Do Grads Care About Perks, Pay or Promotion?

In the soul searching for the perfect culture, some companies seem to have lost sight of what really matters to graduates and young professional starting out on their career: they need to pay the rent, put food on the table and go out on the weekend. They also must have some sort of hope for the future.

Of course, the bragging rights of telling their friends about the after-work ping-pong tournaments and the on-site massages is important to the youthful ego, but the realities of life hit hard; they are truly most concerned with being fairly rewarded for the work they put in and having a chance to progress in their career.

The best graduate employers have finely-tuned performance-related remuneration schemes and an individual approach towards getting the very best out of their people. All the peripheral perks are nice, but a graduate will stay with you for years if they know that they could not be developing better anywhere else.

The best grads often have a choice of where they want to work and, in the transparent world of social media, it is easy to see which companies can retain their young talent and which companies operate like a revolving door. A simple search on LinkedIn shows the length of tenure and the conclusions are not hard to draw. If a company constantly shares posts about their jollies and office parties but cannot keep talented grads until the next jolly, there must be a deeper malaise lurking.

For the HR community, it is very much about going back to basics. It is vital to talk to their grads about their (often changing) ambitions, try to find the best possible fit for them in the business, and ensure that there are mentors on hand to handle the fallout of the inevitable failures. If someone is pushing their career to the limit, things will always go wrong. The key for a business is to support their grads with an inbuilt resource so that they might learn the resultant lessons.

The remuneration argument is often a chicken and egg scenario. Should you invest in someone that is not yet earning their keep, or should you wait until they are but risk losing them in the process? You certainly shouldn’t pay someone if they are not performing, but it could be a good few years until a grad is truly out-earning their full cost to the business. You should reward improvement and effort – otherwise their initial “brilliance” will quickly fade.

When a graduate asks me about the “culture” of a certain employer, the first things that I talk about is how they develop and retain their younger employees. Pay and promotions are fundamental to this consideration, and examples of young grads fast-tracked into management or even board level will beat talk of ping-pong tables and massages any day of the week. If you have a great company culture with shared values, your people will thrive.

That is what grads are truly searching for; that perfect mix of pay, promotion, culture and values.