Procurement · 26 October 2016

Attracting top graduates as a small business

graduates
“Professional training and development” was cited by university-leavers as the most important graduate role characteristic

What do today’s graduates really look for in a career? Here, regular Business Advice contributor Peter Ames asks how small business owners can use the size of their business to their advantage.

While large corporates may boast long-running, successful grad schemes, that doesn’t mean small businesses also can’t attract the very best graduates.

As the owner of a small company, you may not always be able to offer the big bucks, but you can tap into many of the other advantages of being a small business.

Indeed, it’s something we’ve managed to implement right here at Genie. So, how can the little guys attract the very best university-leavers? Read on to find out.

Flexible working

Almost every month it feels as if a new study is published stating the fact we’re increasingly valuing things such as flexible working over pay. This is particularly true for work-life-balance-conscious graduates for whom, it would appear, flexible working can be as high as the number one priority (according to a 2015 study by Bright Network).

This should be great news for small business owners, particularly those with an eye on the bottom line. If you offer flexible working (and every business at the very least must offer the right to request it), make sure you sing about it in your job advertisements.

A vibrant workplace

We recently found that the most influential “workplace factor” on employee happiness was workplace design.

Although this may have associated costs, it can be beneficial for all employees – not just graduates – to offer a top-class office (or workplace of any kind). It’s certainly something to bear in mind if you were going to be moving or updating your office anyway.

Indeed, this was backed up by Ben Rosen, CEO at Inspiring Interns, who stated: “Baby-boomers were traditionally concerned with competitive salaries, along with the idea that your life is what you do outside of work. Recent graduates have a stronger focus on development and working in innovative spaces.”

In-house training

A further (relatively) cost-free manner of attracting university-leavers is to offer in-house training and opportunities for advancement. Again, Bright Network found that “professional training and development” was considered by university-leavers as the most important graduate role characteristic.

Small businesses often have an abundance of knowledge and talent in-house – and the costs of passing this on in the form of training are usually only temporal.

Again, this is something we have tapped into at Genie at our in-house “Genie Academy”. All new starters have the opportunity to learn about every aspect of what we do, from editorial training to business finance. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Be part of something

Perhaps most importantly, graduates are increasingly seeking truly meaningful roles as they leave the world of academia behind. Small businesses offer this in abundance.

The very nature of such enterprises mean that employees can feel less like a cog in the machine and have a more direct relationship with managers and directors.

All the while, in-house training and mentoring should give them the opportunities to get up-to-speed quickly. You never know, it could also mean that they become the ideal candidates when senior roles arise.

But it’s about more than that. Graduates are also looking to work for meaningful companies. Some 92 per cent of graduates recently said they wanted to work for a company that shows social responsibility – ensure your company does so and it should help you attract the very best young workers on the market.

Is your office lacking in creativity? Get inspired by these four tips.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Peter Ames is the head of strategy for Office Genie, the first desk space marketplace in the UK – under the umbrella of Genie Ventures (a digital marketing and e-commerce company). The site is responsible for letting out millions of pounds worth of space to the country's small businesses and freelancers.

Business development