The Missing Link – Internship Programs Tie Great Company Culture with Economic Growth

This post originally appeared at


Many companies will be wrapping up their summer internship programs this month as college coeds head back to school.

Is your company taking advantage of its internship program?  As a recruiting and staffing professional, are you targeting internship programs that go above and beyond as a source for up and coming talent?

A solid internship program can be your company’s own microcosm of talent.  On a larger scale, when businesses invest resources in their interns, the economy benefits as a whole.  Integrating the least-senior, and most transient member of your company as a contributing member creates a talent pipeline that feeds your company and the economy.

Great Company Culture – The Wheaties of Internship Programs

A report from J-Intersect looked at the standards by which benchmark internship programs operate.  The keystones of excellent internship programs included:

  • Customized, High Value-Add Training
  • Developing Brand Through Intern’s Experience
  • Benchmarking & Best Practice Collection
  • KPI Management & Program Assessment


A great internship program provides the framework in which an intern can develop his or her strengths in a professional environment, identify with and contribute to the company brand, and potentially grow into an outstanding member of the company as a permanent employee.


A company’s culture has a big influence on how internship programs achieve this type of environment.  Internship programs cannot excel without dedicated mentors, training, and development.  A company culture that is built on positive attitudes, cooperation, and helping everyone in the company succeed is fertile ground for benchmark internship programs.  These types of cultures are naturally adept at feeding talent and integrating team members.

Building the Foundation

So if company culture is the foundation of successful internship programs, how do we get there?  Is great culture grown out of perks like free gourmet lunches severed in the cafeteria every day, free child care, and video games in the conference room?  Or do great cultures built on trust and cooperation cultivate an environment that cares about every employee – thus driving awesome perks?


Here are a few factors that contributors on LinkedIn attribute to excellent company culture:

  • Low turnover
  • Professionalism
  • Good mood overall
  • Humor
  • Give & take between colleagues and employers
  • Open mindedness
  • Learning mindset
  • Engagement
  • Discussion of ideas and suggestions
  • Trust

Some responses got a little more concrete, mentioning:

  • Ping Pong tables
  • Fuse ball
  • Free soda and snack machines
  • Video games
  • No drug testing required
  • No dress code


Great company culture is expressed in many ways and nurtures companies from top to bottom.  It is also company culture that lays the foundation for creating talent pipelines via internship programs.

Feeding Companies and the Economy

So you’ve built an awesome company culture by eliminating the dress code, providing free snacks, and having an open company forum once a month.  Then you implemented a mutually beneficial internship program in which your interns thrived and produced a viral video ad that got 1 million hits last month.  So how does that help the economy as a whole?


According to the report from J-Intersect, the top ten ways summer internship programs that meet their benchmark objectives have a positive impact on society and the economy at large are:

1. Attract better talent
2.  Expand sector’s reach
3.  Improve entrepreneurship
4.  Improve professionalism
5.  Improve sector performance/effectiveness
6.  Develop future sector employees/leaders
7.  Increase contribution to GDP
8.  Increase sector growth
9.  Increase sector funding
10.  Generate innovative and bright ideas

More Than Go-fers

The popular consensus is that opportunity is wasted when internships consist of coffee runs and running copies.

Okay, we did ask Taylor, the Sendouts summer intern, to order milkshakes once to celebrate an internal sales goal.  But that was a one-time deal.


The big picture was that multiple departments contributed to his development, and likewise, he contributed to multiple departments.  He was asked to analyze data, write blog posts, and even create his own mini-marketing campaign.  These were true contributions to Sendouts, and he will have solid evidence of his experience moving forward into the job search.


Interns are bright, they want to succeed, and they offer a unique perspective.  Given the right training, they can quickly adapt to different roles in the company.


Give them the tools they need, beginning with investing the their training.  Provide mentorship, and don’t be afraid to challenge interns and give them ownership of projects.

The Challenge

Nurture a company culture built on trust, use it to feed your internship program, develop a talent pipeline, and watch as interns give back to the economy at large.


Is it that simple?  What challenges do you face when cultivating company culture and talent pipelines?

Do you think that benchmark internship programs can help put people back to work?

Views: 156

Comment by Tim Spagnola on August 18, 2011 at 9:37pm
This was a great read Jessica. I am actuary surprised it did not open up more dialogue. Are intern programs not used widely by recruiting/staffing firms? I guess I really don't know the answer to that one myself.  Reading this helps me recall all of the positive experience gained from my last involvement with a intern program- the story I shared in your last post. Thanks again for sharing this.
Comment by Jessica Lunk on August 19, 2011 at 9:48am
Tim, thanks for your comment - much appreciated!  I am wondering, too, if recruiting & staffing firms widely use internship programs.  I remember in college there were one or two big recruiting firms who did a lot of interviews on campus - it would seem to make sense that they would have an internship program in place.  Perhaps because a lot of recruiting firms are smaller, 1 to 5 person operations, many don't necessarily have the resources to put an internship program into place?


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