P&G Paves Path for Meaningful Virtual Internship Experience

Virtual intern

P&G Paves Path for Meaningful Virtual Internship Experience
By Tamara Thomas, Associate Director, P&G North America Talent Practice

Learning about fabric care purchasing and consumer digestive health behaviors on a laptop in their parent’s dining rooms is not how Jordan Tavernier or Nia Grant envisioned their P&G summer internships. Then again, no one could have predicted what 2020 had in store for any of us.

“My parents are both working from home, so it’s kind of weird to have my mom and dad as co-workers,” laughs Tavernier who is going into his senior year at the University of Cincinnati.

Grant, a chemistry major at Clemson University would be interning at P&G’s Mason, Ohio office, but instead is experiencing her virtual internship from her home outside of Atlanta. “It has definitely been a change! I do miss face-to-face connections, but I’m happy I don’t have to wake up as early.”

COVID-19 has affected students across the country in various ways – forcing many to complete their semester courses online, and for others, having graduation ceremonies canceled. Tavernier is among nearly 600 Procter & Gamble summer interns who will experience a virtual internship. “I am thankful we at least get to still have an internship. I was worried it was going to be canceled,” he says.

Whether or not to host interns is a decision thousands of companies faced this year. At P&G, where interns fill nearly 50-percent of entry-level positions, it wasn’t a question of ‘should we?’ but ‘how will we?’

P&G’s North America Talent Acquisition leadership team tossed around several ideas before landing on a fully virtual program for the majority of interns scheduled to work in technical centers and office locations. Interns in manufacturing roles will work on-site, with preventive measures in place to protect their health and safety.

Then we tapped employees with two to ten years’ experience at P&G to design virtual aspects of the program. With no virtual playbook available, the team created their own, drawing on personal social interactions and COVID work experiences to give our interns the ‘Day 1’ experience P&G is known for, including:

  • Meaningful work and growth from day one on the job;
  • The ability to quickly build leadership skills, expertise and deliver business results to grow interns to full-time employment;
  • Exposure to work teams, business partners and communities P&G serves;
  • Access to mentors and functional experts;
  • Foster unity, community and camaraderie among the class.

Given the important relationship between interns and their acting managers, our team put together a ‘manager toolkit’ of best practices, including training on managing remote employees. Knowing how important networking is for the interns, managers have leaned on each other as well. Some are sharing ideas in an online Virtual Internship Think Tank and getting creative in connecting interns with peer mentors, group trainings, virtual ‘meet & greets’, leadership connects, and joint projects where interns work together virtually.

Tavernier describes one of his first social connections with other interns, “During our first week, My P&G team surprised us with a virtual ‘welcome cart’. Breakfast was delivered to our homes, and we all got together virtually. It was a cool thing to do.”

Grant is using tools like Microsoft Teams, Webex and a messaging app to stay connected, “I’ve found I’m still able to meet a lot of people and get to know them, maybe even at a more personal level, as everyone is working from home and I get to see them in their ‘real worlds’ with family, pets, home life, etc.”

P&G hopes to bring the intern Class of 2020 together at the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati before the end of summer, so they can share their experiences in person. If that isn’t possible, we’ll celebrate their results – virtually, of course!

We’re also creating virtual ‘Plan Bs’ for other summer recruiting events: MBA Brand and MBA Finance Camps for top 1st year MBA students, Standout Emerging Leaders Manufacturing Camp for sophomores interested in manufacturing.

As the fall on-campus ‘recruiting season’ nears, companies will likely need to decide to cancel activities or go virtual. P&G’s on-campus events and summer camps help us identify next year’s interns, so we’re putting virtual options in place. For companies considering virtual plans, we offer suggestions based on our experience:

  • Get new, digitally savvy employees involved in creating plans;
  • Equip managers/recruiters with a handbook to make and manage connections;
  • Use internal/external virtual collaboration tools to connect people professionally and socially; provide tutorials;
  • Schedule virtual group activities, like weekly challenges and social hours;
  • Create videos to give interns/recruits a sense of the city and office where they would physically work.

With a learning mindset, there are lots of opportunities – and fun – to be had as we navigate and adapt to a world where the line between virtual and physical reality is becoming increasingly blurred.