Heather Huhman is a career expert specializing in media relations, content marketing and social media. She is the president and founder of Come Recommended and was named a “top job tweeter you should be following” by CNN/CareerBuilder for the past two years. Her new book, “Lies, Damned Lies and Internships,” examines the condition of internships in today’s economy. I interviewed Huhman on how to create a successful internship program. An edited version of her answers follows.

In your new book, you wrote that “the system is broken and needs to be repaired.” What do you think is the first change that needs to be implemented for intern programs in the U.S.?

The first and perhaps most important change is to adopt a national definition of “internship.” Right now, there is not a unified understanding of what the word means. In the book, I quote Dave Ellis of YouTern in defining intern: “To gain business experience while contributing your already developed valuable skills; an empowered team member who learns through hard work and mentorship in a dynamic business environment.” You’ll notice two important aspects in this definition: education and mentorship. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Sustainability — tracks feedback from more than 17,000 CSR leaders. We run the poll question each Wednesday in our e-newsletter. This week’s analysis is provided by Don Carli, CEO of business-intelligence and marketing-research consultancy Nima Hunter.

Last week, we asked: There are many aspects of a commercial or industrial building that can affect its energy use, water use and overall sustainability performance. Which aspects of building performance does your company focus on when renovating or retrofitting buildings?

  • Building envelope, such as walls, roofs, floors, glazing and doors: 38.61%
  • Mechanical systems, such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water: 21.78%
  • Production equipment: 2.97%
  • Information technology and office equipment: 2.97%
  • Landscaping: 2.97%
  • Parking facilities: 0.99%
  • General lighting: 11.88%
  • Signage and emergency lighting: 1.98%
  • On-site power, such as solar, wind, co-generation, demand response and backup generators or batteries: 1.98%
  • Recycling and waste management: 9.9%
  • Building-information management systems, such as monitoring and managing energy use, water use and greenhouse-gas emissions: 3.96%

The results have me puzzled. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Small Business — tracks feedback from small-business owners. We run the poll question each Thursday in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: What’s your business forecast for the remainder of 2011?

  • Better than the first half of 2010: 48.6%
  • Same as the first half of 2010: 29.9%
  • Worse than the first half of 2010: 21.5%

On some level, it’s not surprising to see such a wide distribution of responses. There appears to be no solid, clear indicators on the economy, so it’s difficult to forecast the rest of the year. That said, we still have to forecast using the information we have, and we have to build in contingency in case our forecast doesn’t turn out as expected — whether that’s a drop in business or a surge.

Times of uncertainty can also be great opportunities to try new business processes; for example, designing flexible schedules so you can gear up or down to match business volume. (read more…)

I’m reporting live from the Society for Human Resource Management‘s annual conference, where I was able to sit down with Rick Marini, founder and CEO of BranchOut. An edited, condensed version of our conversation follows.

Describe your leadership philosophy.

Culture is a big deal for me. I’m looking for people who are intelligent and fun and who have integrity. I like people who are entrepreneurial. These are four traits I try to aspire to myself.

I don’t micromanage people. My job is to attract and retain world-class talent, take hurdles out of their way and let them run as fast as they can.

Everyone here is an equity holder. You don’t work for me; we work for each other.

BranchOut is your third company. What’s your favorite advice for those thinking of going into business for themselves? (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 150,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each Tuesday in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How likely are you to drop everything at work to attend to family matters?

  • Sometimes I choose work, and others I’ll choose family: 51%
  • I’ll choose family at the drop of a hat: 38%
  • Work is a top priority, and it has to be a true crisis to pull me away: 11%

Most of you place work first or at least require it to be a dire situation before dropping work to attend to family. This one is a tough one because not attending to work can ultimately affect your family as well — if you don’t have a job, it’s tough to take care of the family. This is a constant source of angst and tension. (read more…)