It seems everyone is talking about interns; from the Sheryl Sandberg LeanIn.Org controversy to court cases scattered throughout the U.S., the topic of interns has been covering headlines. For you, it's relevant because summer is coming to an end and all of your interns are going back to school, leaving you scrambling, trying to figure out ways to delegate their tasks to your full-time employees.
In my opinion, the purpose of interns should not be to supplement your business or to derive free labor, it should be to teach and provide meaningful learning experiences. There are much more efficient and cost-effective ways to get work done than to train an inexperienced candidate to work for three months. If your goal is merely to exploit your interns for free labor, not only is what you're doing illegal - it is negatively affecting your bottom line.
If you want a way to get baseline work done for low costs, use a long-term solution: outsourcing. By outsourcing, you're removing legal risks, reducing overhead costs and increasing quality of work.
If you were utilizing your intern workforce effectively, you were having them do tasks that ultimately take up your time and distract you from your business. If you were lawfully hosting your interns, you were providing a learning environment paralleled by their university. The U.S. Department of Labor(DOL) states, "the internship experience is for the benefit of the intern," and "the internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment." If you're not providing purely educational work for your interns, you should be paying them.
Soon, the "unpaid intern" will be non-existent, and companies will be legally required to pay their interns minimum wage. Which brings me to my next thought, even paid interns are not the wisest choice for businesses looking for inexpensive means to get work done. Utilizing outsourced workforces allows you to only pay for the work being done, not the space, technology or repeated training sessions.
Reducing Overhead Costs
With the end of the "unpaid intern" comes a slew of new concerns companies should be addressing. Is it worth the time and money to hire an intern that will be with your company for such a short period of time? Interviewing, hiring and training interns is a very time-intensive and costly venture. Training an intern costs companies roughly $6,000. You're looking for a way to cut down on costs while still getting work done, but interns are not the answer.
Today, the most innovative companies understand that being lean and efficient is the key to success. Instagram was acquired for $1 billion with only 12 full-time employees. Instagram was efficient and Instagram focused on its core business. I'm not saying every company should follow the lead of Instagram and only consist of 12 employees; however, every company should focus on increasing efficiency wherever possible, and unfortunately interns are not efficient. Interns take time away from your full-time employees, they take a long time to teach and by the time they're up-to-speed and performing at company standards their internships are coming to an end.
Quality of Work
Most of you have heard the horror stories about interns wreaking pure PR havoc for the companies they're interning with. While they're funny to read from the sidelines, you definitely don't want to be the one cleaning up that mess. Unless you have a fully-developed, teaching-intensive intern program, complete with managers overseeing all of their work you should move away from considering interns. Don't get me wrong, I don't think interns are stupid, without value or the downfall of the American workforce, I just firmly believe that if you're looking for efficient and high-quality work, interns are not the right choice. In my opinion, the purpose of interns should be to teach them and provide meaningful learning experiences - creating a future workforce of skilled, intelligent and prepared employees. Unfortunately, the reality today is that not many companies can afford to focus solely on teaching employees that will only be with their company for a few short months.
Not many, if any, interns would say their career goal is to be an intern forever. They aspire to greater things, and have little care or focus on mastering the tasks in front of them, resulting in low-quality and inefficient work. Outsourced employees view their positions as full-time, long-term careers and become masters of the work they do.