Take the time to give your interns meaning, not just work

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Your college interns are increasingly likely to be your future employees: The average offer rate to interns is 72.7 percent, the highest since the pre-recession market, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers survey. How can you increase the odds those offers will be accepted? Make them aware of opportunities to be involved in the community, and in your company’s own civic agenda.
Your interns are not just positioning themselves for that job offer. More than 77 percent of millennials have been involved in a charity or “good cause,” which helps them feel empowered and able to influence the world around them, according to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017.
As interns transition to employees, they will expect their employers to do more than seek financial success; businesses that engage in issues of concern to millennials are more likely to gain their trust and loyalty.
Engaged interns = loyal employees
Your interns, who are at the tail end of the millennial generation, already are predisposed to helping others. Since high school, many have been encouraged or even required to earn credits for community service. Their colleges increasingly offer community service in the core curriculum and “service breaks” over vacation periods.
When provided with similar opportunities in the workplace, the Deloitte study says millennials show a greater level of loyalty, have a more positive opinion of business behavior and are less pessimistic about the general social situation. And they tend to stay longer with employers that engage with social issues — a hedge against job-hopping, and a potential boost to bottom-line growth.
How to engage them
So how can you empower interns and your other young professionals, and reinforce positive associations between your business and social impact?
■  Thoughtfully introduce them to your organization’s civic agenda. What nonprofits does your company support? Where do your employees serve as board members or volunteers?
■  Immerse them in the civic environment, giving them new knowledge of Cleveland’s richly diverse neighborhoods and wealth of high-quality, high-impact nonprofit organizations.
■  Teach them about critical issues confronting Cleveland as seen through the eyes of business and nonprofit leaders committed to our community’s progress.
■  Help them understand the importance and impact of collaborative leadership and coalitions that bring together multiple sectors — nonprofits, businesses and funders — to advance change.
As one college intern noted after a recent Cleveland Leadership Center civic immersion program, “I have additional access to resources needed to uplift my community.
My participation provided me with exposure to diverse aspects of Cleveland’s professional culture and extensive networks of movers and shakers, and the skillset needed to effectively manage relationships among businesses, civic assets, issues and stakeholders in order to improve the community.”
Marianne Crosley is president and CEO at Cleveland Leadership Center