Recruitment & Retention

‘Shark Tank’-style competitions, free housing, and river cruises await Motorola Solutions interns

The company credits its internship program with recruiting and retaining its next generation of talent.
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Illustration: Anna Kim, Photo: Getty Images.

5 min read

Most interns don’t get coffee and make copies anymore (does anyone still make copies?). Many modern internships aim to provide participants with hands-on experience that can impact the business and serve as talent incubators.

Motorola Solutions was recently named one of the country’s top internship programs by TA software firm Yello. (Don’t break out your hot pink Razr just yet—Motorola split into two separate entities, Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility, in 2011. Motorola Solutions has over 20,000 employees across 60 countries and focuses on public safety technology infrastructure.)

The company relaunched its internship program in 2017 to recruit talent from Canadian and US colleges. This year, the program welcomed about 230 interns who will work at 20 offices and remotely. Around three-quarters of this year’s cohort is from underrepresented groups.

Motorola Solutions’ SVP of HR Karen Dunning recently shared with HR Brew how the company has structured its internship program.

A strong foundation. The internship starts with a kickoff event that sets the tone for the 12-week program, Dunning told HR Brew.

“Our CEO Greg Brown will come and welcome [the interns] and talk to them for probably over an hour,” Dunning said. “They’ll get their computers…and then we’ll show them how to do various things and we’ll have various speakers throughout the day.”

From there, interns are integrated into the organization alongside full-time employees. The goal is to show them how their contributions impact the business. Interns also have the opportunity to network via ice cream socials and river cruises, and to develop as professionals through DePaul University sessions.

“It takes a lot of infrastructure, it takes a lot of hard work, but it’s a real payoff for the students and it’s a real payoff for Motorola when, at the end of their college career, we can offer them a job,” Dunning said.

At the end of the program, interns give their departments group presentations and can participate in a Shark Tank-style competition, during which they pitch ideas that could benefit the business. While you won’t see Lori Greiner or Robert Herjavec at the pitch, it’s another opportunity for interns to showcase their work to leadership.

“If you really want to expose a student to what the corporation is really like, you’ve got to let them see all the pieces of the corporation and [let] them see our executives,” Dunning said.

To that end, Dunning said that HR shouldn’t have to lead an internship program alone, but should set the stage so managers can help the program succeed.

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“They have to give the students meaningful work,” she said. “You really have to be serious about having a really good internship program. And that requires infrastructure, and the support of managers and the executives in the corporation.”

An inclusive approach. Dunning said that DE&I is a central component of the internship program. The company partners with HBCUs to recruit interns, and all are invited to join its eight employee resource groups.

“If you want to be a destination workplace, then you have to be serious about hiring people, and creating a culture where they’re welcome,” Dunning said.

The company also provides free housing for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in the internship. “Part of the diversity that we have in our intern program is enabled by this one particular benefit,” Dunning said.

A path forward. Interns are encouraged to learn about and make connections outside their assigned department, something that Dunning believes is important for their careers.

Ben Miller, a credit analyst at Motorola Solutions, said he benefited from this approach when he was a software and product marketing intern as a college sophomore in 2021. He was unsure of his career goals, and his colleagues’ guidance contributed to him wanting to return as a channel operations intern his senior year and, ultimately, as a large contract credit analyst full-time after graduation.

“It really gave me an awesome opportunity to not only learn, but I had the chance to talk to people on sales, product management, and all sorts of different sectors,” Miller told HR Brew. “They call it having the intern card, because people are always gonna be willing to talk to an intern.” Now, Miller said he’s paying it forward to the new class of interns.

A lasting impression. Dunning said it’s important to leave interns with a positive impression so they want to come back for another summer or after college, like Miller did.

Companies should also consider how they can maintain long-term relationships with interns, whether through follow-up messages or ongoing opportunities to connect. “We also send them care packages after they’ve left here and wish them good luck on their finals,” she said. “So, [we’re] really trying to build a rapport and an authentic relationship with students.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.