7 Time-Saving Tips to Maximize the Potential of Students You Hire
When the workday is packed and there never seems to be enough time to tackle everything, it can be hard to imagine taking on the additional responsibility of supervising a post-secondary student on a co-op, internship or community service placement. They don’t know your business and they’re still acquiring skills, so how can they help? And how much time would it take to train, mentor and monitor their work?
And yet, the benefits of having these students in the workplace are well known. Students are eager to apply what they’re learning in their course work, they can bring new and innovative ideas into the workplace and they’re an extra resource to help with new initiatives, day-to-day tasks and can even tackle those projects that have been sitting on a supervisor’s wish list for months or years.
Fortunately, many businesses and organizations have brought on students and can offer tips to save time and make the process easier. During a recent webinar series hosted by the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Leaning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL), panelists with HR and supervisory experience shared their tips with employers looking to get started with a work-integrated learning (WIL) student.
1. Start Small
You don’t need to make a long-term commitment in order to get started. For co-op students, it’s only four months. For internships, it could be as little as a few weeks. And, you’re not limited to summer placements. Students are available throughout the year. By selecting a specific project and timeframe, you’re more easily able to evaluate the student’s contributions and impact.
2. Ask Your Student To Create A How-To Manual For The Next Student
Once your student has been in the role for a while, task them with creating an orientation and how-to guide for the next student. This not only helps the student capture and reinforce their learning while working with you, the next student you hire will get a head-start with the help of a peer who likely shares similar levels of technical language and skill, which means fewer questions for their supervisor.
3. Include Your Current Student When You Recruit The Next Student
Invite your student to sit in on the interviews you conduct when hiring your next student. Not only is it a great experience for your student to observe and learn from the HR process in action, they’re also able to provide first-hand knowledge about the job and can offer their perspective on who may be a good fit.
4. Overlap Students So One Can Mentor The Next
If you plan on having students for longer placements, overlap the start and end dates of your students so that one can mentor and train the next. This is common with organizations that have students year round. For example, hire co-op students on eight-month placements and stagger them so that a new student starts every four months, with the current student helping to onboard the new student.
5. Hire Students At The Same Time Every Year
Establishing a yearly routine can streamline the process, for example, by always recruiting during the fall months and targeting a January start date for the student. Supervisors will understand what’s needed of them and when, and it helps with planning as they’ll know when to expect extra resources.
6. Batch The Students
Create a cohort of students by having them all start at the same time. That way, they’ll attend the orientation together, fill out necessary forms and get the same introduction to your culture. This not only saves training time, the students create a bond and are better set up to be an effective, cohesive team that supports one other. Some businesses take this one step further and recruit multi-disciplinary student teams to work together on a specific project.
7. Take Advantage Of Supports At Post-Secondary Institutions
Every public, post-secondary institution in BC offers work-integrated learning programs for students, and they all have experienced staff who can help you through the entire process. Staff can post opportunities, collect applications, help shortlist candidates and offer recommendations. They understand what’s worked for similar organizations and situations and can offer useful, specific support. They’re also part of a larger network, both within their institution and with colleagues across the province, so are able to offer suggestions regarding alternatives that may be better suited to your circumstances.
Ultimately, students can fill staffing gaps, tackle projects that have been on the back burner, and provide opportunities for your existing staff to expand their skills by supervising and mentoring a student. Those organizations that have taken the leap to provide student placements say that the benefits of working with students far outweigh the initial concerns about the time commitment, which is why once they’ve started, they continue to bring on student talent, not only for their current needs, but also to spot key talent for future growth.
Carmen Wright is a results-driven Communications Consultant with What Matters Communications specializing in creative, well-designed communications solutions. Carmen is currently working with the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL) to help businesses understand the best ways to benefit by engaging post-secondary student talent.
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