Onboarding virtual interns in 2021? A virtual internship poses unique challenges when it comes to keeping everyone on the same page. These 10+ ideas for a successful virtual internship will help your team stay connected while your new interns get a sense of your company’s culture and values. Plus, you’ll learn how to make the most of this experience for both the supervisors and the interns.
TLDR: in this list, you’ll find:
- onboarding ideas for virtual interns
- how to keep remote teams connected
- how to make the most of a virtual internship
- tools to help keep remote interns connected to the team
Why does successfully onboarding virtual interns matter?
There are a variety of benefits to having a successful, smoothly-functioning internship program – whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid. Internships can function as a great talent pipeline and recruiting tool. Interns can also provide valuable help and insights for your team. Many interns come into their experience eager to help tackle meaningful projects.
Depending on their field of study, interns may help with key tasks such as data modeling and analysis, research, reporting, and much more. They can also offer a glimpse into the values, preferences, and habits of the next generation of professionals. As a result, an internship program can be a valuable addition to your company and a savvy investment. Make the most of your experience by taking the time to onboard your interns and keep them engaged.
Onboarding virtual interns is particularly important in helping your team instill the sense of community you would normally find in an in-person office.
1. Send an All-Staff Introduction Email
Before your interns start work, ask them to share their preferred headshot and a bio. Or, create a brief questionnaire to send to each intern. You can ask them about their field of study, their professional goals, and any past experience they might have. Be sure to include some questions that allow interns to show off their personality. For example, ask them to share their hobbies, a favorite food, or an unexpected talent. Send this information out to your staff in an introduction email, and be sure to include each intern’s start date and work schedule. This will help your team recognize and welcome the familiar face in their next Zoom call!
For creative inspiration, use this template for a new employee introduction email.
2. Host a Unique Street Art Virtual Team Building Experience – One of Our Favorite Activities for a Successful Virtual Internship
A great way to inspire creativity and get your interns out of their comfort sound is to engage them in a 1.5 hour street art team building experience via Zoom! This live, interactive experience is led by two knowledgeable guides to share in street art trivia, paint color challenges, and create a team color. Plus, guests get a unique live look at one of the country’s most famous street art locations. Activity kits are delivered right to your employees’ homes, making planning easy, and can be customized with cookies with your company’s logo, making this a fun combination of a gift and a teambuilding experience.
Click here to learn more about the Unexpected Virtual Tours’ Street Art Virtual Team Building Activity and submit a booking inquiry.
3. Plan Team Meetings So Interns Can Attend
This one is short and simple, but it can make a big difference! If your team always meets on a particular day and time when your intern isn’t working (for example, when they’re in class), consider shifting the meeting time. More generally, think of your recurring team meeting as a flexible appointment that can shift times every few months so your current interns can attend, if possible. It’s a small adjustment that can make a huge difference to the intern’s experience. Watching your team interact and problem-solve together will help them learn valuable real-world skills. Plus, the interns will be more informed about company happenings, helping them complete their work more effectively.
Do you dread the thought of finding a meeting time that works for everyone? Doodle is a free online scheduling tool that can help you easily gather everyone’s availability.
4. Mail Interns a Welcome Kit – One of Our Favorite Tips for a Successful Virtual Internship
Mailing your interns a welcome kit is a special way to help them feel welcome and included from day one. Send them a box filled with a mix of fun and essential items. For example, you can include items like post-its, pens, and branded company items or swag. Many interns post photos of their welcome kits on social media, so be sure your items are Instagram-worthy! Pro tip: include a personal welcome letter from the intern’s supervisor. In the days when everything is especially digital, a handwritten note can be a welcome gesture.
We particularly recommend that if your headquarters is located in a particular city, then consider sending a delicious onboarding kit with treats from small businesses associated with that city — for example, here are great options for Atlanta, Seattle, and Chicago.
Not sure what else to include in a virtual intern welcome kit? Check out this list with 19 suggestions for items to include in a new employee onboarding kit.
5. Create a Mentorship Program to Support Virtual Interns
The thought of creating a corporate mentorship program might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. One straightforward way to create a virtual mentor program is to pair each intern with a full-time employee. Then, encourage them to schedule a recurring virtual lunch every other week. You can provide a list of conversation starters and prompts or allow conversations to flow naturally.
Forbes reports, “Mentoring benefits an organization by improving job satisfaction and retention, and aids in the personal and professional development of the mentee. Moreover, mentors themselves seem to gain just as much.” Read more about the benefits of creating a mentor program.
6. Add a Slack Channel for Your Interns
If your company uses Slack to communicate, consider creating a channel just for your interns. This will allow interns from different departments to connect and share resources, tips, and experiences.
Slack has created a global community for interns. Opportunities to connect include virtual events, socials, and Q&As. Encourage your interns to sign up at www.intern/community.
7. Share Virtual Internship Expectations – One of Our Favorite Activities for a Successful Virtual Internship
One of the most helpful things a company can do to ensure a successful virtual internship is to set clear expectations. In the days of remote work, there are a myriad of digital etiquette tips and norms to navigate. This can be daunting, especially for someone who hasn’t worked in a professional environment yet. For example, does your company expect everyone to keep their cameras turned on during meetings? Is it okay to log into a video call wearing a hoodie and t-shirt, or is business attire required? Do you expect your interns to reply to emails within one business day – or within a few hours – or something else? What about on their off days? None of these answers are necessarily right or wrong, but they vary from workplace to workplace. Clarify your expectations from the start and help prevent miscommunications later.
Want to go a step further? Consider creating a virtual internship handbook. This guide will help get you started.
8. Share a Virtual Tour of Your Office Building
If your company has a physical headquarters, and if some employees are working in that location, consider filming a virtual tour! Depending on your company’s size, this might be a full-scale production effort. Or, it might be as simple as walking around the office with a smartphone in hand. Believe it or not, this activity can be helpful even if your virtual interns will never set foot in the office. Part of the benefit of an internship is seeing what an office environment is like outside of television and film. Even watching a casual tour of your office space can help spark questions like Would I rather work in an open, collaborative environment or a more private office? What would it be like to work in a hip, colorful building downtown – or a traditional high-rise office with sleek furnishings?
Consider how having a virtual tour of your office could be useful for even more reasons. For example, a video tour of the office could be a helpful recruiting tool when hiring new employees. Or, it could serve as a trust-building measure when shared with prospective clients.
9. Equip Your Intern Supervisors for Success
Intern supervisors are the “glue” that help keep the intern connected to the daily happenings and needs of the company. It’s important to make sure your intern supervisors feel equipped for success, too. Remember that for many of your employees, this may be the first or second time they’ve ever managed someone, remotely or not. As a result, your intern supervisors may benefit greatly from sharing challenges and solutions with each other. Consider creating a Slack channel for their discussion, or set up a recurring video chat. When intern supervisors feel supported, informed, and prepared to communicate, that mentality can help set their interns up for success as well.
Craving more guidance? This list of 5 Must-Dos for First-Time Intern Managers is a helpful guide.
10. Schedule a Casual Recurring Employee Virtual Lunch – One of Our Favorite Activities for a Successful Virtual Internship
This idea is a great way to build camaraderie on your team, whether you have interns or not. Schedule an optional recurring weekly or biweekly lunchtime video chat for your team. For example, you could choose Fridays from noon to 1 pm. This can be a free-flowing, casual time to network and socialize. To keep things flexible, allow employees to hop into the video call as they’re able to during lunchtime. This virtual meeting creates an opportunity for chit-chat that can sometimes be lacking during more structured video calls. As a result, your team can feel more deeply connected when they have a space to talk about their hobbies, families, and life outside of work with coworkers.
For larger companies hosting regular virtual lunches, check out Hoppier. This paid platform allows you to send food, drinks, and gifts to virtual event attendees anywhere in the world.
We wish you and your interns a meaningful, productive virtual internship experience in 2021!