It’s no secret that companies that compete for the best new talent can build stronger long-term strategies. As Millennials become the largest cohort of workers in the United States, small companies need to create new business models that support their needs.

College grads are now more prepared than ever to enter the workforce. But how can small employers attract new talent to their enterprises over larger companies?

These five tips can help small businesses leverage the expectations and needs of new college grads to help grow and stabilize their small empires in the future:

1. Build Professional Relationships Early

Small businesses should focus on offering internships, apprenticeships, and mentor programs for college students. Many businesses are jumping on board. According to the New Role of Internships in the Graduate Labour Market, 11,000 internships are advertised each year, but the actual number lies as high as 70,000. In addition, nearly three-quarters of college grads hold an internship or work experience during their academic careers. Work experience allows promising talent to experience the type or skills required in their field, but also offers small business and college students the opportunity to build professional relationships with each other for when they graduate school. It also helps recent grads identify necessary skills and get a head start on training. Small businesses that don’t feature internships or other programs for college students aren’t utilizing their ability to find the best entry-level employees which can give them an edge over their competitors.

2. Digitize Your Hiring Capabilities

The Millennial and Gen Z generations are sophisticated digital users, so they search for employment on digital platforms. In fact, small businesses need to focus their recruiting efforts on digital platforms and social media where new employees will look for career opportunities. Posting on Craigslist, Facebook, and other online job sites for college grads can help you attract a large portion of new talent. Small business need to invest in digital properties as well as job positions that use new technology to keep up with competition and recruiting efforts.

3. Develop a Positive Work Culture

A 2016 Accenture study shows that new college grads entering the workforce prefer a fun and supportive work culture. In fact, 70% of new grads and 74% of recent grads said they prefer to work for businesses that offer positive social atmosphere and earn a lower salary than work for more money at companies where it’s less supportive or fun

There are multitudes of ways for small business to create positive work environments. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial survey suggests that employers provide and stay dedicated to:

  • Good work/life balance
  • High levels of collaboration/feedback
  • Opportunities to learn about leadership
  • Flexibility (remote working, flexible hours)
  • Sense of purpose
  • Professional development training programs

The small businesses that offer challenging work environments with high amounts of collaboration and incentives can create competitive advantages. Many small enterprises can keep up with Millennial trends by integrating generational workers, offering tech utilities, and creating interpersonal environments that value support. In smaller work offices and teams with less hierarchical structures, it may be easier for employers to offer these qualities because they can foster closer professional relationships with their new hires.

4. Emphasize Qualities of a Small Business

Research shows that only 15% of new college grads desire to work for large companies. Millennials desire creative work environments that are transparent and supportive. They also desire positions where they can grow and advance quickly. Small business can build upon this trend by emphasizing tight-knit working communities, transparency, and profit for purpose methods. Because bigger companies can’t change their size, a small business can leverage their need for specialized teams where they can get to intimately know new hires for their skill set and offer personalized support for professional growth.

5. Invest in Emerging Talent

New college grads want to invest in their skills and small businesses should too. Invest in new talent by consolidating time and resources, especially if they’re limited to your small company. Long-term development opportunities may consist of mentoring, development workshops, and inclusive workspaces that help workers grow can help small companies hang on to talent and create loyalty among new hires. If new college grads see that their employers are invested in them they may see the advantage of staying with the company and perfecting their skill sets.

Some companies may think it’s risky to onboard new hires they feel have limited work experience. But companies that don’t hire new college grads will be left weak in a changing workforce and business culture. College grads are showing incredible talent and adaptability, especially with modern tech applications. But small business should be on the forefront of digitizing and transforming their work cultures to create dynamic atmospheres to keep up with a competitive labor market.

About the Author(s)

 Jake   Croman

Jake Croman is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and college student who currently attends the University of Michigan. Jake Croman's networking experience and logistical know-how extends to his work fundraising on behalf of charitable organizations such as St Judes Children's Hospital and the Eddie Croman Foundation.

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Student University of Michigan
5 Tips to Attract College Grads to Your Small Business