People & Leadership

8 ways HR can support graduates and interns working remotely

How can HR and People leaders help graduates and interns to thrive in the new norm of working remotely? Here’s eight top tips.

Is now the time for organisations to rethink their graduate and internship programmes?

Turn the clock back to earlier in 2020 and prior, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and most internships and graduate programmes were a predominantly office-based scheme.

Now, as remote work has become the new norm, many people early in their careers have been feeling the change more than most.

Before, these roles often involved plenty of daily interaction across departments, so finding new ways to maintain that interaction with these now remote employees is key to keeping them motivated and feeling valued.

In addition, for Generation Z – the cohort succeeding millennials – it can be a struggle to work effectively from home as space may be limited. And as their living space becomes their workspace, it can impact their ability to maintain a good work-life balance.

HR and People teams have the power to support their people by creating great schemes for remote working graduates and interns and deliver standout experiences.

Here’s eight ways HR and People teams can do it.

1. Recommend the creation of a dedicated workspace at home

Employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier – they’re also up to 32% more productive.

Advise employees to create a dedicated workspace at home, preferably somewhere quiet and away from where they sleep/eat/relax so they can separate their working hours from their leisure hours.

If graduates are limited for room, find out if there is budget to assist with providing space-saving equipment to improve their working conditions.

2. Encourage the right technology support

As we’ve all realised over the past few months, the right technology is key to smooth remote working.

Having the right software and equipment, along with the same access to systems as if they were in the office, is important for making sure those early in their careers can do their role, and stay connected with their peers and managers.

As consumers, Gen-Z are used to accessing everything in their lives at the touch of a button, so they expect the same from their employer.

Having inadequate systems and software will hamper efforts to develop graduates, and make remote working feel more challenging than it needs to.

HR can be the conduit between IT and the C-suite, encouraging investment in the right infrastructure and systems to support remote working for these early career employees.

3. Create a hub of e-learning resources

Tech savvy Generation Z relish the opportunity to learn as much as possible; 62% of Gen Z will take classes or learn new skills if it makes them better at their job.

As they see it, the more they learn today, the more valuable they’ll be to employers in the future. This means companies offering remote learning and development opportunities will be more likely to hang on to top talent.

HR and People teams should consider creating a hub of online learning resources specifically tailored for those early in their careers that they can access remotely.

They can then take ownership of their own learning and development needs.

4. Promote regular catch-ups and check-ins

Research from Gallup suggest that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is caused by a person’s manager.

Emerging talent need regular communication to stay motivated, feel valued and help stimulate mental wellbeing.

Encourage regular check-ins between managers and those early in their careers, as well as promoting virtual coffee mornings or other social interaction between graduates or interns on the same programme via video calls.

HR and People teams should also consider implementing a regular catch up with interns and graduates to make sure they are fully supported and have access to everything they need.

5. Agree the preferred communication channels

Many graduate programmes run for 12-18 months on a rotational basis, with the graduate getting the opportunity to work in different divisions of the business.

Working across multiple teams will invariably mean that different modes of communication will be used, particularly now many of the workforce are remote working.

HR and People teams can help smooth the lines of communication by suggesting just one or two preferred communication channels for the company graduate scheme – such as Microsoft Teams for video calls and Slack for messaging.

That way your graduates won’t miss any important communications or have to adapt to yet another communication tool when they move around the business.

6. Assign managers with remote management experience

Managing remote workers is a skill that some managers are better suited to than others, so consider assigning your graduates and interns to experienced managers that have successfully managed remote workers in the past.

With remote and hybrid working becoming the norm, this is the ideal time to offer training on remote management to support all employees, whether early careers or not.

7. Introduce virtual internships

With no one physically in the office, a traditional workplace scheme or internship may seem redundant, but savvy companies are creating remote programmes that enable them to engage with interns on specific projects.

Not only does this create more efficiency within your company (saves on space, equipment and/or permanent managing) but allows you to assess their capabilities based on a live project.

If you’ve never considered an intern scheme before, they are a great way to open the door for potential new hires.

8. Ask your early careers professionals what they want

Finally, the best way HR and People leaders can make sure graduates and interns are thriving while working remotely is to ask them what support they need.

Create an open platform for feedback and suggestions with your early careers employees. Find out if there’s anything they are finding challenging about working remotely? What would make their lives easier?

Agents for change

Creating great workplace experiences for remote employees, especially those early in their careers, is possible during the current climate – it just requires a new approach.

HR and People teams are perfectly positioned to be the drivers for change and spearhead the importance of maintaining a focus on attracting and developing interns and graduates, by understanding what they need to thrive.