Today’s macroeconomic backdrop is leading candidates to seek employers that truly care about them as people, are willing to invest in their future, and don’t treat them as disposable.
This is especially true for recent college graduates, who fill a vital role in the talent pipeline but also have much different expectations of employers than prior generations. With hundreds of thousands of grads entering the workforce, companies need to bolster their benefits to stand out against the crowd.
Why Worry About Attracting Recent Grads?
Hiring recent college graduates fills multiple gaps in the talent strategy for companies, which is why employers are expecting to hire nearly 15% more graduates from the class of 2023 than previous years. Recent grads are ideal for entry-level roles and bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the company, especially for organizations marketing to this younger demographic. This age set brings inherent knowledge about the needs and desires of the coveted target audience that can help shape marketing, messaging, and product development.
Recent grads also fill the skills gap between what’s needed today and what’s needed tomorrow, with many bringing specialized training in the latest technology straight from university labs and proving grounds. Investing in younger workers also enables companies to nurture and develop leadership skills to fill future roles over a longer life cycle. And, quite frankly, when budget is a concern, hiring recent grads can be more economical than recruiting more experienced staff.
What Recent Grads Want
Eighty-one percent of 2023 college grads say great benefits make them more likely to apply to a job compared with 70% of the previous year’s graduating class. With the specter of a recession looming, financial wellness is a top priority.
Because of widespread discussion about inflation and student loan debt, it’s become more socially acceptable to talk about financial concerns, not to mention the 75% of employees who say they’re worried about their finances. This can have a direct impact on their performance and productivity, and they’re looking to their employers for resources and tools.
Employers have an opportunity to fill that gap with tools and strategies from a source employees know they can trust. Some financial wellness options companies should consider are:
- Student loan contributions through either direct payments or opportunities for employees to convert unpaid paid time off (PTO) to loan payments or make loan payments in lieu of employee contributions to their retirement funds while still getting the company match.
- Emergency savings account. Most college grads don’t have a safety net, and this can be especially valuable in times of uncertainty, with 64% of employees wanting this benefit. Employers don’t even have to contribute to the fund. Simply provide an auto-transfer option from employees’ paychecks into a separate account for an extremely low-cost, high-value benefit.
- Access to a certified financial planner (CFP). Time is money, and failing to take advantage of opportunities at the right time can mean missing out on huge gains. Having access to experts who can give trusted, timely, and reliable guidance is incredibly beneficial, especially if your company offers equity as part of compensation. A CFP can help them understand how to manage it, the vesting process, and the tax implications to help keep employees from running afoul of the authorities.
- Dashboard access to self-service tools. Offering access to pre-negotiated finance rates for mortgage, auto, and personal loans not only is convenient but also reinforces trust in the employer. Employees can learn smart financial management with reliable tools like loan and savings calculators right at their fingertips.
Beyond filling their pocketbooks, fueling recent grads’ souls is also important. More than any other age demographic, this generation demands purpose-driven work and the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally through their employment. Eighty-four percent believe the company they work for should be responsible for their overall well-being. Here are some ways to fulfill that role:
- Mental health benefits. Young people today are under a lot of stress, which is being compounded by the threat of economic uncertainty. Offering access to mental health counseling either through covered benefits or through subscription apps can be an attractive perk, along with generous PTO, flexible work schedules, and a focus on work/life balance to help keep new grads—and older employees, too—feeling energized, enthusiastic, and motivated.
- Volunteer time off. This generation has a strong desire to be active in social causes and contribute to their community. Offering a few hours of paid volunteer time off each year gives them an opportunity to do so while building your organizational brand. With employees acting as ambassadors in the community, this can help with recruitment, demonstrating to potential candidates that your company takes community service seriously.
- Ongoing education. To satisfy employees’ desire for professional growth, consider offering paid conference/training attendance and/or tuition reimbursement for continuing education. As the need for skills evolves to meet changing demands, giving employees a chance to be lifelong learners is extremely valuable for their own career advancement and the success of the company.
- Work flexibility. In addition to working from home a few days a week, young employees today want the option to work in different circumstances, including international experiences either as remote workers or through temporary assignments in rotational or exchange programs with other locations. This demographic especially craves experiential travel whereby they can absorb the culture of the place for more than a weeklong vacation, which makes the digital nomad lifestyle extremely attractive.
Looking after your employees’ well-being is an expectation for employees of all ages, but as recent college graduates enter the job market, they’re relying on their employers more than ever, particularly when it comes to financial health. Employers have an opportunity to provide assistance through robust benefits packages that meet employees where they are to serve their needs today and down the road.
Barrett Scruggs is VP of workplace financial well-being at SoFi at Work, serving as a loyal partner to a community of 900+ employer partners. SoFi at Work is a holistic financial well-being benefits platform offering a suite of services, tools, insights, and educational resources tailored to address each workforce’s unique and evolving needs.