Feedback, both positive and negative, is critical to employee success. In fact, 60 percent of employees want feedback on a weekly or daily basis. If your employees are begging for feedback, it’s likely that your interns — whose job it is to learn and grow — want feedback just as much, if not more.
How do you bring more feedback to the workplace? You start a feedback loop.
A feedback loop is a cycle that starts with the intern giving feedback to you and ends with you giving feedback to the intern. Of course, it’s not quite that simple in practice. There are certain steps you can take that will make the process more successful for everyone.
Here’s what to do:
1. Conduct Evaluations
The number of times you conduct these evaluations depends on the length of your internship program. However, there should be at least two mandatory evaluations with your interns.
You may be familiar with the regular annual review. However, 45 percent of HR leaders do not think annual performance reviews are accurate, which is why having them more frequently, especially with interns, is a must. Many interns may not even be with you for a full year. I recommend conducting evaluations at 30-45 days and again at 90-120 days for interns.
These evaluations allow you to discuss interns’ strengths and opportunities for improvement, and they give interns a chance to give you feedback on your processes. This is where the conversation truly starts. Unless you and your interns can come together to discuss things, you’ll never know what is or isn’t working. Evaluations get the ball rolling, creating an environment in which you can mentor interns in meaningful ways. Using a standardized scale to assess interns helps you compare “apples to apples,” so to speak.
2. Ask for Interns’ Input
You can do this during the evaluations mentioned above, or in other ways, like setting aside time for feedback during weekly meetings, using intern management software to solicit feedback, soliciting feedback privately via email, or implementing a regular pulse survey.
Don’t expect interns to be forthcoming with issues. Be sure to encourage and support their feedback by explicitly asking them for it. Here are some questions you can use to get your interns talking:
- Do you have any concerns with our management style?
- What areas of your role are you finding more difficult?
- How can I, or our team, better support you?
- What goals do you have while working with us?
- Are there certain tasks you would like to take on?
- What has your overall experience been like? What do you like? Dislike?
- What was your favorite rotation? Least favorite?
Pay special attention to feedback that appears over and over. When one or two interns in a large group say you have an issue, you may want to look into it. If you hear something from four or more people, you really need to investigate.
3. Process the Information
Soliciting feedback from your interns is useless if you make no changes to your program. Processing the information in a timely manner is the only way to actually build the feedback loop your interns (and employees) crave.
Take notes on formal and informal feedback and share it with your team, including hiring managers and recruiters. Up to 80 percent of an organization’s opportunity for improvement comes from front-line employees and their insights. So, it’s important to take their feedback seriously and use it to guide organizational change.
Taking too long to act on feedback — or worse, outright ignoring it — can adversely affect your employer brand. People talk. If you are made known of issues and refuse to make changes, other people outside your company and in your field will hear about it. Your future recruitment ventures may suffer as a result.
Once you understand what needs to be done and what is of most importance, you need to get together and brainstorm with your team. Are these changes realistic? Is there data to gather? You cannot make every change at once, but you can prioritize and address issues in order of importance. Management problems, lack of productivity or interesting projects, and lack of oversight all warrant special attention. Fix what you can and improve incrementally every time you receive additional feedback.
5. Give Your Own Feedback
This is the final step in the feedback loop, and it is possibly the most important. You’ve gotten together with your team, made a plan, and reassured the intern that their issues were being addressed. Now, you have to let the intern know what you did to make changes.
If your intern has left the company, it’s especially important to inform them of the steps you’ve taken. Send them an email to explain what was changed. This is a great way to stay connected and strengthen your employer brand.
Since an intern’s stay is short, you have even less time to make a great impression on them. Implementing and sticking to a feedback loop is a great way to improve the company’s reputation, perfect your internship program, and further drive employee engagement.
A version of this article originally appeared on the WCN blog.
Jeanette Maister is managing director of the Americas for WCN.