Two women, shown from the waist up, sit side by side at a computer terminal. The woman on the right is seen in profile and is looking at the computer monitor with her hands on the keyboard. She has blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and is wearing a blue shirt patterned with white daisies. The woman on the left is facing the viewer and has her eyes on the computer screen. She points at something on the screen with her right hand. She has shoulder-length dark curly hair and wears a yellow plaid shirt.
Your intern may have specific roles and responsibilities, but let them try other experiences too. They may end up picking up new skills or discovering a path they want to follow. — Getty Images/Highwaystarz-Photography

Interns play a valuable role in your company. They can help complete projects and handle overflow work. Moreover, interns can join your recruitment and hiring funnel, making it easier to find permanent team members. But it's up to you to create an excellent internship experience that achieves your business goals while providing professional guidance.

Improve your internship program with effective management processes and a hands-on approach. Use these tips to set expectations, show interest in your intern's professional development, and boost productivity.

Understand their abilities and convey your expectations

The interns that come to your organization have different experiences and abilities. Some already have crucial soft skills and work history. Others step into your workplace with only some education and no real-life experience. Review their applications before they begin their first day. And consider testing for soft skills and other professional abilities before delegating tasks.

Start the intern experience off on the right note by defining your expectations. Go through the job description and a brief program orientation. It should cover minimum work requirements and emphasize what they will get from the program. Chris Chancey, Founder and CEO of Amplio Recruiting, told Ladders, "This initial structure is incredibly helpful for someone who has minimal or no experience with the workplace."

Also, consider developing a list of intentional learning goals. Sacramento Works for Youth said this document should "support the intern's development and career interests." Connect their individual goals to organizational outcomes so that your intern understands how their work impacts your business.

[Read more: 6 Tips to Recruit Employees From Colleges]

Ask what your intern wants from the experience

In Young Entrepreneur Council's Business Collective, Manpreet Singh, Co-founder and Board Member of TalkLocal, recommended asking interns about what they hope to accomplish and what they "hope to learn about yourself and this industry along the way." Questions like these encourage interns to think more deeply about their expectations and future. It demonstrates that your internship program is more than a way to get less expensive labor and signals your interest in their professional development.

Singh also suggested having these types of conversations multiple times. Companies can use these discussions "as a benchmark to ensure they have a meaningful experience."

Start the intern experience off on the right note by defining your expectations.

Encourage engagement

Some interns may just put their heads down and get work done. And if your workplace is busy, this may go unnoticed or even welcomed, as it's much easier to hand out tasks instead of explaining each step or your reasoning for the activity. However, interns are there to learn, and this requires engagement.

Remember to highlight the skills that a task requires and how those abilities relate to the professional marketplace. Sure, grabbing your morning coffee may not seem like a big deal. But remembering how you like your coffee, having it ready before you ask, and delivering it to your desk with a smile shows initiative.

Indeed, this simple task prepares individuals for executive assistant positions and helps interns demonstrate their willingness to handle more critical roles. Let interns know that you value their input. They may have ideas to solve or improve processes. Start by talking about the issues that could arise if a method isn't done correctly. Discuss factors like business costs, productivity rates, and typical problems.

[Read more: Are Your Employees Really Engaged? Here's How You'll Know]

Provide a variety of opportunities

Think about what you wish you would have known before entering the workforce and consider the types of opportunities that would have helped you. Become a great mentor by offering advice and resources. For instance, you can provide quality resources for your interns to learn on and off the job. These may include industry-specific articles, white papers, and free online training courses.

While your intern's main duties may involve database updates, making copies, and other general tasks, look for ways to expand their experience. Depending on your workplace, this may include letting them shadow different team members or participate in various projects. Bring them into meetings and set aside time for networking. Look for in-person and virtual conferences where your intern can connect with industry leaders, clients, and more.

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