While the benefits of implementing an internship program have a clear face value, it is still crucial for an organization and human resource professionals to maximize the return on investment in internship programs by utilizing the available tools. One such tool is a performance appraisal system for interns. Many organizations hire interns, but do not offer them performance feedback beyond setting initial goals. Some believe that, because interns are with the organization for such a short period of time, the effort and expense of administering a performance appraisal system for interns is not worth the return on investment. But this view is short-sighted. Organizations must view internships not only as an answer to short-term labor needs, but also as a source for full-time employees. Why Conduct a Performance Appraisal for Interns? A performance appraisal system for interns can improve both the long- and short-term outcomes. First, companies can better tap into the knowledge, skills, and abilities of this section of the labor market to increase productivity and adaptability. Second, they can prepare interns for full-time positions within their organization–shortening the learning curve and orientation needed once a full-time job is accepted. Finally, they can use internships as extended evaluation periods and ultimately make better hiring decisions. Utilizing the Existing Performance Appraisal System The elements of creating a successful performance appraisal system can be very simply applied and executed. The best place to begin is with the existing performance appraisal for full-time employees at the company. If your organization has put together a performance appraisal system that identifies key behaviors and goals for individuals, you can re-deploy that system for interns. There are a few elements to a performance appraisal system for full-time employees that one should consider carrying over to a system for interns. If the organization measures any standard set of criteria or behaviors across all job categories, these will be an excellent indicators of success for interns. The rating system used should be carried over for two reasons. First, there will be no need to train managers on a new system. Secondly, it will be a more accurate and useful tool to predict future performance. The Time Factor Although there will be many element of a system for full-time employees which can be re-deployed for interns, time is a major factor when adapting the system. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Most organizations provide formal reviews twice a year. Because the tenure of an intern is so short, one must adjust the system to fit that time frame. This also means an adjustment for managers who are used to setting goals with a 6 month time frame. Managers will need to understand how to develop and measure shorter-term goals. The nature of an appraisal system for full-time employees assumes continued employment in the majority of cases. With internships the employment will be terminated at the end of the internship. This is even true if the intern will be returning at a later time for another internship or full-time position. The internship itself ends and the final meeting should reflect that closure. Frequency of Meetings Because of the different nature of the employment relationship, the structure of the performance appraisal system will be different. Over the course of a shorter period of time, the intern and supervisor should meet a total of three times. If at all possible, the meetings should all be scheduled when the intern begins work so he or she can be familiarized with the process. The first meeting will serve to explain the system, outline the goals and how they will be measured, and cover work responsibilities and expectations. At the second meeting, at about the midpoint of the internship, the supervisor should review how the goals have been met so far and provide feedback on good performance and support on improving problem areas. The midpoint meeting will also provide a foundation for a supervisor’s evaluation of how well the intern can receive feedback and modify behavior accordingly. At the third meeting, the supervisor gives a final review of the performance. The intern and supervisor review how well goals have been met and what if any work the intern will need to transition to other employees at the end of the internship. This is also an excellent time to discuss opportunities with the organization, if the company wishes the intern to return for another internship or a full-time position. Don’t Stop There Organizations that take their college recruiting seriously know how important interns are as a source for full-time hires. They also may have very effective methods of measuring performance. The top college recruiting organizations put these two together. Although the third meeting described above includes closing, for some organizations it is only the beginning of the selection process. Teams of hiring managers meet to discuss the top interns and which positions for which the organization should consider hiring them. The performance appraisal data is an invaluable source of information for those conversations. Conclusion As has been demonstrated, performance appraisals serve various purposes in internships. They are well worth the added work of adapting the system for full-time employees and training managers on the special needs of the system for interns. From increased productivity from interns to better hiring decisions, performance appraisals for interns are clearly an important part of any internship program.
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