6 Ways to Engage Your Summer Intern

Many organizations are beginning to prepare for their summer intern’s arrival. One of the most common reasons cited by employers for hiring interns is to develop a pipeline of talent. If this is true for your organization, it’s important to consider the fact that interns will ultimately need to be satisfied and engaged in your organization in order to create a lasting talent pipeline. After all, like your employees, disengaged and unsatisfied interns will not stay long at your organization.

A recent study suggests that characteristics of the job and work environment generally predict internship satisfaction more than other factors. Specifically three work environment factors – learning opportunities, organization satisfaction, and supervisor support and three job factors – feedback, task significance, and skill variety – were determined to significantly influence internship satisfaction (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009).

  1. Task significance: Task significance is the strongest predictor of job satisfaction for interns. Interns are likely to be more satisfied if their work significantly impacts other people and the organization. As a result, it’s important to make sure that the intern’s duties are part of the organization’s primary operations and do not consist of mainly busy work or mindless administrative duties. The intern should also be able to interact with other members of your staff (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009).
  2. Organization satisfaction: Like your employees, your intern’s satisfaction with your organization affects whether they want to work for you in the long-term. Just as you are evaluating your intern for future opportunities, they are evaluating your organization’s policies and practices.
  3. Skill variety. Interns are more likely to be satisfied when they can use and learn a variety of skills, do many different things, and not work on just simple and repetitive tasks. In other words, it’s critical to make sure that the intern will be able to work on several different projects and assignments that use and help develop different skill sets (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009).
  4. Learning opportunities: In the study, interns were more satisfied when they had opportunities to learn information not taught in their coursework. Internships should be developmentally focused. It’s suggested that organizations take an active and planned approach to planning activities and assignments that facilitate action learning throughout the internship (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009).
  5. Supervisory support: Interns that had a supportive supervisor who acted as a mentor were more satisfied than those that did not. It’s recommended that interns be assigned to supervisors with strong mentoring and developing capabilities (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009).
  6. Feedback: Students are accustomed to receiving almost daily feedback in academic environments, so it should be no surprise that interns are most satisfied when they receive quite a bit of feedback. Internships should be designed with both formal and informal feedback, which occur frequently (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009).

The study also found that other factors (mainly tangible benefits/rewards) don’t seem to significantly influence intern satisfaction such as pay or no pay, pay satisfaction, location, and flexible hours (D’Abate, Youndt, & Wezel, 2009). The results seem to suggest that employers should focus more on developmental, task, and supervisory aspects of internships to increase intern’s satisfaction with their internship.


D’Abate, C. P., Youndt, M. A., & Wezel, K. E. (2009). Making the most of an internship: An empirical study of internship satisfaction. Academy of Management Learning & Education. 8(4) 527-539.

Additional Resources:

  • Surveys: Benchmark your organization’s internship pay and workplace practices, participate in our Internship Pay Rates & Practices Survey: http://erc.intern.surveyconsole.com/
  • HR Help Desk: Obtain guidance as well as sample policies, practices and other information related to employing an intern by contacting hrhelp@ercnet.org.
  • Training: Maximize Your ROI: Return on Intern is a workshop for employers interested in starting an internship program or improving one. Click on the link for more information.
This entry was posted in General HR, Performance Management, Training & Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 6 Ways to Engage Your Summer Intern

  1. Pingback: Savvy HR: How to Engage Summer Interns - gThankYou! | Celebrating Work

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