December 6, 2022

Interns: A Golden Opportunity to Win at DEI

While they may not be the first group to come to mind when seeking to fill your talent pipeline, overlooking interns could be putting your company at a disadvantage in more ways than one.  Undervaluing or underinvesting in the intern population could not only lead to missed opportunities to fill key roles, but it could also be the reason many organizations are falling behind on meeting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals. 

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 88 percent of employers had formal diversity recruiting efforts in 2021. They also noted 67 percent of employers allocated more resources to recruit historically marginalized students.

Many employers are already  deliberately investing  in those about to enter the workforce  with better salaries, more benefits and relocation packages. Integrating their DEI strategies within their intern programs further helps them stay a step ahead of the competition.

Interns: A Golden Opportunity to Win at DEI

Attracting the Best Candidates

Experts suggest that companies with robust internship programs already have an advantage in winning the talent war, but are they offering enough to attract these potential candidates back when it comes time to hire? The process of filling internship positions can be quite challenging. 

From identifying the right applicants to determining appropriate compensation to designing additional incentives that will lure the best candidates, HR managers have many intricacies to consider in making a lasting impression on future employees. According to NACE, 72 percent of students seek employers that embrace diversity.

Opportunities to build valuable skills, experience hands-on learning with critical business technologies and immersion into an inclusive and engaging work culture are all top of mind for intern candidates. But should a relocation package also be on the table?   To what extent can relocation support be a competitive differentiator? We first explored this topic several years ago, when we  learned that there are many considerations for developing relocation programs for interns moving within the U.S. This exploration led to other questions about benefits, package types and more, including the prevalence of cross-border internships. 

Internship Program Insights

To answer these questions and update the data through a post-pandemic lens, Sterling Lexicon launched a focus survey. The results were surprising. Sixty-seven companies participated in the survey, offering insight into their U.S.-specific internship programs and the assistance they provide. Today, many companies choose to recruit interns from their local talent pools, and, as a result, they don’t need to offer relocation assistance. 

In metropolitan areas where the candidate pools are robust and there is an abundance of qualified candidates from which to select, there is no need to look further afield. However, in areas and industries where there are predicted shortages of talent or few local candidates with the required skillset, companies may need to expand their search and recruitment methods. 

Offering internships to larger candidate pools across multiple geographic locations widens the net for finding good future employees and meeting DEI goals. Cross-cultural intern programs could be beneficial for everybody in the company by expanding ideas and perspectives. With their expertise, mobility teams can craft intern packages using their travel/housing/destination services and COLA knowledge to create competitive programs.

According to Sterling Lexicon’s focus survey, of the 97 percent of companies who offer internship programs, most of the internships last between four and 12 weeks, with eight to 12 weeks being the most common duration (65 percent). With such a relatively short time frame compared to a traditional permanent relocation, which usually lasts at least one year, it’s not surprising that slightly less than half of these companies (48 percent) offer relocation assistance to interns who relocate within the U.S. 

Lump sums dominate the type of program (36 percent), used in favor of formal benefit packages (25 percent) and other single-provision assistance including housing, a monthly stipend, household goods shipment and travel expenses. Participants indicated that the top five most prevalent benefits provided to U.S.-specific interns include the following: 

    • Final trip to the destination location at the beginning of the internship:  30%
    • Final trip to home location at the end of the internship:  23%
    • Relocation allowance:  20%
    • Housing:  16%
    • Temporary living:  16%

Interns as a Strategy

While   these   relocation   expenses   represent a significant investment, many   companies find that it’s more cost effective to groom quality candidates when they are still in school, preparing them for long-term employment with the company and promoting job loyalty,  than  it  is  to  hire  employees  with  a  few  years’  experience under their belts who then need to be taught how your company operates.  

To achieve this goal, not only do companies find that investing a relatively small amount of funds toward the intern’s relocation expenses allows the candidate to financially afford to relocate for the experience, but they also structure the program to align with their talent management and DEI goals. 

Coming in at 45 percent, a candidate assessment program is the most common tactic used to facilitate successful hiring decisions in recruiting interns. Other strategies include training programs (42 percent), development opportunities (38 percent), mentorship programs and onboarding programs (both reported by 35 percent of participants). 

The use of these tactics highlights the significance of internship programs to develop a future talent pool within the company, strategizing the placement of quality high-potential and diverse candidates who not only possess the education required of the job, but who also fit in with the company culture. 

Keys to Success

The key to a successful internship program is the development of a recruiting scheme that aligns with your talent management and DEI initiatives, providing relocation assistance as appropriate to achieve your company’s goals. Consistency in evaluating candidates for internships and providing the necessary relocation assistance opens the doors to bringing in quality talent that the company can develop into future employees.

Sterling Lexicon welcomes the opportunity to discuss internship relocation programs with you in further detail and to design a policy that best suits your company’s needs. If you have questions regarding internship relocation policies and practices, contact us today.


Marsha Wiggins

Marsha Wiggins

Marsha Wiggins is Sterling Lexicon’s Content Marketing Manager. She has created thought leadership content in a variety of industries for many years. She is a trusted contributor who provides insights on industry topics and trends.

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