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  • Focus Shift Boosts Mars, Inc.’s Internship Program

    August 21, 2019 | By NACE Staff

    A group of interns work at Mars, Inc.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, operations, program development, nace insights, strategic planning

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    The internship program at Mars, Inc. has undergone significant changes recently that have bolstered not only its numbers, but its value to the company.  

    In 2017, Mars converted 18 interns to full-time associates in North America. In 2019, the company had 131 interns, all of whom were eligible for full-time conversion.

    “The biggest shift we made was in the intent of our intern program,” says Jill Godbout, Americas university recruiting and early talent leader, Mars, Inc.

    “In 18 months, we went from using our internship as a pool of temporary summer labor to a strategic pipeline of future leaders.”

    Godbout notes that at a cost of $25,000 per intern, the cost of not converting this talent was more than $1.75 million annually.

    “The key was shifting our expectations for interns,” she explains. “If you hire top students from great programs, they can work on real projects, provide actual value, and return as full-time associates. Our biggest differentiator is the size and scope of the step change we were able to make in 18 months, across all functions and segments of a highly matrixed organization.”

    Godbout says that while Mars didn’t necessarily develop a program that is significantly different from external internship programs, it was a substantial shift within the organization.

    “Our small team of five associates was able to set a new harmonized early talent strategy; educate, influence, and align countless stakeholders in the face of opposition; define all early talent processes and procedures from end to end; and execute within one season,” she says.

    Some of this work included:

    • “One Mars” Early Talent Strategy—Mars’ recruiting had always been decentralized. Its new strategy, however, hinged on creating one Mars internship experience across all segments and functions.
    • Demand planning—To recruit interns, Mars needed to predict future skill sets, not only two years in advance when they will convert, but for the future, as it hopes to bring in talent who will grow their careers within Mars.
    • Employer brand recognition—While its customer brands are iconic, the Mars employer brand was relatively unknown. To support its increased hiring, Mars needed to quickly expand its employer reputation.

    “After aligning on this shift, we set out to create an outstanding Mars Internship Experience,” Godbout says.

    “Each intern is assigned a project based on a real-world Mars problem and develops a recommendation to present to leadership, with the support of a manager and buddy.”

    Godbout says it’s not unusual for the solutions interns develop to be implemented by Mars. One recent intern was challenged to create new packaging to support the launch of M&M’s Hazelnut. She explains that this intern studied customer trends and conducted research. The result: Mars moved forward with the intern’s recommendation for the product launch.

    “These success stories help emphasize why interns—with their innovative ideas and fresh perspectives—are a crucial part of advancing our business,” Godbout notes.

    The internship provides a mutual benefit; not only do interns provide value to Mars, but the company ensures they have a great experience while building their technical and professional acumen.

    “We consider our interns to be associates,” Godbout explains. “They are fully incorporated into our culture and they understand our principles, which guide them throughout, allowing them to fully experience what a career at Mars means.”

    The company also made networking outside of the interns’ teams a key part of their journey. They come together weekly for various professional and social events, from community service days to sessions with executive speakers. Mars also provides housing to help build a community and foster friendships.

    Godbout says that Mars believes in continuous improvement. It created early talent metrics to measure its performance and hold the URR team accountable. On an annual basis, the Mars URR team reports on:

    • Acceptance rate;
    • Candidate satisfaction (net promoter score);
    • Intern conversion rate;
    • Intern satisfaction rate; and
    • Diversity.

    Members of the 2018 Mars Internship Experience class recorded a 97 percent in terms of overall satisfaction. The company extended offers to 76 percent of its interns to return the following year as full-time associates, and of those who received offers, 87 percent accepted, for a conversion rate of 66 percent.

    “We are particularly proud of these metrics as they show that while we increased in size quickly, we did not sacrifice the quality of our program or of our interns,” Godbout says.

    “In fact, we believe they have both improved significantly.”