Building a Talent Pipeline through Internship Programs – Action Plans for Companies in Asia

Scores of reports, studies, and anecdotal evidence show that graduate hires have positive impact on organization. While corporations are increasing their graduate hires but attracting the top university graduates are getting more difficult.

In the context of emerging markets in Asia, companies have under-utilized graduate programs as a strategy for talent development and pipeline for hiring. Management commitment and human resource recruiting strategies must incorporate graduate programs as part of the total solution for organization capability planning.

Against the backdrop of emerging markets such as China, India or Vietnam the need for companies to attract and retain top talent is certain to remain competitive. Companies are facing high-turnover and spiraling wage spikes. The situation is compounded due to talent shortages. Schools are not well prepared, although improving, in training students for the workplace. As the market place expands employers struggle to meet hiring demands.

Internships are excellent programs giving students work experience and exposure to the workplace. These programs also give companies opportunities to assess students and skills for entry-level hiring positions. Many employers do not capture the full benefits of internship programs but end-up as community relations programs.

5 Point Framework for Building an Internship Program
A carefully crafted internship program can help an organization to achieve its long-term ability to attract and hire the best talent. Consider the following:

1) Leverage Internship Programs for Conversions

  • A strategic internship program should be designed so that top interns are pipeline feeder to graduate hiring.
  • When interviewing for interns select the best as if you were going to hire any other employee. Have a rigorous selection process.

2) Meaningful Internship Experience

  • Solid job content is important. Shadow programs or administrative work assignments are a thing of the past.
  • The discerning intern will look for employers who value their contributions to the bottom-line.
  • Work with business groups to design programs that will leverage students’ skills and teamwork to accomplish specific projects.

    Example: The internship program at Intel in Vietnam has 3 components:
    A) Work – Business managers are responsible for documenting specific internship projects. Those projects proposals are reviewed by the College Program Manager and subjected to approval by the general manager. Students conduct project presentations at the end of each 3-4 month internship period.
    B) Learn – Staffing and Intel University (corporate training) develop specific training sessions targeted for students. Topics are designed around gaps found in the traditional classroom.
    C) Community – This is a unique component where Intel has incorporated a community volunteer program. Interns participate in various charity programs and are designed to further develop student leadership skills. Interns also learn the importance of giving back to the community, being a good corporate citizen.

3) Incorporate Performance Evaluations

  • Hold students accountable for their work deliverables and performance. Specific project outcome should be made clear at the beginning of the internship.
  • Conduct evaluation sessions at the end of each internship period and provide feedback to students.

4) A Strong Commitment to Conversion – “Automatic Offers”

  • Top performers should be given job offers at the end of the internship period, before returning to school for the final course work.
  • Managers have already seen and had direct experience with interns and therefore, students should not be subjected to further interviews.

    Example: The Intel program does not subject interns to further interviews upon completion of the intern program. In fact, the top interns receive an automatic job offer (with a formal offer letter) before students go back to school for their final school semester

5) Manage the Program

  • Do not leave program success to chance. Anything that is measured gets done.
  • Put in place a program manager whose role is to manage the program outcome between business units and the interns.

Having an organizational foundation built on strong talent inevitably gives companies a competitive advantage in today’s environment. Graduate hires also tend to have a stronger record of company loyalty leading to lower turn-over rates. Thus, internships should be an integral component in strategic programs to attract top talent.

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