Is your office welcoming to interns and temporary employees? Are there processes in place to introduce them and make them feel like they’re part of the team? With the added challenges of working remotely due to COVID-19, additional efforts may need to be made to include interns and temps in workplace life.
Why may interns and temps feel excluded?
Even though many interns and temps are eventually asked to take permanent positions, fellow employees don’t often view them as long-term contacts—and sometimes don’t acknowledge them at all. And if you’ve been working at your organization for a long time, it may be difficult to remember how challenging it was to join a new office culture. Sometimes people just don’t want to make the effort to speak to or welcome those who they know will only be there short-term.
But failing to welcome temporary colleagues can have long-term effects. If your interns and temps don’t feel included or engaged in the organization’s work, they’re not likely to contribute very much or learn anything from the experience. If an intern has a negative experience, it’s likely to impact the perception of the organization’s internship program. It’s also in the organization’s best interest to include and develop workers who could have a future at the organization.
What can the organization/team do better?
If an organization is serious about inclusivity, it has to ensure that it applies to everyone in the office, even if they’re only there a short time. Having guidelines in place for managers to integrate temps and interns onto their teams will lead to a more engaged organizational culture.
- Formally introduce temps and interns to the team. It can be intimidating to be in an unfamiliar office and not know anyone, and it shouldn’t be left to newcomers to introduce themselves. This can take place on a video call for remote teams. And of course make sure that you’ve covered the basics, ensuring the intern or temp knows where or to whom they should go for everything they need, from bathrooms to tech support to office supplies.
- Consider including longer-term temps and interns in learning and development opportunities, particularly if they show an interest in future work with the organization.
- If the team is working remotely, be sure to include interns in video meetings. If they have been assigned to a particular project, have them give the updates on the call so that they are seen and respected, and their contributions are valued. In the case of interns in particular, provide feedback and schedule regular check-ins so that they know how they’re doing and you can see how the experience is working out for them.
- Check in with your temporary employees. If they’re doing a great job, let the referring agency know. After all, you may want to request them again, or even hire them full-time.
What can individuals do to be more inclusive?
As an individual employee, there are things you can do to make temps and interns feel welcome as well, whether you’re in the office or working remotely. Building a personal connection, acting as a resource, and including them in social activities are just some of the approaches you can take.
- If you haven’t been introduced yet, take the initiative to get to know temps and interns yourself. It can be as simple as letting them know what you do, finding out a little about them, and asking if they have any questions about the job or the profession in general.
- If you’ve always wanted to be a mentor, this could be your chance. If your potential mentee is interested in learning more about the work and could have a future at the organization, you can give them advice, have them shadow you, and direct them to the right people to speak to about a position.
- If you are currently in the office, include interns and temps in group lunch outings or happy hours. And if you’re working remotely, be sure to include them in any team-building/social zoom meetings.
Creating a welcoming environment for temporary employees and interns is one part of building an inclusive office culture. It’s easy to make a few simple changes that can result in a more engaged and happy workplace.
How have you welcomed temps and interns to your office? Share with us on Facebook!
Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.