When it comes to employee benefits, tried-and-true offerings like employer-paid health insurance and matching retirement savings plan contributions have remained at the head of the class among soon-to-be U.S. and Canadian college graduates over the years.
According to a survey from The Harris Poll conducted by Express Employment Professionals, recent graduates are in high demand and benefiting from the persistently tight labor market.
Flexibility remains a priority, with job seekers saying flexible work hours (64%), the ability to work remotely (56%) and a shortened workweek (40%) are the benefits they want most. However, only a minority of employers currently offer flexible workhours (44%), the ability to work remotely (35%) and/or shortened workweek (22%).
But some of the other desired benefits might be more new school to employers. Despite this strong desire by newly graduating job seekers for more work flexibility, according to The Harris Poll, the majority of Canadian employers expect benefits will remain the same in 2023 (62%). While some companies do plan to increase benefits this year (28%), they expect to mostly improve their traditional benefits and not the non-traditional benefits Canadian job seekers clearly favor.
What benefits are new graduates prioritizing? According to What the Class of 2023 Wants, a survey by the national U.S. staffing, recruiting and culture firm LaSalle Network, there is a distinct difference in what this graduating class is prioritizing in comparison to former classes: mental and physical health and wellness. When asked what benefits are most important, the majority stated insurance coverage for therapy, followed by medical coverage and flexible spending accounts. Mental health perks and benefits such as employee resource groups, stress management training or time off during the workday to attend therapy sessions was very to extremely important when assessing a company’s benefits package.
When evaluating a future employer, graduating respondents wanted a company they can feel comfortable at and connect to—They value their workplace not just as a place to grow their career but also a place to make friends, feel supported and grow personally. The majority of student respondents ranked career growth opportunities as the No. 1 factor they consider when evaluating a company and half expect a promotion within their first year in the role.
“Many companies mistake perks for culture and believe that having a great culture means having ping-pong tables and free bagels,” said Sirmara Campbell, chief human resources officer at LaSalle Network. “However, company culture is about the relationship employees can build with leadership and health and wellness benefits. To attract recent college graduates, employers should invest in robust training programs because that is what this group of talent is seeking in prospective employers,” she said, adding that training programs could be internal or external.
Campbell noted that Gen Z respondents placed less importance on benefits like flexible spending accounts, gym reimbursement and pet insurance, which were ranked highly by Millennials in previous reports. “This class is more concerned about traditional benefits but also wants to work for companies that offer robust training programs and have a clear career path outlined.”