How Salesforce Is Reimagining The Summer Internship In The Time Of COVID-19

Alexandria Murray
Director, Programs & Marketing, Futureforce & Workforce Development
 
 

The summer internship. Often seen as an important milestone during a student’s collegiate career where they gain relevant skills, hands-on experience, and invaluable mentorship from senior leaders at a company they intend to build their career at.

I should emphasize the “hands-on experience” piece, as the internship as a whole most commonly occurs on the premise of said company. But not this year. Due to the to the unprecedented situation with COVID-19, about 80% of employers nationwide were forced to make changes to their internship programs—according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey of more than 400 companies.

At Salesforce, we reimagined our global Futureforce Summer Intern Program into a virtual format for our more than than 700 interns—in every segment of our business across the globe. 

Transforming this experience required more than just transitioning to a videoconferencing app; it requires doubling-down on our communication, enablement, opportunities to connect, and of course, a whole lotta team work. Here’s a look at how we’re trying to ensure our interns don’t just have a great summer—but rather the best summer ever.

Sharing Transparent (And Regular) Communication:

Imagine getting ready to start a new job, move to a new location, and within a few weeks a global pandemic hits. This was the situation for our interns. We’re all navigating new waters and none of us know the secret sauce, but our Salesforce value of leading with trust means transparency. So it was important to us that we keep interns in the loop. As our team worked out the logistics on how we could deliver a virtual summer program, we made a point to stay in regular contact with our candidates—sending weekly emails via Marketing Cloud. We recognized there were already so many unknowns in the world—the status of their internship shouldn’t be one of those. This didn’t slow down once we made the decision to pivot to a remote internship; rather we super-charged our communication; starting with a personalized communication from our recruiters to each incoming intern to go over ANY questions they had. We also hosted an All-Hands call with our Chief People Office Brent Hyder, where we were transparent about our process and reiterated our excitement for our interns to join our workforce. And those Marketing Cloud emails, oh they continued ... but this time with info to start ramping our intern cohort for Salesforce Success. We’ve shared trails, wellness tips from our B-well Series, and the latest and greatest in work from home (wfh) set ups among other things. 

Enabling Success In A Virtual World:

We realized early on it wasn’t just the intern experience that was being transformed. All of us - hiring managers included - are adapting to this new way of working. In order to set everyone up for success, we needed to provide more clarity—and enablement around this new virtual format. We surveyed our managers and used their feedback to help identify new ways we could best prepare them for managing an intern remotely. This included creating additional trainings such as a manager/recruiter sync to ensure intern projects remained impactful on our business despite the remote set up. We also created a weekly project plan with “goal posts” for managers to help them ensure their interns were on track week to week. This project plan is supported via a weekly manager email journey reiterating the weekly “to-do’s” but also suggesting additional fun hacks (team lunch!) to build rapport between both the manager and intern.

On the intern side of things, we’ve added optional tech, product, and soft skills trainings to our program plan— this includes basics like how to use Quip (our main collaboration tool at Salesforce) or even just how to join a hangout. In the past these were things you could lean over and ask a co-worker about—but in this new format, nothing can be assumed—and everything should be explained. 

Creating Connections Remotely:
Which of course lead us to building connections. We recognize the biggest change to an in-person internship (and the hardest to solve for) is the relationship and in-person connectivity piece. Networking is a HUGE part of any internship, with both fellow interns and employees across the business. How to replicate this for a remote experience was the million dollar question. Our team members have brainstormed many options; including a matching weekly coffee chat program, a weekly webcast spotlighting intern highlights, social clubs, our C-Suite Speaker Series (with Uber Eats codes no less) and of course competitive games and activities we’ve dubbed the Salesforce Summer Games. 
Pictured: The Futureforce Team “testing” out one of the many fun games we have planned for our interns
Most Of All, Teamwork:

None of this would have been possible without our entire Futureforce Team (recruiters, program managers, marketers, creative, etc), our amazing group of hiring managers, and the most supportive senior leadership. There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that the show (err the internship) must go on, and that it could go on in a successful and impactful way. From approvals, to trainings, to individual communications—this pivot to a virtual format took a village, an Ohana one might say. We look to our Futureforce as the future of who we are as a company, and if there’s one takeaway from this experience it’s that our future remains clearly on course—and set for success.

You can learn more about opportunities available to interns and new grads at Salesforce on our Futureforce website.

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