[Ask Alice] How to Motivate Student Interns?

Alice, our department has several student interns doing administrative tasks on a temporary basis. All too often I see them using their phones when they could be asking for additional work to do. As their supervisor, how do I encourage them to take the initiative to see what else they could be doing to contribute?

Alice says: This goes back to the first of the original Gallup questions: Do I know what is expected of me at work?

What’s been done at the outset to ensure that each of these “new employees” knows what is expected of them? Is there a job description that outlines the duties they are to perform? Is there a mentoring or buddy system that has a caring, full-time employee spend their first day or half day with each one to teach them what’s expected? Are there written boundaries around when they are permitted to use their phones? Is your entire department aware that the interns are available to them for administrative tasks? More importantly, have you determined exactly what tasks each of your interns is best suited for, such that they will be best able to use their skills to everyone’s advantage?

What can you do now to address any of these possible shortcomings in your internship program? A staff meeting to learn what the department most wants help with? An intern meeting to learn what each one most likes to do or is most capable of?

Start where you are and take it step by step and your intern program will become valuable and worthwhile to both your department and to the interns!