THE BLOG
04/07/2014 03:13 pm ET Updated Jun 07, 2014

How to Be a Great Internship Boss When You Have No Time

Right now, according to estimates by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 97 percent of employers plan to hire interns in 2014. This means it's likely your company has an internship program in place, or if not, it's equally likely you're considering implementing one.

Yet taking on interns is no picnic. You want your internship program to create value, both for your company and for the interns you employ. Unfortunately, creating a value-laden internship program can seem time-consuming at best and time-draining at worst. You barely have the time to get to all of your work during the day; you certainly don't have time to handhold a young worker through their first professional experience.

With 97 percent of employers connecting with interns, you really don't have any excuse not to take a few interns under your wing. After all, these talented young people will be the top-notch talent of tomorrow, and those are the people you're going to want in your company's corner.

Setting up a valuable and streamlined internship program isn't impossible. You can be a good internship boss, even if your 9-to-5 schedule is already packed. Here are a few ways to become the best internship boss possible, even if you have no time.

Have Interns Rotate Through Departments
Sometimes the best way to be a boss is to not be the boss all the time. Your interns have come to your company to learn something specific, but some of the most valuable lessons might involve learning something they never considered before. It's likely you don't have the time to teach your interns every single thing they want or need to know.

Instead, you might want to consider rotating interns throughout every department and aspect of your company, so they get a fuller picture of the organization, what everyone contributes, and how individual parts make up a successful whole. They might not be interested in every department of your company, but they'll gain valuable experience and understanding by walking a mile in someone else's shoes.

Allow Your Interns To Shadow
You might not have the time to painstakingly go through every aspect of your job with your interns. However, many students can learn what a day in the life is like at your company by shadowing. If you have an important meeting or big project, allow your interns to shadow prominent members of your team to see how it's done. It's much easier to answer questions on the fly about specific aspects of getting the job done, then to sit down for an hour-long meeting to outline your role and responsibilities.

Set Up a Weekly Meeting
Even if your time is tight, it's still important to meet with your interns to ensure your program is adding value. Set up a brief weekly meeting where you can check in with interns, set program deadlines, and ask for feedback. Being a good internship boss means setting quantifiable goals and giving your interns the tools to achieve these goals. It also means listening to the feedback from your interns and doing the best you can to address concerns.

For instance, if interns feel their tasks aren't challenging enough, you might want to give them a more complicated project to sink their teeth into. Then you can use the weekly meetings to check in on the status of the project and address questions or concerns. By making the meeting weekly, you're involved in the process, but you've put constraints on how much time you're spending with interns so you can get your own work accomplished.

Make Company Information Transparent
Your interns have come to work at your company to find out more about the organization and the industry. Don't make it impossible for interns to find out how the company is run, what projects your organization is working on, and how workflow gets accomplished.

Fostering a transparent company culture is just as important for your internship program as it is for your workforce. As a bonus, if information is transparent and easy to find, you'll have to spend less of your precious time explaining how things work to your interns.

Trust Your Interns To Deliver Value
Your interns didn't choose your program to make copies, order coffee, and staple documents. They came to your internship program for real boots-on-the-ground learning. Don't be afraid to give your interns real projects with real deadlines and responsibilities. You hired these interns for a reason, and it's because you trusted their brains and acumen to deliver value to your company.

Don't treat your interns like infants who need help with every task, because you certainly don't have time for this kind of hand-holding. Instead give your interns the trust and leeway to get things accomplished, and always recognize good work. You might be surprised at the outside-the-box thinking, creative problem solving, and quality work interns will be able to deliver without micromanagement.

You don't need unlimited hours of your day to be a good internship boss. Instead, focus on hiring trustworthy people, fostering transparency, giving interns a 360 experience within your company, and allowing your interns to deliver value.

What are some ways to be a good internship boss when you have no time? Share in the comments!

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