5 Tips to Boost Your Interns’ Productivity

It is a well-known fact that one of the biggest challenges start-ups face is hiring – with a capital H. While most start-ups are severely under-resourced and can barely match the industry in pay, many have a non-existent brand, which struggles to draw the right kind of talent in sufficient numbers.

But lately, a rather viable alternative – internships – seems to have found a large number of takers.

Young, energetic and brimming with ideas, interns today are steadily making up a significant pool of start-up workforce across many cities in the country.

In fact, Karthikeyan Vijaykumar, CEO and Founder of Twenty 19, a Chennai-based company that connects companies with interns, says, ““We have seen many companies have full teams made up of interns, who eventually go on to becoming fulltime employees.”

While that’s truly heartening, the reality isn’t as easy as it sounds. For, once you employ interns, there’s the question of training them, having them adapt to the work culture, creating a fun yet productive work culture, motivating them to work to their maximum potential, retaining the talented as well as getting the not-so-interested to buck up.

But whatever the challenges, there are founders of start-ups who have been there and done that, dealt with interns wisely and well, and now share how start-ups can work around the challenges. Here’s what they have to say.

Hire Right

One of the wisest things to do is to hire the right talent. Porush Jain, CEO and Founder of Sportskeeda, says, “We use interns for content writing for sportskeeda, as well as management and tech interns.

The bottom line is that we look for interns with sports knowledge and a passion for sports. We look for quality of work and dedication. They need to excel at their work. Also, sports-reporting online is all about ideas, so they must ideate well.”

Sachin Anand, Founder of WebMobi, believes in zeroing in on passion: “I look for passion for the job. Our focus is on technology, so we look for high-caliber problem-solving skills. The challenge is that you cannot assess capability in two meetings. But if interns have passion, everything else is taken care of.”

Sachin, though, understands that there is a certain amount of adaptation required by interns. He explains, “Interns come from college without corporate exposure.

They have to be molded into the start-up environment. We have to figure out how to transform them from college to a corporate set-up. 10 percent of the interns we hire are very sharp, learn fast and work fast. They want to settle down in a career at our company. 75 percent take three-four months to be moulded.

But the rest cannot and they may be told to look for other places. Interns should be able to assume ownership of the work they do, they should be committed. This is an ethical aspect that must be taught to them at the college level.”

Encourage Ownership and Free Communication

Communication is key, asserts Sachin, and that makes for a boost in productivity. “I assign them a task and give them a lot of independence. Also, our hierarchical structure is very flat and informal.

So, they open up and express themselves freely. That makes them enjoy their work and become productive. When they are not as productive, I tell them so that they can improve,” he explains.

The plus of a positive work culture can only add to it, according to him: “A great work culture, where there is a lot of interaction, where learning is encouraged, and there is communication, motivates interns to perform.”

Plan Interesting Tasks and Responsibilities

At the same time, however, what also matters is the quality of work given to interns. Karthikeyan analyses, “Interns do a great job if the quality of work given to them is high.

We have interns who do key tech or key marketing aspects of a job. Therefore, start-ups must plan interesting tasks, and come up with interesting job roles for them. That will motivate them to perform well.”

Reward and Recognize

Kshitij Mittal, of Wikasta Business and Technical Solutions says that money alone does not motivate all interns. Offering an example, he explains, “We pay our interns Rs.5000 a month, but they are more interested in the certificate they receive after completing the internship.

If a given task is done very well, we are happy to give them a recommendation letter. For our photoshop interns, we announce a contest and say that their work will be put up on our Facebook page. Those that get the maximum comments and likes will get a recommendation letter. That motivates them.”

Porush says it’s critical to make sure one is setting measurable targets, clear, performance-based incentives, and the right environment. “At Sportskeeda, we give them sample articles to write or an editing task or a written test. We set a target.

We say, if you complete 15 articles a month, and other tasks, and if we quantify it and you get 60 out of 100, we will give you a certificate when you leave. That helps get them motivated. The environment of a start-up is also important. The TV is always on at sportskeeda. There’s a lot of fun at work,” according to Porush Jain.

Don’t Ignore Pay

However, with some it’s monetary incentives that give a boost. As Karthikeyan, who has worked with many interns says, “Have incentives. Depending on the roles and performance, reward interns with monetary benefits. Pay for performance – that will help.”