- Research has shown that graduates value a good work-life balance and development opportunities when entering the workforce.
- The Covid-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have meant that graduates are also looking for wellbeing and financial benefits.
- Being aware of available support and inclusive benefits can be attractive even if graduates are unlikely to need them for a while.
According to July 2023 research by global alliance in management education CEMS, 61% of young professionals who have just entered the workforce believe that hybrid working will have a positive impact on their career, providing flexibility, freedom to travel while working, improved wellbeing, reduced costs and the feeling of being valued by employers.
With this in mind, what else do graduates value in terms of employee benefits and what are they looking for?
Prospects at Jisc’s June 2023 Early careers survey found that the most important factors when job hunting were work-life balance, development opportunities, and salary, with most students expecting to be paid at least £25,000 after leaving university. Therefore, employers need to be able to earn the trust of this contingent by being transparent and authentic about pay.
Generation Z employees, those born from 1995 onwards, typically want to understand how work is going to fit into their life, rather than the other way around, explains Sarah Jefferys, head of reward consulting at Gallagher.
“Graduates look for an organisation that has a strong sense of purpose; often we see Gen Z seeking those with a vision that aligns with their own values,” she says. “Employers need to take the time to thoughtfully craft what it means to be an employee of their organisation and articulate how a new worker will contribute to that vision. While flexibility and hybrid working are the norm and an expectation in the workplace now, there is still a need for social connection, including among Gen Z staff.”
Often, the most significant drivers that stand out as reasons for accepting a job are compensation, work-life balance, and the growth potential and opportunities to develop within the business.
Tony Guadagni, senior principal for the human resources peer and practitioner research team at Gartner, says: “Work-life balance has become more important and the primary driver to younger workers and recent graduates. This group value their lives outside of work and are more driven by their own and their employer’s mission than by profits. Graduates also want a strong in-person work culture, social interaction and a set working schedule. Many walk away from a job if the pay doesn’t meet their minimum standards.”
There has also been more emphasis placed on financial wellbeing benefits as a result of the cost-of-living crisis; employers need to consider how they can be competitive in this sense, as those that make this a priority this will be more sought after by potential employees.
Financial wellbeing benefits are valued by graduates, despite this group often having fewer financial commitments than older employers, says Guadagni. “Short-term disability and health insurances are valued too, as they want to make sure they’re covered in the current climate and secure for the future.”
Many employers have offered more financial incentives offered this year to new talent, says Stephen Isherwood, chief executive officer of the Institute of Student Employers. “Sign-on bonuses, interest-free or low-interest loans, transport allowances, relocation bonuses and salary advance schemes are some of the benefits that are valued by young people at the moment,” he explains. “Graduates have also always prioritised training, development and career progression opportunities.”
Younger workers are more likely to seek out a job based on its benefits and place value in those that support career growth and development, adds Jefferys.
“They are also the group most likely to weigh supplemental benefits as part of total compensation, seeking out offerings such as flexible paid time off and tuition reimbursement,” she says. “The pandemic has also meant they are placing more importance on benefits that support wellbeing.”
Employers need to ensure their benefits are clearly communicated in a robust and compelling way through job adverts, interviews and one-to-one conversations with managers to successfully attract graduates.
Knowing that support and inclusive benefits are available can be attractive even if graduates are taking different paths than their older peers and are unlikely to need them for a while. Customisation is key to attracting them, says Jefferys.
“A blanket email once a year about available benefits and when to access them will likely go unread and not propel Gen Z into action; they expect to be communicated with as though they are a consumer of a service,” she explains. “Tone of voice and content should be targeted at the person, not as a demographic or a number. Employers should be using in-house tools to segment the workforce and consider how to connect with them.”
Most employers will already offer benefits that are attractive to graduates, such as flexibility, growth opportunities, work-life balance and competitive pay. If these are strongly communicated and demonstrate how they align with graduates’ needs and values, an organisation will be seen as an employer of choice in a challenging talent market.