Gone are the days when internships were simply family favors or time-consuming and begrudging training partnerships. Today, internships create a virtuous cycle of growth and change for both the intern and the employer. The benefits of internships for students and future employees are obvious, but employers are enjoying the boon of new labor more than ever before. Here's why.
Preparing next generation
As the hospitality sector becomes more competitive, service has become tantamount with success. Guest expectations are growing, and with that, the ability to train new employees on the fly is shrinking. In the hospitality world, employees are expected to hit the ground running, know what service means, and execute flawlessly. Internships prepare the next generation of service leaders by letting them shadow successful hospitality veterans. This gives hotels and restaurants a competitive edge when hiring highly-skilled new team members and allows new or growing businesses to operate at a gold standard from day one.
Disrupting the status quo
Interns also have a unique way of disrupting the status quo. They bring new technology, new examples of good (and bad) service, and new ideas to the table. Especially in the hospitality industry, there's a tendency not to change how things are done if operations are running smoothly. Even at the microcosmic level, interns give employers a small focus group to test new concepts, mini think tanks to generate breakthrough ideas, and productive disruptions that encourage employees to make old routines fresh.
Offsetting seasonal hiring needs
One of the most obvious benefits of hiring interns includes offsetting seasonal hiring needs. Because an intern's wage is often lower, employers have the ability to hire more staff than they may have been able to plan for otherwise. During peak season, this is especially beneficial to ensure there is enough manpower to support all operational and service needs. Because many hotels and restaurants experience an influx of demand during the summer months, which coincides with many international school cycles, there is rarely a shortage of strong internship talent to choose from.
An unexpected benefit of hiring interns is cultivating current talent. Allowing current employees to oversee, train, and manage interns is a safe way to build leadership and managerial skills, without needing to disrupt employees' current job descriptions or roles. This also gives employers a chance to see how top talent grows and responds to change or increased responsibility, highlighting potential candidates for promotion or development opportunities.
Creating brand ambassadors and advocates
Even if previous interns choose to seek employment elsewhere, they will likely share their experiences with others - that includes future employees and potential customers (assuming they had a positive internship experience). Ex-interns are brand ambassadors that will share information on social media and through word of mouth. And of course, there is no better way to find talent or encourage someone to stay at a hotel than by a personal recommendation.
Battling attrition and turnover
The hospitality industry also suffers from notorious turnover and low tenure rates. Having a pipeline of strong interns to backfill empty roles is one benefit. Training interns to understand your company culture and want to stay and grow within your organization is perhaps even more powerful. No matter how you look at the internship lifestyle, it presents a constant and growing pool of highly skilled workers.
Internships may seem like a simple mentor relationship, but often grow into lifelong relationships and partnerships. Whether they continue with your organization, branch out and become collaborators in your next project, or simply spark a moment of inspiration that leads to hospitality's next big trend, interns are - indeed - the future, and employers can benefit tremendously from these new talents if they are willing to open their doors, kitchens, and board rooms to tomorrow's leaders.
Learn more about how (in)formal mentors-employees involved in internship can lead to higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, innovative and flexible behaviors and job performance levels by reading "Internships: An employer’s booster" on Hospitalitynet.org by Stephanie Pougnet, PhD., Professor of Management at EHL.