How to Properly Integrate Digital Adoption Into Your Internship Program

Digital integration has become essential to growing and innovating a business. Make sure you educate your interns on the importance of digital adoption and grow their outlook on business.

Internships play a pivotal role in the careers of young professionals. These programs often serve as the first steps into an industry.

The goal is to give the intern an accurate picture of what life is like in the field and teach them the best ways to grow. As the provider of an internship, it is your responsibility to deliver a valuable experience and a level of employee training that sets interns up for a successful career.

These days, the business world is more dependent on digital innovation than ever. An employee’s proficiency in the latest programs and aptitude for learning new digital systems play a monumental role in determining their professional value.

With this in mind, your internship needs to function as a launching pad that not only teaches the ins and outs of the job but also educates young professionals on the digital outlook of the industry.

Let’s talk about some ways you can actively intertwine digital adoption into your internship program.

Cut The Petty Work

Unfortunately, many workplaces tend to treat their interns like servants. Keep in mind, interns come to you for professional guidance, not to change your trashcans, pick up your dry cleaning, or fetch your coffee.

Most internship programs only last a few months. In this short time span, you need to focus on teaching valuable industry skills, good professional habits, and how to use the most prevalent digital tools in the field.

For example, if the internship is based around client relations, you should be teaching interns skills like how to use digital CRM systems, how to align customer data points, and how each part in the procedure fits into the big picture of the company.

Chances are, young interns will have little to no experience using the common digital systems within the industry. In many ways, your internship should serve as a process that enables digital adoption for young professionals looking to enter the field.

Interns may be temporary workers, but if given the right training and attention, they can be valuable members of the workforce. Remember, you are shaping their professional foundation in this program.

Define the Digital Trajectory of the Industry

Digitization is an evolutionary phenomenon impacting every industry on the planet. To reiterate, an internship should provide a taste of what the field is like and the direction it is going. With this in mind, one of the critical aspects of an internship should be an education of how digital innovation has impacted day-to-day operations, as well as the future outlook.

For example, let’s say you are running the corporate internship of a fashion company. A portion of this program should touch on how technologies such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things have integrated with the customer lifecycle model, as well as how companies use them to conduct tasks such as inventory and supply chain management.

Below, the customer lifecycle model explains how a customer becomes aware of your site through social media or SEO and then conducts research by watching or reading content on your site.

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The consumer then compares your services with others and decides to purchase your project when convinced. The consumer is then retained if s/he continues to use your site or services and look into further products. Interns should learn this cycle to better understand your business model.

Further, you should provide hands-on experience in how AI-based programs are used to collect, organize, sort, and interpret data to find insights related to demand and consumer trends. In terms of digital trajectory, show how digitization has contributed to the globalization of the fashion retail industry and how it has enabled the company to expand.

Remember, an internship is all about training the professionals of tomorrow. You need to make it a point to educate interns on where the industry is headed and the innovation being used.

Give Interns a Qualified Mentor

It’s amazing how big of an impact quality leadership makes in an organization. A good mentor is critical in any internship, especially when there is a degree of digital adoption involved.

If you are having senior employees work with interns, you should have a good idea for how well they are able to teach. Keep in mind, not all good employees are good teachers. An employee can have all the skills and know-how in the world, but if s/he isn’t able to convey information effectively, s/he is not doing anyone any good. Inadequate guidance can make the entire internship feel like a waste.

There are many qualities of a good professional mentor to look for prior to pairing employees with interns. Here are some of the big ones:

  • Maintains a positive attitude
  • Can explain complex ideas in simplistic forms
  • Exhibits a clear passion for the field
  • Places a high value on continuous education and growth
  • Knows how to provide constructive feedback
  • Has a strong level of respect within the company

Employees who meet these criteria are not always easy to find. In regards to teaching interns about digital innovation in the field and how to use it, they will need to have a great deal of patience. As many will attest, the hardest part of a job can simply be learning how to adopt the systems and tools being used.

A mentor can make or break an internship. Be careful in who you choose for this job.

Stay in the Loop

Most internships are very condensed. In a digitally-focused organization, picking up on the tools and systems in place can be tough to do in such a short period of time. Every single day needs to be maximized for the intern to get valuable experience from your internship program. For this reason, frequent check-ins should be a must!

At the beginning of the internship, develop a list of S.M.A.R.T goals with each intern. Below, the image, explains how a S.M.A.R.T goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound.

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S.M.A.R.T goals will provide a clear list of the qualities you expect to give and receive in an assignment.

For example, major goals could be gaining an understanding of basic data science methodologies and how to apply relevant information. Or, it could be something like becoming proficient in a tool such as Salesforce or HubSpot.

Interns are essentially students. If they are stuck on any concepts or are confused about the proper way to carry out tasks, failing to address these concerns is wasting valuable time. At the very least, aim to have one or two sessions each week to reflect on what the intern has learned, clear up any questions, and assess the progress they have made.

The simple act of staying in tune with what your interns are getting out of the program is crucial in making sure every day counts.

Ensure Success With Your Internship Program

Digital adoption needs to be a significant role in how the professionals of tomorrow are brought up.

The primary focus of an internship should be on forming successful habits of the industry, teaching proper etiquette, and transitioning to the professional world. However, educating interns about the role of digitization with hands-on experience will be among the most important ingredients in determining their value on the job market.

Setting up an internship that is truly beneficial requires a great deal of effort. Take your time and do it right!

This article was originally published on Clutch on February 14, 2019, and was written by Manish Dudharejia.