Interns: An interim labor solution for retailers

HomeColumnInterns: An interim labor solution for retailers

By Lisbeth Calandrino—Finding employees is almost impossible for many businesses—that includes the flooring industry. Perhaps it’s time to try some different tactics when it comes to finding/recruiting employees.

One idea is to take on a college intern—it’s a proven way to try out an employee without hiring or having to pay them. It’s also a good way to develop a training program for new employees. Developing a training program allows you to determine what’s important to you, your business and your employees.

Employees are different than they were 10 years ago. Not satisfied with low wages, many of the unemployed took online courses and found new careers. You don’t have to get a college degree to get a better career—you just need to learn different skills to introduce you to a new line of work.

For several years, as assistant professor at Columbia-Green College, I developed internships for human services students. I found businesses that would take students, write a learning contract and then send them to work. Businesses were excited to get free help; the hard part was getting them to follow up on their agreements. I heard complaints from a lot of students who said they were sitting around all day answering phones or doing their schoolwork despite the terms stated in their contracts. After one semester, I vowed it would never happen to a student again—and it didn’t. I consider this one of the most satisfying experiences of my career. I had both designers and marketing students—many of whom are still in my life.

Deciding to take student interns into your business is a commitment, but one that can have big payoffs. You never know—your next intern could become a permanent employee! Many business owners have told me they’ve hired their interns.

There are other businesses that have decided to pay their interns so the interns can quit their part-time jobs.

Why do this? This gets you involved with your community while doing something important for a student and your business. It’s a great way to write some good press for your business and provide fodder for your social media channels. More importantly, it’s a way to learn about our younger workforce.

One of my clients, Michael Mondelli, owner of Roca Flooring in Valley Cottage, N.Y., is about to take on an intern.

Venturing into the world of academics for labor is different, but he said he’s excited about the opportunity. It’s a chance for him to not only give back to his community, but it will provide him with additional labor to take on tasks such as scheduling.

Interns can also be utilized to provide assistance to other members on the team. Reach out to your staff and find how where they need help. Existing employees can also provide training insight. For example, ask your full-time regular employees what would have made their first days more meaningful? This is a good way to get everyone involved and rethink your business processes.

Once you’ve made the decision, connect with a local college and sell the idea to them. I’ve found that interns are few, so you’ve got to put something special together to interest a student. Perhaps students can be deployed as mystery shoppers? Maybe you could use someone to price your products? Need a video of your installers, or a video testimonial from a happy customer? Most owners don’t have the time to do it. Think of all the things that you’ve been putting off and assign them to an intern.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at

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Oct. 11/18, 2021

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