Virtual interns with real impact

We all know the limitations that the Global Covid-19 pandemic has had on various HR practices at companies around the world and initiatives from our Campus Recruitment efforts are no different. In March we started thinking about the implications for our Summer Internship program, when 150 hopeful interns would join the band, in anticipation of landing employment and building a better career network for when they graduate.

Before the pandemic, the world continued to become even more competitive for top talent, and as Jon mentioned in his article on Talent Acquisition in Times of Turmoil, “Risk is at an all time high for both parties, and even more so in unprecedented times”. The combination of more competition for talent, and this uncertainty means we need to put greater thought behind making our initiatives as impactful as possible.

One way to attract more talent, and simultaneously let the talent and business check in on the mutual compatibility (reducing risk for both sides) is an internship program. So, although the safety of Spotifiers always comes first, cancelling our internship program was just not an option. We were facing another conundrum in this new world of continuous paradigms. Another place where we had to pivot.

Realising how important the initiative is and the challenge of pivoting can be daunting, so we started with taking a step back and a deep breath. We reminded ourselves of the main goals of the program, and considered if we could replicate that experience virtually, and still have the desired impact. We think it’s essential to provide an experience that facilitates meaningful work in a collaborative and inclusive environment. Also, our robust internship program contributes to successfully accomplishing our business goals on a global scale.

Could we still do that virtually? You bet!

This new situation required even more guidance and engagement from each intern’s manager. Managing everyone’s expectations and giving transparency on how the program would roll out, was critical to its success and impact. Without more extensive guides, we risked a lack of engagement, and transparent communication, which are not only valuable parts of our culture, but ingredients necessary to navigate this new, fully remote, world. Therefore, we created resources for both interns and hiring managers that would set them up for success in this new version of our program.

We also foresaw a need for the hiring managers to build their own community within Spotify – many of them would be coming up against challenges they had not experienced before. So, we created a forum to sync with fellow hiring managers to share advice and best practices as well as learn from each other. Similarly, we created a forum for our interns – ensuring they were set up for success and giving them an opportunity to connect and network with other band members.

To have an internship that’s successful for both the intern and for the business, it’s really important that there is an open door to discovering the company’s culture. We knew we could not compromise on this – even with the experience now fully virtual.

How were we going to welcome 150 new band members, with temporary tasks, around the world? And still do it in the Spotify way, making sure it was a fun, inclusive and rewarding experience? Through virtual onboarding partnered with a program of events.

The new band members received their laptops and welcome swag at their residence. And on the first two days of the internship they were invited to take part in an online orientation session to guide them through needed info for the Summer, as well as giving them an introduction to the company culture, structure and strategy and aims of part of the business.

In a virtual world, where new band members have never had the chance to meet and interact face-to-face this sense of community and opportunities to encompass Spotify’s ‘Playful’ value not only gives them a chance to rest their minds, but also to create deeper networks and relationships that can help with their career development and embedding into the culture.

Once we had the onboarding figured out, it was time to turn our attention to the schedule of events during the program. In addition to doing substantial work to make an impact to the business, it’s important for our interns to have the opportunity to network with their peers, learn from other Spotifiers and have fun.

We planned a range of social and learning activities and events for the summer such as welcome parties, trivia games, random fikas (for interns to meet their peers across the globe), contests/competitions, speaker series, virtual coffee/tea tastings, demo days (for interns to showcase their work and projects) and much more. We normally carry out this type of program from our offices, and we didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t provide the same offering virtually. In fact, we knew these things played a more important role.

A silver lining, for global companies like Spotify, is the fact that it’s given us an opportunity to truly break down geographical boundaries. Even as we try to avoid them in a physical world, they’re still inevitable.

We’re really pleased with the variety of engaging activities, networking events and learning opportunities that were offered throughout the Summer. We could still see the outstanding impact and really feel the value of each intern. To mention a few; we saw Brianna McCarthy create a newsletter for all global interns, Fiona Pestana own podcast production, Elias Lind shine at user research, and Terris Johnson show the rest of the band how to bring diversity and belonging strategies to life. Thank you Brianna, Fiona, Elias and Terris. And thank you to all the other interns who are just too many to name.

We hope we’ll be seeing many of the interns in the near future, whether that’s at the coffee machine at one of our offices, or on the next video call!

Check out the latest episode of The GreenRoom podcast to hear more about the Opening Act Innovation Challenge as part of this year’s internship program.