This is the third of three articles about copywriter Rachel’s trip to Ohio University. See the other articles about internships and agency careers here. 

When it comes to workplace expectations, a lot has changed in the past few years. And even more has changed in the past few months of the tumultuous year that is 2020. COVID-19 forced companies to finally give remote working a shot, and businesses took a harder look at their diversity and inclusion efforts. Managers and business owners may benefit from learning what company perks will appeal most to new talent entering today’s job market, and today’s recent grads are looking for companies that are supportive and inclusive. 

The following points come from an open-ended conversation I had with the students of the Global Leadership Certificate (GLC) classes when I went to Ohio University as a guest speaker in February. Students in the GLC program come from a variety of majors, everything from political science to graphic design to industrial systems engineering. I posed the question: “What would be important for you in a job?” and these are some of the questions they said they’d be asking themselves when looking into a company.

Is there a sense of community in the office? 

Students wanted to be in an office that was collaborative rather than competitive, leveled-out rather than hierarchical. When you’re spending 40 hours a week in the same place, you not only want to get along with, but also genuinely like the people you’re spending so much time with. Especially for recent grads who often are starting anew in a different city, having a great office community is an integral part of building connections with colleagues or even making friends. 

Can I work from home? 

Even before the pandemic made working from home a necessity, the message I got back in February was clear: students are seeking flexibility, freedom and autonomy in their job. And that meant being able to work from home (WFH), at least from time to time. 

Although it’s hard to say whether or not offering a WFH option will make companies more productive overall, the fact that many have developed a work from home workflow since the pandemic shows that it’s definitely possible. Twitter announced that some of its workforce will now be working from home forever, and Facebook said that half of its employees will be working remotely in the next 5-10 years. This may be a post-COVID norm that’s here to stay — and that’s a major plus for Gen Z. 

What kind of employee benefits does the company offer? 

In a recent study, researchers gave 2,000 people a list of benefits and asked how heavily they would weigh each one when deciding between a high-paying job with less benefits and a lower-paying job with more benefits. Topping the list, 88 percent of respondents said better health, vision and dental insurance was such an important benefit, that it would be enough to take a lower paying job.

Among other benefits that people in the study valued: more vacation time, student loan or tuition assistance, paid parental leave, free fitness or yoga classes, coffee and snacks, and flexible or WFH hours. The study noted that many larger companies have some unique benefits, like a free sum of money to donate to a charity of your choice after you volunteer for 10 hours, college scholarships for children of employees, and stipends for eco-home improvements. 

How does the company commit to diversity & inclusion measures? 

According to a report by Deloitte, generations view diversity & inclusion differently. Gen Xers and Boomers tended to believe that it meant equal and fair representation regardless of demographics. Millennials, on the other hand, saw diversity as combining different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to lead to innovation. My conversation with students showed that they tended to agree with the millennial perspective. Diverse, top talent has countless opportunities and less tolerance for unhealthy work environments. 

When job candidates ask about company culture, they may really be asking about  diversity and inclusion. Eight-three percent of millennials and Gen Z are more engaged when they feel they’re in an inclusive environment. Other companies have helped diversify their talent pool through a unique variety of benefits; while some may value a generous parental leave policy, others may be drawn to a sabbatical program. Above all, recent grads will be looking for a company that is authentic in their diversity efforts — not simply filling a quota. 

What efforts does this company make to be more environmentally sustainable? 

Students told me that they value companies who are aware of their carbon footprint and make efforts to reduce the impact. Going green is great for business, too. Corporations that put environmental sustainability practices into action are often more innovative

When a corporation’s leadership is challenging the norm to find greener alternatives, they’re more likely to encourage their staff to challenge the norm in the work they put out, too — leading to more creative ideas. In return, companies could see a positive impact in their public reputation and financial returns. Whether it’s ensuring your office has recycling, committing to a paperless workspace, or adding tree-planting or trash cleanup events to your company calendar, there are a number of ways to commit to being more environmentally sustainable as a company. 

How does leadership support their staff?

The soon-to-be grads made it known that working with a manager who had less than ideal leadership skills would be a definite deal breaker in a job. The days of Horrible Bosses just aren’t tolerated like they used to be. In 2013, three quarters of Americans said the most stressful part of their job was their immediate boss. But millennials (and likely Gen Z too) are said to be less likely to put up with bad boss behaviors long term; they care more about their working relationships than generations in the past. The students I spoke with made it clear that it’s imperative to have leadership that not only challenged them professionally, but also respected and supported them. 

So, how does your company support today’s new talent? And what improvements might you be able to make to retain your employees? Through empathy and understanding, Ample tries to build and cultivate a work environment that makes for a sustainable work-life balance. Learn more about careers at Ample here. 

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