporate managers into the experience
Empowering managers to give interns an amazing experience is another token in maximizing your intern conversion rate. Al recommends zooming out a little when addressing this topic with managers. “Remind them about their experience when they joined the workforce for the first time,” he says. Getting managers to perspective-take and exhibit empathy can go a long way in creating a positive intern experience. And remember - “it’s an investment to make people successful!”
At Fidelity, Mollie’s team does manager prep calls and views managers as equally as important as interns to prepare for the summer. “We have the opportunity to share with the managers ‘what’s in it for them,’” she says.
How (and when!) to kick off your keep-warm strategy
Post-program, a keep-warm strategy kicks in quickly, says Mollie. Fidelity’s team uses Abode’s platform to load programmatic hires into various cohorts to distribute communication and facilitate connections, even after the program ends. “It can be a long time between August and the start of next summer, so staying connected to interns is key,” she says. For her team, the cadence of communication largely depends on the time of year. “Once we hit January, we might send onboarding or pre-start tasks for them to do twice a month, but when we hit April, it’s once a week,” she elaborates.
Al chimes in about building community for MBAs and graduate students: “they are thinking very much about their professional network,” he says. “So again, it’s the concept of bringing that ‘surround sound’ into the picture, showing you’re excited to have them, to help set them up for success in ways that are intentional.”
“It’s an investment to make people successful” - Al Dea
Storytelling with data
To receive leadership support and buy-in around intern programs, it’s important to rely on the numbers. With most companies converting around 66% of their interns to full-time hires, “conversion is number one,” Mollie and Al agree. But, “if you can pull something around cost per hire for non-intern hiring, and show how expensive it is to hire someone external versus hiring someone for a 10-week program,” this can help storytell the cost savings that come along with homegrown talent, Mollie explains. Al and Mollie both emphasize that top companies all have intern programs and are all converting interns to full-time positions. At Fidelity, the importance of homegrown talent is a company-wide commitment. “By not having - or investing in- an intern program, you are missing out on talent who is getting plucked off early on,” Mollie says.
Both Mollie and Al emphasize the importance of making sure the internship role is an accurate depiction of what the full-time role is as a key driver in intern-FTE conversion. Al’s “surround sound” approach of coordinating consistent communication, support, and expectations is another aspect of creating an experience that drives interns to become productive and loyal full-time hires.
A successful intern-FTE experience involves managers and hiring teams, the use of data and storytelling, building and maintaining relationships with candidates, and understanding the current state of the early career landscape. To execute the above strategies, consider Abode.
For candidates, Abode’s ‘one-stop shop’ platform provides transparency and provides expectations via journeys: pieces of content, action items, or resources to promote engagement and excitement. For hiring teams, Abode enables them to ‘set it and forget it,’ facilitating personalized communication at scale while having the backend insights to monitor candidate activity. Keeping your candidates engaged and committed has never been easier…or more achievable. To learn more, watch Al and Mollie’s conversation here or schedule a demo with our team here.