Mahyar Hansotia is the president of Sobel and Company.
Summer is just around the corner, and by now, many businesses have hired students for the season. While they can be an inexpensive resource, how do you ensure hiring a student is a smart investment? As with any business decision, the key is to have a plan. A student is an employee like any other; they need information, guidance and support in order to put forth their best effort. By taking some time to prepare for your summer student's arrival, you will help ensure a successful outcome for them – and your business.
For many students, a summer placement with your company might be their first "real" job. They will probably have many questions and will want to fully understand what is expected. Let them know how they will be evaluated, how and when they will be paid (e.g., is there overtime, vacation pay etc.) and how the chain of command works. As with any employee, a student is going to do a better job when they have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.
To ensure that you get the ball rolling quickly, it is important to have an onboarding plan. Do you know where the student will be stationed? Do they need a desk, a computer, software or phone? Budget for these necessities in addition to their salary. Don't forget to assign a person to provide training. It is also a good idea to prepare an FAQ-type document to help the student navigate office procedures.
Draft a solid job description beyond what you may have discussed during the interview process and be realistic about what they can take on. The best approach is to have a few specific projects that can be completed within during the summer, but also have the student trained enough to be able to step in with ongoing projects and daily duties. If possible, plan for them to cover the holidays of full-time staff.
Listen and learn
Students can bring several benefits to your business, including a fresh perspective and technological savvy. As they are new to your way of doing things, they may have insights or new techniques that could transform some of your processes. When they ask "why," pay attention to your own answer and consider a new approach if appropriate. Students are generally also much more adept with computers and learning new software. They may even show you program features you didn't know were possible that could help increase efficiency. And as a result, the student will also have a quantifiable success to put on their resumé.
After the goodbye party for your summer student, keep in mind that they can be a great staffing resource for you during their school year or upon graduation. If you need part-time or freelance work, you will have an experienced person to call upon. Hiring a summer student is also a great way to test a candidate for future full-time employment. They will already be familiar with your business processes and work culture, so if they are a good fit, it could be a win for both parties.
Overall, summer students are a great investment as long as you prepare. Given that they are with you so briefly, it is essential to have a plan in place. Depending on the job, it can take a while before the student is productive. Be patient and have the right processes in place to help them ramp up as quickly as possible. An employer who provides solid, career-related experience will develop a strong reputation and attract high-calibre students, which can result in an improved bottom line.
Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.