SMEs waste golden opportunity to spot new talent

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that ran internships or short-term placements this summer felt they should have been better prepared for their intern’s arrival, according to a new survey.

Although the vast majority (89 per cent) of nearly 200 UK SMEs polled said they had a very positive experience with their interns, 42 per cent of respondents felt that employees on the schemes could be better integrated into their organisations.

The research by consultants Begbie Traynor also showed that a third of businesses said that despite their best intentions, they used interns as holiday cover for administrative roles rather than designing specific projects that would have given the intern a full insight into the workings of the firm.

Nick Hood, senior London partner at Begbies Traynor, said failure to structure internships not only minimised the ability for interns to contribute to the business, but also reduced the chance that they would leave with a positive attitude towards the company.

When choosing interns, Hood advises companies:

– Put interns through a thorough selection process – you want ones that can add value

 – Define a clear role for them within your business and make sure this is explicitly stated. This will not only give interns a better understanding of their role, but will also make them easier for you to manage

 – Involve the interns, don’t just give them a series of fragmented and unrelated tasks. Also explain the tasks so that they can see the bigger picture

 – Don’t assume that interns will know how to use the internal IT system or the office equipment. Give them a proper induction

 – Think carefully about whether you are happy for interns to answer the phone and deal with clients – it’s not worth damaging a client relationship by allowing an inexperienced and unknown person to deal with enquiries.

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