Using (or Abusing) an Unpaid Intern

Dear Anita,

I run a small business on a shoestring. We are starting to get really busy but I still can’t afford to hire someone else. How can I go about getting an unpaid intern?

Interncarrying stacks of takeout coffeesDear “Budget Boss,”

College interns seem to be a dime a dozen in summer. In 2015, 63% of college grads with a bachelor’s degree had participated in internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Of those, about 61% were paid, and 39% unpaid. How can employers get away with not paying minimum wage? Many unpaid internships may be walking the line of legality. Basically, if an intern does any work that is useful to the employer, the internship may not meet the exception in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It’s easier for non-profits to utilize unpaid internships; they can simply classify the intern as a volunteer. But in the for-profit private sector, you must meet the employment exclusion or it is assumed the intern is, according to the FLSA, “suffered or permitted to work” for compensation.

Here are the six criteria from the Department of Labor to exempt an unpaid internship from being an employment agreement:

  1. 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;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Unless you work closely with your local college or university to make sure the internship meets the educational requirement, chances are, you’ll have to pay your intern minimum wage. If you have fluctuating needs for additional help, consider hiring flexible personnel from a staffing company for the months, weeks, or even days that you need help.

Readers: How have you benefitted from an internship – paid or unpaid?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Hire Our Heroes!

Today, we celebrate the courageous actions and valor of the servicemen and women who served in our country’s armed forces. Let us take a moment to thank them for their service and sacrifice in the name of freedom this Veteran’s Day and every day.

After last week’s post offering advice to recently returned veterans, I have been inspired to take it one step further. Hiring managers, I am talking to you. The large pool of skilled and accomplished veterans is some of the top talent available. Many of you may ask what skills and traits military personnel have that are applicable to your businesses.

There are many!

Veterans hold specials sets of skills that are so engrained in their being, they have become second nature. Determination, dedication, and drive are some that come to mind — all three highly valued qualities that any business owner, supervisor, or hiring manager would hope to bring to their teams.  I could go on and on, but I will simply highlight the top 10 reasons why you should put our veterans on your payroll!

  1. Leadership – The most successful military personnel are incredible leaders. They have the traits and characteristics to inspire and motivate those around them. The ability to lead and get the best from the members of the team is a priceless attribute.
  2. Global experience – Veterans have experience in a wide variety of regions around the world. They are used to adapting to different cultures and experiencing life/business from other viewpoints.
  3. Exceptional learning curve – Upon entering the service, military personnel must quickly master a series of skills and competencies that are required for survival. This experience allows veterans to quickly adapt and accomplish tasks that may take others months to achieve.
  4. Teamwork – Individual and group productivity are required in the military setting. Servicemen and women are familiar with working together as a team and understand the importance of personal responsibility to one another and accountability in a group setting.
  5. Ability to deliver results under pressure – Resourcefulness and adhering to tight time schedules are common occurrences in the military. Veterans are trained to organize and tackle priorities no matter what difficulties they are faced with.
  6. Respect for authority and procedures – Military vets understand the importance of structure to an organization. They value and encourage a clear set of rules and regulations that help maintain and support strategy.
  7. Integrity – This is a characteristic that is hard to come by in today’s environment. Veterans understand the value of hard work, persistence, honor, and honesty. Many have been involved in missions that require high level of secrecy and security clearance.
  8. Adherence to safety standards – Safety is a major concern in the military with regard to fellow servicemen and civilians. Military personnel believe in maintaining a safe and healthy environment; protection of colleagues and equipment is a top priority.
  9. Working knowledge of technology and machinery – Veterans are trained to effectively use the latest computers, machinery, and technology to achieve goals and accomplish tasks. If they are unfamiliar with a piece of equipment, I’ll bet my favorite set of knitting needles that they will be heads down until they can operate it with their eyes closed.
  10. Positive outlook – Even under the most dire circumstances and grim futures, military veterans have the intrinsic knowledge and skills to triumph over adversity. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, drive, determination, and the desire to achieve greatness and success for the team are of the highest priority.

As if all that weren’t enough…  thanks to the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, employers will receive tax credits for hiring veterans —  40% percent of the first $6,000 in wages (up to $2,400) for short-term unemployed vets and 40% of the first $14,000 in wages (up to $5,600) for vets who have been unemployed longer than 6 months.

Employers, what are you doing to recruit and hire military veterans? If you are uncertain of hiring veterans, what is your reasoning?

Here is a video sharing the many ways that you can help support our veterans.

Building a Beneficial Brainstorm

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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