Interested in Internships? - 3 Tips to get the most value from your interns

More and more companies appear to be interested in the concept of internships but what can you do to ensure that you are maximizing the value of this opportunity both for the individual and the organization?  All too often people treat interns as cheap or even free labour but don’t take anything more from them.

Internships really can and should be used to improve your hiring processes.  What better way to ensure that those you hire are road tested and the right fit for your organization?

Here are our 3 top tips for ensuring this happens:

1. Clarify your hiring requirements early

Ideally you will anticipate what skills you are looking for in the full time position that you are considering pipelining the intern into.  Things of course may change but specific skill requirements and projects you are considering in the future will ensure you are not hiring somebody completely inappropriate. 

You should also be ready to offer the intern a full time position as soon as they complete the internship rather than letting them get back into the market after they have had valuable experience with your firm.

Additionally, the more you know about the pipeline position the better you are able to set tasks that will assess their ability to fit your organisation.  Using both business as usual work and specific projects can help this.    If you have more than one intern, setting projects can allow consistency to compare the interns particularly if you need to make decisions between them.

2. Be Realistic

Although many organisations want to “wow” their interns into thinking that their company really is the employer of choice, what interns are looking for is a realistic learning experience, which allows them to make an informed decision about their future in addition to increasing their personal brand through real work experience.  The more genuine their experience, the more likely they will be to stay with the company for longer as their expectations will be met. 

Ensure line managers are informed to set them as close to real work as possible so that they also feel like they are making an impact and if it can’t be business critical at least make it something that is valuable to the team.  Explaining where their task fits in the wider picture is also powerful to the interns

Remember that the interns going back on to university campuses will be your brand ambassadors if you get things right but equally will share bad experiences too.

3. Ensure they meet everyone they need to on the internship

Last year I was surprised to find out how many interns were brought back after their internship for further interviews - that really should not be necessary and wastes everyone’s time. 

Ensuring you know who needs to be involved in the hiring decision and creating opportunities for those people to have exposure to your interns whilst they are working with the organization is the most efficient way of assessing them.  This may be in the form of direct work, informal coffee chats or even more formal assessment activities such as interviews or presentations.  If you have had 4 weeks + of experience with them you really should not need to bring them back for any more checking…

Taking steps to invest in making your internship programme successful should help your organization to make the most of the opportunity and to ensure that you have the “right” future employees and brand ambassadors.

What is all the nonsense about Generations?

I – Generation, millennials, Generation Y, Generation X, Generation Z, baby boomers... what does it all mean? There are literally thousands of articles written with opinions and commentary about the generations about what they want and need to be productive and how you can adjust your company to attract them but what does it really mean to you?

You could spend days, weeks and months reading all the content and researching exactly what impact the current demands of the generation will have on your company.  After all they are different, have been shaped by different advances in technology and economic environments.  I personally love all the research about generations and reading about the reasons for different generations reportedly acting in the way they do but ultimately there are three things I would consider to be important to the majority of businesses and recruiters if they are thinking about generations:

1)     Be clear about what you are offering:

Ensuring you know what is on offer to prospective and current employees and that you are transparent and able to articulate exactly what that looks like; is the first step to being able to deal with generations. 

2)     Seek feedback:

Speak to everyone about what they are feeling, take regular health checks of the impression both prospective and current employees have about what you are offering and the culture of your organization.

3)     Continuously re-evaluate whether you have the right employees for your organization:

If you find you do not have the right employees for your organization then chances are you are doing something wrong in terms of culture or offering and you can then link back to point 1…

So what about the different generations?  Well in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter what generation is coming through as long as you recognize that each person is an individual and that there are differences in generational trends due to societal norms.  You really do not need to worry too much about the exact differences between those in the I Generation andthose that are Baby Boomers.  If you get the above three points right generational theory really should not matter.


Should we hire graduates?

When I first heard someone from senior management utter the words “Do you think we really need to hire graduates and run agraduate programme?”  I felt immediately uneasy; “Of course we do, it’s a no brainer” I replied quickly fearing for the security of my job, I wasn’t totally sure what was the evidence to this belief but knew it just made sense.

As time went on, I got used to this question being asked on a fairly frequent basis) and as time went on I definitely responded with more conviction and more evidence than at the beginning.  I also began to feel less threatened and more comfortable that there was a definite business case for hiring graduates which then brought a justification for my role.

In fact, it became a question that I relished – a timely reminder to review what is going on in the graduate world and to ensure that what we were doing was really adding value to the business rather than just being bogged down in the day job.

And my rationale was based upon the following key areas:

1)     Graduate success stories – knowing the graduates personally and seeing them progress through their careers to positions where they were really making a difference is strong evidence for the importance of home grown talent.  These individuals showed commitment and knew the business in a way that could not be developed in a couple of years.

Ensuring I was on top of retention and progression statistics enabled me very quickly to be able to pull out what was going on.    This also helped with succession planning.

2)     There is no doubt that graduates bring fresh ideas to the organisation and question the status quo.  This enables the company to be more agile and responsive to the market that they are supporting.  Rather than just doing things as they have always been done taking on graduates will allow you to look at things in a different light.

3)     Despite an increase in salaries in some sectors graduates are still affordable and will generally work hard even if they don’t work “hard” in the same way previous generations have.  They might not be working standard hours but watch what they deliver chances are it will surprise you.

Ultimately though, my gut feel still feels right - it just makes sense to hire graduates.   If we do not all give opportunities to grow early talent there will be a skills shortage.  However, if you are involved in attracting, selection and developing early talent ensure that you have the evidence that you are delivering a strong programme and welcome the question as a chance to show just how good a job you are doing! 

How to Ask for a Promotion

Recently Elliott Scott HR asked me to share my advice on how to have that tricky conversation with your manager to ask for that promotion you want. 

There will always be people you meet in the workplace who have the courage to ask for a promotion.   I was never that person.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t confident in my abilities or that I was unsure that I was doing the best job I could.  Anyone who has met me knows that I am on the extraverted side and happy to talk to anyone but I do not like shouting about my achievements (but of course love it when people recognize them).  Therefore, asking to be promoted tended to sit on the too difficult pile, probably to my detriment at times waiting to be recognized rather than asking for that overdue promotion!  Fortunately I was able to grasp many opportunities along the way.

As I set up my own business I am reflecting a lot on what I learnt over the course of my corporate career and in particular the areas that I’m not so keen to do, so I can face my fears head on and asking for a promotion is one example of this.

Ironically my job in HR often required me to support people through the preparation for promotion and I often heard advice from senior mentors in the business about how to get that promotion.   So pulling this together now here are my 5 tips for getting that promotion:

  • Perform consistently at a high level

How is anyone ever going to consider you for the next role if you are not excelling in the current role? It really does not matter if you consider the role to be beneath you; now is the time to ensure that there are no questions about your performance. 

  • Take every opportunity you can

By this I mean volunteer to help others, find out what is going on in other teams and through this you can impress not just your current manager but also those in other departments.  Extra challenges can occur if your senior managers are in a different physical location to you but by getting your name known for your curiosity and your ability to go over and beyond your current job role you can build your reputation.  Opportunities come in the form of networking, projects or even organizing or participating in social activities.   Do not restrict yourself to just what is written in your job description.

  • Establish what you want and find out whether you are prepared

What is it you want for your next step?  Research expectations of the next level both in terms of skills in addition to other responsibilities.  If you see any gaps think strategically how you are going to develop yourself to meet the expectations.   This will help you feel ready and confident that you will be able to do a great job.  Stretch yourself but equally know what resources you will use to get there. Many companies actually want you to be already performing at the next level before they offer promotion.

  • Think about your succession plan

The most important thing for your manager is that the transition is easy.  Therefore if you have responsibilities that are not covered by someone else now is the time to think about how you would suggest how those responsibilities will be covered.  Maybe there is someone more junior than you that you can suggest you mentor and help step up to your role or now is the time to outsource some of your activities?  It might not be your responsibility to make the final decision but a well thought out proposal will help your manager to feel comfortable about the transition.

  • Pick your moment

Learn how to read your manager.  This will allow you to know when is a good moment to approach them – there will be nothing worse than being cut off half way through the conversation because of something urgent they need to attend to or because their mind is on another thing. 

Think about what you know about their style, how do they like to be communicated with, will they respond better to a formal meeting or a more informal chat over coffee?  Do you need a more structured proposal for them? 

Be prepared with the information you have from the previous 4 points so you have a solid and concise argument.  If you aren’t convinced then how will anyone else be?

But if it never seems like the right moment, then make one… above else, speak up – you are the only one in charge of your future and if you wait to be noticed for a promotion you might miss the opportunity all together!

Anna Champion is the CEO and Founder of The Talent Lighthouse, a consultancy supporting the transition of emerging talent into the workplace.

Elliott Scott HR is a specialist HR recruitment agency with offices in Hong Kong, London, New York, Sao Paulo and Singapore. For more information on Elliott Scott Group please visit our website, TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Chinese Fortune Cookie: "Now is the time to try something new "

As we prepare for the celebrations of Chinese New Year I see people around me in Hong Kong clear out their old items and replace them with new items. So what better time to look at new ideas to possibly introduce at work?

I am often asked to look at development programmes and to come up with ideas of new courses I can run.  Great.   I have heaps of ready made programmes I can adapt and run for your company just like many other providers but is that actually what your emerging talent is looking for?

As far as I can see the graduates leaving university are changing.  This is not necessarily because they are part of another labeled “generation” (although if you want to call them something try the I Generation or Generation Z) but more because the technology and access to online tools they can tap into is far more advanced than ever before. 

Take Ben, a 21 year old graduate, he knows that he needs to focus on his transferable skills… he has done his online research and feels he could do with some work on his communication skills.  He could attend a face to face presentation skills session as part of the programme your company provides but he knows that he can go online and attend a course by Harvard for free (and no doubt perceives Harvard to have better training than many others).   He wants to get ahead and probably before he even joins your company has completed a series of these sort of skills training online, through the careers office and as part of internships.  The graduates coming through are becoming more prepared and more resourceful.

So does this mean that you should not be providing any development opportunities?  Absolutely not.  According to Accenture's "Will graduates want to work for you?" study 84 % of  the class of 2015 say that they expect formal training in their first job.  So how can you deliver this yet not waste money on training that is not suitable or duplicate what they have already done?

And the answer to that I believe is simple… what is important to those hitting the workplace now is not the blanket all singing or dancing delivered up front training programmes that were winning awards 5 to 10 years ago but how each organization can support each individual’s development of their personal brand. 

Think about what will help them feel like they are building their brand.   Is it likely to be something that you roll out to everyone or is it something that is much more tailored to the individual?  Giving them tools to review how they are performing right now, what they need to work on and then supporting each one individually with their own plans has to give better return on investment than just throwing another general training programme at them. 

So as we say goodbye to the year of the sheep and hello to the year of the monkey, lets also say goodbye to cookie cutter graduate programmes and give out lai see (red envelopes) focused on programmes that embrace each individual and their personal development journeys.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Three ways to get the best from graduate recruits

A recent guest blog on the CIPD Asia website:

With thousands of keen graduates entering the workforce this month, consultant Anna Champion explains how to harness their energy and skills

It’s that time of year again. Just when you’d breathed a sigh of relief as the swarms of over-excited interns return to university, here is the next batch of enthusiastic and overly curious employees – your new graduate intake.


Their crisp suits, endless questions, and anxiety to jettison the “graduate” label and get on with the “real work” can be overwhelming. So how can you use their energy, channel their ideas and develop a talent pipeline – while still getting the day job done?


Close the expectation gap

Even before the graduate completed their application form, they would have been daydreaming about what they were are going to do in your organisation. The media, information from contacts and, crucially, the interaction they had with staff during the interview stage will have all contributed to their preconceptions of their new workplace.


The best way to start a working relationship is to talk to each graduate about what they expect and what they want to achieve. Prepare yourself to be surprised and don’t laugh out loud when they tell you they want to change the world. Listen carefully and be realistic with them about what their roles will encompass – but stay open-minded, too. Maybe they really will change the world one day.


Be clear when outlining your expectations of them, right from their part in bigger projects through to the simple stuff such as what time to turn up and not to eat at their desk. While you can expect them to be shocked and be sure they will test those boundaries (after all, these are people who were born knowing you can work from anywhere, anytime, thanks to laptops and smartphones), you have to set out these social norms clearly instead of letting them get into trouble through what is effectively a cultural misunderstanding.


Closing this gap will not only help your graduates adapt to the workplace more quickly, but ultimately will improve long-term retention rates.


Encourage curiosity

Once graduates have developed an understanding of their tasks and you start to trust them with more responsibility, it’s time to unlock their potential and ask them what they think could work better. Encouraging them to generate ideas and understand the implications of their decisions will boost your organisation, your team and, ultimately, your own reputation.


You need to become more curious, too; taking an interest in your new recruits’ lives will help you understand what makes them tick and how their strengths can be applied at work. Don’t waste this opportunity just because you are “too busy” with your day job.


Forget “back in my day…”

Just because you had to work until 4am, make tea for the whole team and call your boss “sir” doesn’t mean that is the only way to treat a new recruit. Think hard about how you learnt best, what you benefited most from and what didn’t help you. Use this information wisely to help your new teammate grow.


And maybe, just maybe, your new colleague might change the world one day.


Anna Champion is founder of consultancy The Talent Lighthouse, and a founding member of the South East Asian Association of Graduate Employers. She is based in Hong Kong.

Advice for Graduates and the Companies that Hire them

Delighted to be invited to interview by Phillip Welburn from Elliott Scott HR

Anna Champion, Founder of The Talent Lighthouse, speaks with Elliott Scott HR about her passion for career coaching, graduate recruitment and development. Here she shares her insights and advice for those starting out in their career, as well as for the companies who hire them.

Why did you choose to specialise in career coaching?

When I was working for a corporate, I often struggled to know where and to whom to turn to when it came to my career. When I started my coaching qualification, I realised that despite being a very motivated individual, if I had a career coach, I would be able to move forward much faster on my career trajectory. Now, I will choose to have a career coach for the rest of my life.
Training courses give you information, but career coaching is tailored to you. I always felt that I was too busy to be coached, but now I know it would have made me even more effective. If I can help other people realise this earlier in their careers, I believe that they will reach their potential and be happier.

What do you enjoy the most about what you do?

I love meeting different people and seeing them develop. I spent this last weekend at a high-school that designed and delivered a TEDX conference for 100+ delegates. It was so exciting to see what they are becoming and to hear their thoughts about the world. It keeps me asking questions and curious!

Are there any companies that you feel do a great job supporting emerging talent?

There are lots of great companies out there. The exceptional ones are those that don’t just pile all their focus on the recruitment part, but also follow through with a solid development program. A good example is the Swire Management House Staff training program which continues to offer international career opportunities throughout a person’s career. The beauty of this is that they are honest about the fact that the program isn’t for everyone. They are looking for people who they can retain and develop throughout their career.

What can organisations do better to attract and support emerging talent?

1. Narrow the expectation gap – be honest throughout the recruitment process so that everyone is completely aware of what is expected of them.
2. Openness and transparency – in a recent study by Millennial Branding, (a Gen Y research and consulting firm) 52% of respondents who were from the Y-Generation stated that honesty was the most important quality of a leader. This indicates that companies should be honest in all their dealings with emerging talent if they want to succeed.
3. Ensure that people feel like an individual in the mass process – large recruitment practices can result in attraction campaigns that fail to show that people are hired as individuals. Equally, training programs can be so broad that they become inaffective, as they are not tailored to each individual. The more you can tailor programs the more effective they will be.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing graduates in today’s job market– in the HR function and more broadly?

I think that one of the biggest challenges facing graduates is that people often expect them to be something that they are not. Graduates are often perceived as stereotypes. Just because a graduate in the past behaved in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that the next one will also behave like that.
In terms of HR, it continues to be a difficult area to enter into at entry-level. HR is renowned as an area of confidentiality - and rightfully so - therefore really finding out what the different areas of HR do can be difficult. HR teams are often facing a large workload and therefore getting the time to understand what is going on and reflecting on what can be learnt from each situation can be hard.

What advice would you give job seeking graduates?

1. Do your research – ensure that you know yourself, your values and what you want but also utilise all the resources you have to find out as much as you can about the field and organisations you want to enter.
2. Don’t take it personally – facing rejections can be hard on your confidence but it can allow you to persue other opportunities that you maybe haven’t considered before.
3. Respect everyone – Regardless of the level of each person you encounter at an organisation (even the tea lady and the cleaner) you should show them respect. They are part of ensuring that the business and team can deliver the end product! They also may well have the ear of a senior member of staff particularly if you don’t show them respect.

What are some trends in HR that you’re excited about?

One of the most important trends that is just coming out in the graduate recruitment market is a number of large accountancy and consulting firms removing the degree and academic results from the application process. This is due to there being no proof that academic results indicated job performance levels. It should help widen the applicant pool.
Secondly, I believe all the research about introversion and extroversion is going to make a difference in hiring, succession planning and leadership program criteria and techniques, particularly given that up to now, the culture we have in the workplace often “prefers” extroverts to introverts.


Its really begun...

This week was the first official week I'm in business.  When I walked away from the business registration office in Hong Kong, I expected to feel a bit different, but the fact was I didn't.  I had a piece of paper to prove that I now officially "own a company".  I almost expected people to see I was different.  But nothing really changed.  

When I announced it to my facebook friends and linked in contacts,  it then became a bit more real.  207 likes and 60 comments, now there is no turning back! Its real.

That's the thing with accountability.  Committing to yourself is one thing... committing to others means you will let people's faith in you down if you don't follow through.  So there it is, I want to make myself proud of what I do but I also want to ensure that those people who believe in me were right to do so. 

So at the end of week one  I've climbed up the spiral staircase and the light is now on at The Talent Lighthouse.