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The skillset of an intern can never replace the experience of an employee.
Let me set this straight: The skillset of an intern can never replace the experience of an employee. If you are planning to hire an intern because you lack manpower, I can assure you that you are making a huge mistake.
The urban legend of super interns
You might have heard of stories of a super intern doing many wonderful things for a company. However, those interns are a rare breed. The rest of the intern population actually require hours of grooming and guiding in order to be moulded into such a talent.
… sometime, [an intern] becomes all too costly for a company that they would be better off hiring an experienced full-time staff instead.
The bottom line is that every successful internship programme requires sacrifice. And sometimes, this sacrifice becomes all too costly for a company that they would be better off hiring an experienced full-time staff instead.
Interns are expensive
You might think that it is inexpensive to hire an intern. If you view it solely from a monetary standpoint, then you are definitely right.
An intern’s allowance, on average, ranges from $600 to $1,200 per month. That amount is nothing compared to how much a full-time employee is being paid. You could hire two six-month cycles of interns every year and get a constant flow of “cheap labour”.
But if you factor in the time needed to interview, onboard, train and assimilate that intern into your company, you will realise that the entire process takes up a lot of time and effort. That time and effort could have been used more productively on other more important matters like meeting a prospective client. And that opportunity cost is definitely expensive.
Interns do not have the experience
With close to zero working experience, there is a high chance that your intern will make amateur mistakes and end up burdening you with more work instead of relieving you of any.
Unfortunately, your newbie intern will not be able to deliver the same quality of work as a newbie full-time employee. With close to zero working experience, there is a high chance that your intern will make amateur mistakes and end up burdening you with more work instead of relieving you of any.
Typically, when a company realises that the intern they hired isn’t a “super intern”, they can do either one of two things; a) assign that intern simpler and more mundane tasks or b) go through the rigours of training and grooming them.
As you already know, most companies will choose the former because it seems to be the “easy way out”. Unfortunately, doing so only creates a lose-lose situation for both the employer and the intern: The employer doesn’t get to delegate any important work to the intern and the intern doesn’t get the opportunity to work on anything meaningful.
Interns are not here for a long time
Even if you decide to groom your intern and give them adequate training, the truth is that they will not be with your company for a very long time.
Some interns view their internship as merely a stepping stone toward their ideal career. They may not want to continue working for you even if you offered them a full-time position after they have completed their internship. This will most probably be the case if you hired an intern who is in the first or second year of their tertiary education. It is more than likely that they will want to intern in other companies in the subsequent years before deciding on the company that they would like their first job to be at.
So why would anyone hire an intern at all?
Well, I believe that there are two tactical purposes of having an intern in a company.
Some companies are hiring interns to get a fresh perspective on how their company can improve their work processes. Since most interns belong to the millennial generation, they can also provide companies with fresh ideas on how they can stay relevant. You can rope them in during the idea generation process and find out what appeals to their generation.
Other companies are using internship programmes as part of their hiring strategy. They would use these opportunities to assess potential full-time employee candidates. Since it is almost impossible to fully understand an individual through an interview, an internship allows you to get a better sense of your potential hire.
If these candidates perform well during their internships and have proven to be a good fit for your company, you can offer them a full-time position. It’s a win-win for both you and your intern.
If you’re not stable, you’re not ready
If your company is unable to function properly without an intern, don’t expect operations to run smoothly when an intern comes on board.
With that said, an internship programme isn’t for every company. If your company is unable to function properly without an intern, don’t expect operations to run smoothly when an intern comes on board. That intern isn’t a magical genie who can solve all your problems. In fact, it takes a huge commitment to accommodate an intern, which is why some companies have resigned to the notion that they don’t need one.
Take it from the Intern
If you still insist on hiring an intern, make sure you plan for it. Run through the internship programme with your team. Assign a supervisor to be in charge of that intern. Make sure that they check up on the progress of the intern when they come on board.
Most importantly, manage your expectations.
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