Eaton – Intern Development Programme


Background & Objectives

Eaton is a global technology leader in power management solutions that make electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power operate more efficiently, reliably, safely and sustainably. One of the challenges that this throws up is to attract, motivate and retain the very best talent. Over the last eight years we have been heavily involved in one part of their overall strategy – namely their UK intern programme. The programme has evolved rapidly, in line with the significant and rapid changes that are essential to continue to drive Eaton’s credibility, brand value and market share. The challenges that the programme is designed to tackle are relatively specific but in some ways related to most on-boarding and early-career development programmes.

Managing the transition from University life to working life

Providing the basic competencies needed to be an effective employee

To provide timely learning that tracks the interns’ developing needs over the internship

Creating an environment in which the interns can demonstrate their full capability

Provide opportunities for a geographically diverse population to maintain contact

Create a framework that will allow interns to provide mutual support

To ensure that there is tangible value delivered to the interns and, in return, they can demonstrate tangible returns

The interns’ learning curve is steep one. In the UK, the interns join Eaton in July and they are expected to acclimatise themselves very quickly into their new world. It is vital that they know that Eaton understands the level of change they are experiencing, often a new home, new time-planning challenges, new people, and (for most) their first taste of a ‘real job’. And it is indeed that. All Eaton interns fill roles that would otherwise need a full-time employee – this means that they need to fully understand that they will have a significant input to team and sometimes organisational performance and development.

Programme Format

The programme begins with a co-delivered induction event across two days. The event avoids the traditional pitfalls of similar inductions in that it gives them time to self-reflect, to understand themselves and others, to understand the workplace they will be entering and, critically, to understand the role and purpose they will be fulfilling. The two-day delivery precedes their first day ‘in the business’ preparing them for the challenges and rewards that are ahead. It is vital that they know that they will need to present at a ‘milestone event’ that will be attended by Senior Managers and staff during which they will need to demonstrate what they have learned and what they have contributed over their internship. This begins to focus the mind early!

After around 6 weeks, we pull them together to explore time planning and prioritisation. By now they should have a to-do list and we provide tried and tested tools for organising tasks and prioritisation. We also highlight the dangers of procrastination and not recognising how far down the learning curve they are!

Within a month or so we meet up again and take an in-depth look at communication skills. The interns will have recognised some differences between the communication they are used to in their personal and university lives and the language of the work environment. Here we explore written and verbal formats, different media and establish best practice and skills for communication.

Very quickly, we then need to expose the interns to project management. Rather than simply do ‘the theory’, we couple this with a 6-8 week project challenge. The 30 or so interns are divided into projects teams and they are issued with a business challenge which they must manage using Project Management methodologies – theses projects run alongside their daily roles; providing the time planning challenge we had prepared them for earlier. They return after the New Year to report on their successes and show how they have approached their project.

Our attention then turns to the milestone event. Rather than simply expect success, we invest time and effort in making sure that every intern gets an opportunity to evaluate their own presentation skills and the presentation itself. Not only do they practice with a live audience, they receive expert feedback on the style, delivery and content. This prepares them for their finale and farewell in June.

The Results

We are proud to have worked on the development of this programme over the years. The overarching measures of success for this type of programme are its popularity and the talent it attracts post-graduation. We are delighted that the programme continues to have a great reputation in the universities with intern numbers and quality continuing to increase year-on-year. We are also happy to continue to be involved in a programme that delivers an incredible number of previous interns returning as graduate recruits.