Internship Programs: 3 Keys to Finding and Retaining Top Talent

Hundreds gathered at Corporate College East on Feb. 21 for the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Throughout the year, we will be bringing you highlights covered during the event. Today’s recap focuses on the three key strengths of FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program.

The success FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program has enjoyed over the years comes down to three things, Ramona Hood, the company’s Vice President of Operations, Planning and Strategy, said during the opening keynote of the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit:

  • Establishing partnerships with key partners;
  • providing interns with meaningful work; and
  • putting an intentional focus on the program in order to generate the highest possible return.

Hood elaborated on each of these points during her address, providing a roadmap the assembled group of business leaders and educators could follow in order to provide the best possible internship experience for their own students and interns. For example:

Establishing partnerships

FedEx maintains close partnerships with several schools in the Northeast Ohio region in order to ensure that the company’s pipeline of interns—typically between 12 to 18 interns are in the program at one time—remains full.

FedEx also takes these partnerships a step further through assisting the universities with resume workshops for the students, mock interviews and more. These kinds of touchpoints help build relationships with the schools and through those relationships, FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program leaders can provide feedback on the students’ work at the company and, vice versa, the universities can give constructive criticism back to FedEx on the structure of their program. She added later that it’s vital for companies to take this feedback seriously and be willing to make changes as needed based on it.

Meaningful work

The days of viewing interns as someone who refills the boss’ coffee mug are long over, Hood said. It’s vital that companies provide meaningful work and experience to the students because these are people who might well end up working fulltime for the company after graduation.

At FedEx, Hood said company officials have found the best way to accomplish this goal is by doing legwork before the internship starts. The company communicates expectations and what success looks like and in doing so, can gauge the intern’s progress as the internship progresses.

Hood said her company is also not afraid to give interns an opportunity to focus on finding ways to transform the organization and make it more efficient. A lot of times, this means taking a closer look at repetitive processes at the company and allowing the students to find ways to improve these processes. An added benefit? It frees up time for fulltime staff members to focus on other important tasks.

Intentional focus

Lastly, Hood stressed to attendees that a company’s internship program must be a point of intentional focus within a company. It’s critical, she said, that companies design internships to be a part of their overall talent strategy.

As an example, she cited the fact that FedEx takes internships as an opportunity to take their own fulltime staff and challenge them even further by placing them in a mentorship role. Not only does such an action help the interns excel within the program, it also gives the fulltime employee experience in a leadership role.

Want to know more about internship best practices? Visit the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central hub to learn more about how to build a best-in-class internship program at your business.

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  • Next up: Is Your Ohio Business Website ADA Compliant?
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  • Is Your Ohio Business Website ADA Compliant?

    If your Ohio business website is not ADA compliant it could make you a lawsuit target. Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re following the law.


    Are you an Ohio business with a website? Do you have a brick and mortar location, or do you sell to out-of-state consumers? Congratulations, you must now comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requirements to make your website accessible to people with disabilities or be subject to the increasing rash of lawsuits seeking damages and attorney fees. 

    How must your website be compliant? The courts don’t really know, but they are sure willing to tell you that you must comply.  Multiple standards have been asserted as “in compliance” with the ADA, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), but courts have regularly refused to explicitly adopt any specific standard of compliance as a minimum requirement for the ADA.

    Instead, courts have sidestepped the question of “how does a website comply with the ADA” and instead focused on the question of whether there are articulable and comprehensible standards to which a website must conform, to which, somehow, the answer is yes.  As restated by the ninth circuit regarding the ADA’s application to websites, “[a] statute is vague not when it prohibits conduct according ‘to an imprecise but comprehensible normative standard, but rather in the sense that no standard of conduct is specified at all.’ ”  Moreover, “[b]ecause the ADA is a statute that regulates commercial conduct, it is reviewed under a less stringent standard of specificity” than, for example, criminal laws or restrictions on speech.  Therefore, the ADA would be vague “only if it is so indefinite in its terms that it fails to articulate comprehensible standards to which a person's conduct must conform.” 

    It’s also not going to help you if you have a business that is in a friendlier jurisdiction. A tremendous amount of these cases are coming out of a few firms in western Pennsylvania. Why does that matter? Because one of the judges in the Federal District Court of Western Pennsylvania has been incredibly friendly to Plaintiffs, refusing to dismiss cases brought by them at the early pleading stage, and in some cases going against established precedent in that Circuit. This includes cases in which, despite clear case-law to the contrary, businesses without any physical location whatsoever.

    None of this is particularly helpful to businesses who are trying to determine what technical requirements their websites must have to comply with the ADA, or protect themselves if they DO get sued. There are, however, some general rules of thumb:
    1) Make sure your website is compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, including having text in your website capable of being read by a screen-reader.
    2) Include indemnification clauses in your contracts with any party creating your website, and include a requirement that the website creating/maintaining party has sufficient insurance to cover a suit.

    The easiest way to do this is to have WCAG 2.0 compliance built in to the original website, rather than attempt to strap on screen reading compatibility after the fact. If that’s not doable and you already have a website up and running, work to get your website as compliant as possible by bringing on an ADA consultant who can improve and monitor the website to ensure compliance.

    At the very least, run an automated review of your website to ensure that you are meeting the WCAG 2.0 criteria. WCAG offers a list of free and pay-per-use products to conduct tests on your websites regarding compliance: Keep in mind that many of these programs are the exact same programs that Plaintiffs and their attorneys are going to use against your company’s website, so the fifteen seconds it will take you to run a compliance check could end up saving you tens of thousands in fees and penalties in the future.

    Let’s talk about those fees. Some of you may be asking big “so what” on compliance. What’s the actual damage that will be caused by not fixing the website? The actual harm is that these cases are frequently resolved by the court by ordering a business to comply with the ADA in specific, and costly, ways. This includes spending tens of thousands of dollars on ADA audits, but also to pay all of the attorney fees incurred by the Plaintiffs, and all fees that will be incurred by the Plaintiff to monitor your website for compliance. That’s right, the Plaintiff’s counsel now gets to monitor your website and bill you for the privilege of doing so.

    Also note that your general commercial liability policy is not going to cover a lawsuit on this issue. If you’re relying on your insurance policy to protect you without getting a separate ADA rider, you’re out of luck.

    So what? You’ll fix the violations if you get called out on it. No harm no foul, right? Probably not. Only a single court has found that fixing the issues complained of during the case is sufficient to moot the alleged violations in a website accessibility case.  In Diaz v. Kroger Co., a visually-impaired individual in New York sued the Kroger supermarket chain, which has no locations in New York. Kroger argued that Diaz could not seek the injunctive relief sought because the case had already been mooted by the actions taken by Kroger to make its website compliant. 

    Diaz opposed the argument, asserting that because a website was always changing that the issue of whether the website was compliant could never be mooted. The court agreed with Kroger, and found that because Kroger had already made the requested changes, that there could be no lawsuit.
    But that is only one case. Your best bet is to never get to that spot, and take action to make sure that your website is ADA and WCAG 2.0 compliant before a lawyer in Pennsylvania decides that your company would make a good target for a lawsuit.

    This article is meant to be utilized as a general guideline for ADA compliance. Nothing in this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to provide legal advice on which you should rely without talking to your own retained attorney first.  If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact a legal professional. 

    For questions, contact Cathryn Ensign at 216-287-2979 or by email at

    Stop worrying if your company is vulnerable to lawsuits or liability and schedule a confidential, no-cost CM6 Vulnerability Check with Gertsburg Law Firm. CEO Alex Gertsburg will walk you through the minefields in your documents and key processes and tell you how to fix them yourself. Call 440-571-7774 or e-mail to schedule your CM6 Vulnerability Check today. Explore the full CoverMySix legal audit suite at



    i Castillo v. Jo-Ann Stores, LLC, 286 F. Supp. 3d 870, 882 (N.D. Ohio 2018).

    ii Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC, 913 F.3d 898, 906 (9th Cir. 2019).

    iii Botosan v. Paul McNally Realty, 216 F.3d 827, 836 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 614, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971) ).

    iv Id. (citing Vill. of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 498–99, 102 S.Ct. 1186, 71 L.Ed.2d 362 (1982) ).

    v Id.

    vi Diaz v. Kroger Co., No. 18 CIV. 7953 (KPF), 2019 WL 2357531, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 4, 2019).

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  • Next up: Is Social Media Your 'Friend' When Hiring Interns?
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  • Is Social Media Your 'Friend' When Hiring Interns?

    In the days leading up to the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit on Feb. 21, we are running a special series of articles highlighting some of the sessions attendees will have the opportunity to attend. Today’s preview focuses on what companies need to know when using social media in vetting potential internship candidates.

    Evaluating and vetting potential internship candidates is perhaps the most important step in the internship hiring process. The interview process provides some insight into whether a candidate will be a good cultural and skill-based fit with an organization. But to get a complete perspective of an intern’s makeup, employers are more frequently turning to an interview candidate’s social media profile to get a more complete picture of how that person might function within a company.

    While there are many benefits to leveraging social media in this way, there are potential legal issues that could be opened as well. This is a topic James McWeeney II, associate attorney at Walter Haverfield, will explore at the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit during a plenary session titled, “Is Social Media Your ‘Friend’ When Hiring?”

    We sat down with McWeeney recently to get a preview of what he plans to talk about during this session. Here’s what he had to say:

    Social media benefits

    People share a lot about themselves on social media and some of these posts are relevant to a hiring company that can gain insight into a candidate’s employment history, relationships with prior employers, the kind of work he or she has done in the past, and more.

    These topics represent talking points that a candidate might not bring up during the interview process, but nonetheless represent valuable information when it comes time to making a final decision on the intern the company wants to bring onboard. However, there is some information floating out there on social media channels that could present legal concerns to a company if the hiring manager uses that information to make a hiring decision.

    Social media dangers

    The biggest thing that companies need to be able to do is recognize legally protected information on social media that hiring managers would otherwise not ask about. This includes such things as religion, genetic disposition, whether the candidate is pregnant, etc. There have been cases where people have challenged internship selection decisions claiming that they have discriminated against.

    In addition, there could also be First Amendment concerns as it relates to an individual’s right to free speech in their social media posts. During his presentation, McWeeney will dive deeper into this topic as well as illuminating the difference between the information from social media companies can use during the selection process and that which is legally protected information.

    You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about this topic as well as other internship program best practices at the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Click here to register today.

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  • Next up: Is Your Company Ready for Performance Review Season?
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  • Is Your Company Ready for Performance Review Season?

    It’s that time of year again: performance review season! Read on for a brief outline of how performance reviews should operate and scroll to the bottom of this article for a link to download a sample performance evaluation form.

    As we get settled into 2019, business owners are reevaluating all areas of their businesses. One of the most important areas they reevaluate is employee performance. That’s right, the time of year when a simple form determines the good performing employees from the bad. It’s a common, accurate procedure used to help determine promotions, raises, bonuses, demotions, or terminations. 

    While the specifics of the evaluation process vary from company to company, typically the employee and his or her manager work together on completing a performance evaluation form. The employee and manager then determine a date and time to review it and discuss the pros and cons of their overall annual performance. Some companies—especially the younger, smaller companies—might do reviews every six months or even quarterly in order to allow for changes to take place more immediate due to urgency. After all, why wait a year to fix something when you can do it now?

    No matter on which timetable the review is conducted, the process typically plays out the same way. Managers need to make sure they document all performance issues on each employee, so they have accurate accountability information to discuss, and employees just need to make sure they make every day on the job count. This includes their attitude, job performance, teamwork, and more.

    If you’ve never put a performance evaluation form together before (or if you just want to have something to check your existing form against) click here to download a sample performance evaluation form you can use during your review meetings.

    Mike Kaminski is VP of marketing and partner at Big-HR and has 13-plus years of experience in management, sales and marketing.

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  • Next up: Keeping Eyes Healthy During Winter
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  • Keeping Eyes Healthy During Winter


    ‘Tis the season’ for your eyes that is! Winter is here, and while you may be gearing up to take advantage of the family winter wonderland favorites or keeping cozy inside, don’t forget to take care of your eyes during the chilly season. Courtesy of our partners at VSP® Vision Care, here are five helpful tips to keep your eyes healthy during the winter. 

    This winter, keep your eyes clear and protected with these five helpful tips: 

    1. Wear Sunglasses with UV Protection
    Protecting your eyes by wearing sunglasses or goggles during the winter is especially important. Snow on the ground magnifies the UV rays from the sun, making the exposure even stronger. This reflection can cause inflammation of the cornea called keratitis that makes the eyes red, sore and sensitive to light.

    For ultimate protection, make sure you block sun rays by wearing sunglasses and goggles with 100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Look for ones labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection. 

    2. Break From Digital Devices 
    During winter weather, many people tend to stay indoors, spending more time glued to the screens. Spending long periods of time staring at a screen can eventually affect your vision—causing digital eye strain, headaches and tired, drier eyes. Give your eyes a break by blinking more to regain moisture and looking at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes. 

    3. Use a Warm Washcloth
    Using a warm, damp compress assists with tear secretion for common dry eyes. By simply applying a warm washcloth on each eye for two to three minutes per eye, you can help your eyes create the moisture they need. This tip also helps sooth scratchy, irritated and swollen eyes and can be one of the best ways to quickly treat the symptoms of dry eyes.

    4. Have a Humidifier
    Using a humidifier is one of the best things you can do for dry eyes during the winter months. Bringing a humidifier into your home helps combat the dry indoor air that floods your home when you turn up the thermostat, and it can do wonders for dry, itchy eyes. When the air is too dry, your sinuses don’t function properly and can cause congestion, sinusitis and irritated eyes. Be sure to run your humidifier during the night, when your eyes are most vulnerable to dry conditions.

    5. Get an Eye Exam
    Suffering from dry, irritated, swollen, itchy eyes due to chilly winter weather can be frustrating. If you continue to struggle with the symptoms, visit your VSP Premier Practice for an eye exam and professional consultation. 

    This winter make your vision health a priority. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP Vision Insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

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  • Next up: A New Take on Your Yearly Health Goals: Know Your Numbers
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  • A New Take on Your Yearly Health Goals: Know Your Numbers


    It’s common to prioritize health and fitness when setting wellness goals. While diet and exercise routines are essential, another great way to start is by knowing your biometric numbers. These are the important health scores that determine your overall health. Knowing these scores can help you identify your problem areas, set realistic goals and manage your health throughout the year. 

    To kick off the year right, take advantage of wellness screenings offered by your employer or schedule a physical with your primary care physician. Below are specific biometric tests you should be checking annually to make sure your health is the best it can be.

    1. Glucose test – This test is used to check the amount of glucose in your blood. Glucose is your body’s main source of energy, but if its levels are too high or low in your system, it could indicate various diseases such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes. By checking this number, you can know for sure if you are currently suffering or are at risk of developing one of these disorders and can seek proper treatment. 

    2. Cholesterol/Lipid panel – Did you know that your body is made up of different kinds of cholesterol, which together are called lipids? By getting a lipid panel, you can test your levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad-cholesterol”), high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol”) and triglycerides. These various levels can indicate if you are at risk of developing blood clots resulting in heart disease or stroke, so it’s important to take this test. 

    3. Blood Pressure – Both high and low blood pressure can present serious health problems and can be especially detrimental to your heart. Therefore, a blood pressure reading is another essential test that can give insights into your overall wellbeing. This test measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps and determines if it’s at a healthy level. 

    4. Body Mass Index (BMI) – Your BMI considers your height, age and weight and gives an approximation of overall body fat. This measurement helps categorize your body into underweight, normal, overweight and obese. This is an objective indicator of your health and eating habits and can help you gauge whether you need to change your lifestyle.

    By checking your numbers each yeah, you can better understand your risk for certain illnesses and the next steps you should take to improve. Talk to your doctor about getting your annual biometric screening. If you are a Medical Mutual member, find a provider now. 

    Sources: Be Well Solutions, Healthline, Mayo Clinic 

    The material provided is for your information only. It does not take the place of your doctor’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should make decisions about your care with your doctor. What is covered by your health insurance will be based on your specific benefit plan.

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