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I would like to get around five interns (for programming and digital designing purposes) to work with me and actually like to push them to become skilled workers and then hire them later on. I'm wondering should I get a space for them or let them to work remotely? In one hand, I like them to learn to deliver the work regardless of where they are; in another, I would like them to do a team work together and see about the chemistry between all of us?

  • Does "to push them to become skilled workers" involve teaching/mentoring? – PM 77-1 May 31 '15 at 23:10
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    They're going to need a lot of training, that should be handled on site so they can get imediate help. Also if they're unpaid it may well be harder to stay motivated if working from home. – CLockeWork Jun 1 '15 at 9:40
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    Read this answer about best intern practices and you'll see why remote working is a pretty bad idea for interns... – enderland Jun 1 '15 at 13:46
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    @CLockeWork unpaid interns? I thought that slavery was abolished. – Salvador Dali Jun 2 '15 at 7:48
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    @CLockeWork It's not voluntary if required for getting a degree :) – Joze Jun 2 '15 at 12:04
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I think you should rethink your plans a bit more:

The remote working thing is a terrible idea for interns. By the nature of the role, interns need a lot of training, supervision, and direction - and this is all best handled face-to-face.

Also, while sometimes it is useful to get a couple of interns working together - they can help each other through tasks and problem-solving - each intern requires a decent amount of one-on-one time from their supervisor (back to training, supervision, and direction). Even if you were to only spend 30 minutes a day with each individual, that's one third of your working day gone already. This 30 minutes a day is probably a minimum time, too - since it is unlikely that you will have any work that all five could contribute to at the same time, and you will have to brief for each task on top of that.

To restate: interns need support, supervision, training, instruction. This can sometimes be handled in a group environment, but you are going to need some one-on-one time, pretty much on a daily basis - instructions and training for the day ahead, and review and feedback for the day behind. Obviously, as interns gain experience, this time will automatically reduce - but eventually, they're not going to be learning new things, which means that one of the pre-requisites for an intern position is invalidated and you'd have to hire them (if you have the budget) or replace them with new interns (in which case, you will have the same time issues).

This also doesn't cover the fact that you (or someone with enough experience) will have to constantly review their work to make sure it is correct and up to standard.

If you have any other team members under your leadership, you are going to find time very short, since they also need your support and supervision (although, to a much lesser degree).

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    Do you have any references for the 30 minutes part? – Kevin Jun 1 '15 at 8:26
  • @Ajaxkevi Can you be more precise? – Jonast92 Jun 1 '15 at 13:23
  • @Jonast92 The minimum 30 minutes a day spend on each intern, where does that number come from? – Kevin Jun 1 '15 at 14:03
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    not OP, but it comes from experience. 30 minutes is bare minimum -- would do at least one status meeting in the morning and one at the end of the day. – edthethird Jun 1 '15 at 14:20
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    Pretty much based on experience (and I'm sure you can find supporting answers here from other people) - interns need support, supervision, training, instruction. This can sometimes be handled in a group environment, but you are going to need some one-on-one time, pretty much on a daily basis - instructions and training for the day ahead, and review and feedback for the day behind. – HorusKol Jun 1 '15 at 23:00
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Have you ever had even one intern before? I'm assuming you haven't, and that makes this a bad plan. Start with two (they can support each other and bounce ideas around) who are physically near you, in the same building.

Managing 5 people is not a good first managing experience. Managing even ONE person who doesn't have a lot of work experience is harder than managing one person who kind of knows how work works, will ask for help when they need it, will let you know when they are all done and need more etc. And managing remote people is way harder than managing local people. (Why do we do it? Because sometimes great people are only available remote.)

So you want to start with interns, who are harder to manager than experienced workers, start with 5, which is more work than 2, and then start with remote for no other reason than they "should" learn to work remotely (a difficult skill some people never master) on their first work experience? Scale it down. Bring two interns into your office and see what happens.

  • One important aspect here is will these interns all be working directly with and for you, or are you co-ordinating their efforts with others. My wife managed a high school age intern program at a major engineering firm and had 30 interns. However, they didn't work with her, they worked with other engineers she assigned them to. Also being high school, during the year, they only worked about 10 hours a week. The one thing she did do that was a very good start was to offer a class on programming first. – Bill Leeper May 31 '15 at 23:25
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I'm wondering should I get a space for them or let them to work remotely? In one hand, I like them to learn to deliver the work regardless of where they are; in another, I would like them to do a team work together and see about the chemistry between all of us?

You should definitely get a space for them.

If at all possible, that space should be within the space where the rest of your team works - not in corner by themselves, and certainly not remote.

Interns aren't hired solely to get tasks completed. They are hired to learn how to work, how to fit into a corporate culture, how to prioritize, how to perform the relevant tasks. In addition, you have indicated that you might want to hire them eventually. Thus, you need to be able to see and evaluate their daily work. They need to see and evaluate you and your company as well - so they can make an informed decision if you do offer them a job.

Interns need mentors that can help them. They need interaction with those mentors frequently - ideally every day. That interaction is best handled face-to-face.

There is plenty of time later in their career for remote work - after they have been hired, after they can be fully trusted, and when they need less daily interaction and instruction.

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    And not only how to perform the relevant tasks, but also which ones to do, how to prioritize, how to fit into the office culture, ect. In fact that might be the most important part of an internship, so you need to create a culture to fit into. – kleineg Jun 1 '15 at 12:48
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You seem to be under the impression that it's easy to manage interns. It's not. In fact, I'd say just the opposite.

I would say that a team of 5 interns being managed by one person who is presumably still meant to be delivering work themselves (as you say they would being working with you, not for you) is most likely to result in a net loss of productivity to start with.

Working remotely is not the panacea that many believe it to be - even for experienced employees, it only works well if the remote worker is a self starter who has at least a reasonable understanding of what is needed in terms of both their work output and their professional standards. An intern is unlikely to score highly in these areas, because they're an intern.

I really think this would end badly. Not only for you but for them, and I do feel strongly that employers have a certain duty of care to deliver a good learning environment for interns when it comes to "learning the ropes" about a profession.

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Are you in the US, and are these the unpaid variety of intern? If so, there's a lot of interesting rules and restrictions about what an internship actually entails, found here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm

You mention that you want to have them on so they can get good enough that you can jutify hiring them: "If an intern is placed with the employer for a trial period with the expectation that he or she will then be hired on a permanent basis, that individual generally would be considered an employee under the FLSA." The guidance provided would say that this is not allowed.

A few other things you brought up work at cross-purposes to what's allowed as well (having them do meaningful/beneficial work, etc). Consider this:

In my experience in Software Development (my field), we hire on juniors at a low rate of pay - generally salaried just a little higher than local minimum wage at 40 hrs/week - with the expectation that they are coming in with little to no experience and stipulations about skill-development progress. During that time, they do productive work (usually busywork or assisting senior level developers) AND they and the company commit to mentorship time where we help them learn and grow, address deficiencies, and assess where they are on the road to being a developer. Usually, after 6-12 months, we expect them to be autonomous and developed enough to be promoted to a better salary and become full members of teams, where their Lead or the Senior devs on the team can help them continue to grow and learn.

As for remote working, I highly recommend against it until they're capable of being autonomous. Mentorship works best in person, historically, and they're hypothetically going to be starting at a skill level where they need to be able to grab help quickly and get good thorough explanations.

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DISCLAIMER: I never hired interns no have I ever been one. I have, however, some experience incorporating new employees and consulting into the team.

I would go for on-site option, assuming that you can afford it both in space and time. Since you do not intend them for making coffee or shuffling papers, this will be a substantial time commitment on your part (possible shared with other experienced employees).

You have at least the following two goals:

  1. Get some kind of benefit while their internship lasts.
  2. Evaluate them both professionally and personally in light of the future employment.

While (depending on the nature of your business) it could be possible to achieve your 1st goal with a pure remote arrangement, second does require face-to-face time (and preferably not through Skype).

I want to underscore that you are going to evaluate not just end results of their efforts but the entire process. How they approach a problem, take constructive criticism and other feedback, control their time, multi-task, etc. And, again, on-site situation is more conductive for that as well.

And there is on more (somewhat paranoid) reason: is someone else doing their work for them? Remote arrangement is more conductive to this type of cheating.

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