Learn more about the Process

By Joan Cheong | University Engagement Lead, DBS Innovation Group

How Organisations can create Meaningful Internships for Millennials

June 7, 2016

We’re more than a third of the way through the UNI.CORN programme and it’s been a great learning experience to understand how we can shape this programme for future interns.


It’s naïve for any organisation to think that interns are just an additional and cheap resource, especially to pawn off work that current staff deem to be of less importance. More so, organisations shouldn’t feel that interns are purely there to just get a check mark on their CVs.


In the few weeks that we’ve worked with the UNI.CORNs, we learnt that they have larger goals and pursuits they want to achieve by being part of the programme. So here’s how we designed the programme to engage them and match their pursuits.


1) Provide purposeful targets


For full-time workers, we’re often provided a certain goal or target that we have to meet. If you’re in sales, that could be a sales figure that needs to be achieved. If you’re like us in the DBS Innovation Group, we have to ensure that people within the organisation are trained.


Because internships are limited in time frames, organisations and superiors may not set specific (or even realistic) targets for interns to achieve. This often creates a scenario where interns just bide their time while plugging gaps where support is required. That might not work with millennials who want to show that they have made achievements during their internships. They want to feel like they can create an impact in the business.


And that’s why we’ve given them real business problems that DBS is trying to address whether it’s in the area of figuring out how people approach financing or how we can improve customer experience in banking services. Being involved in the business gives them that larger sense of purpose.


What we’ve seen from the UNI.CORNs is that they appreciate having a focused problem to solve within a given time frame. The focus is important because they have to work like entrepreneurs who typically drill on the key  problem to address. The time constraint gives an added push as they need to be realistic of what they can accomplish. For entrepreneurs, this is often manifested by the milestones they seek to reach when building their business.




Credit: StartupGuys.Net

2) Provide freedom and ensure accountability


One of the reasons the UNI.CORNs are working out of a co-working space is because we wanted to grant them flexibility to work on their projects the best way they see fit. This is not an internship where they expected to be desk bound. Much of the work they have to do involves getting out on the streets to speak to people, potential or existing customers of the bank, to understand what these people want.


We’ve set the parameters of what they need to achieve, how they do that depends on how they make use of that independence. It’s the same for entrepreneurs - while they are their own bosses and in control of their time, they know they have to make use of their time wisely.


However, the accountability factor is an important part of this. This is why the UNI.CORNs have been assigned teams and mentors that they provide progress updates to. Whether you’re an intern, working professional or entrepreneur, accountability is an important element to ensuring that you’re constantly working towards achieving your goals.


Just look at the rise of Rocket Internet. The company has become immensely successful because each of the business leads/entrepreneurs are required to provide updates to Samwer brothers on whether they are hitting growth targets.


Fact – Accountability helps you stay focused but you have to be given the freedom to do what needs to be done.

Credit: Bluesky Performance Improvement

3) Provide the necessary tools, training and support


Setting up our UNI.CORNS for success was an important aspect of the programme to us. We wanted them to walk away from the programme knowing they were well equipped to take on various tasks and challenges. And that’s why we invested in creating training programmes. The focus wasn’t just on building technical skills but also on cultivating mindsets and an experimental culture.


That’s why we invested time and resources into a curated curriculum for the UNI.CORNs to pick up new skills and various tools they can use when approaching the assigned challenges.


In addition, we’re thankful that many of the executives from DBS as well as the mentors from DBS’s HotSpot programme are taking time to also mentor our UNI.CORNs. The exposure and time spent with industry professionals gives them insight and knowledge providing them valuable lessons.



These are just some of the ways we hope that this will create a meaningful and holistic experience for the first batch of UNI.CORNs. No one element is more important than the other but the combination of three approaches have so far made this  personally a fruitful experience.


But of course this is a formula that will be continuously improved upon through our learnings as an organisation and feedback from the UNI.CORNs. Through this,, we hope to learn more about how we can work better with millennials and adapt as an organisation to embrace the new wave of future talents!


I’d love to hear thoughts on how else organisations can create more meaningful internships.

Drop me an email at




I love everything to do with innovation, human-centric approach, disruptive technologies and I feel a true devotion for user experience design. My passion lies in designing solutions that touches the heart and make lives better.


Want to be the next UNI.CORN?

Have the passion to create and desire to solve real business problems? Then this internship is for you.

Apply now




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