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Work/life balance hits the top of graduate wish list


From an article in the current issue of People Management magazine:

Employers have been warned that graduates are not prepared to endure long, inflexible working patterns, writes Mark Whitehead

Successful young employees are shunning the long-hours culture of their parents’ generation in favour of achieving a better balance between work and home life, according to a major new study.

Graduates in their first jobs want to “work to live” rather than “live to work”, according to the report, which is based on interviews with staff at organisations ranging from the Halifax to the Metropolitan Police.

The report, by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), claims that young people are reacting against the effects of working too hard suffered by their elders. Their aim is to progress in their careers while balancing work with outside interests.

The AGR claims that the report, Should I Stay Or Should I Go?, by David Guest and Jane Sturges of the department of organisational psychology at Birkbeck College, London, is the first major study to focus on retaining graduates in employment.

The findings are backed up by an international survey of more than 600 firms which revealed that a third of “high flyers” want to establish a better balance between work and home life. The report, Riding the Wave: The New Global Career Culture, by Whiteway Research International, found that achieving this balance was rated as the top “career value” by respondents in the US.

The AGR, which represents around 450 employers across the UK, warned that a typical medium-sized company could lose up to £3 million over five years as a result of graduate recruits leaving. To generate more loyalty, employers should ensure that they do not have a “damaging culture” that expects staff to work unnecessarily long hours. Flexible working arrangements such as job-sharing and parental leave are rated highly by graduates, it argues.

Carl Gilleard, the association’s chief executive, said: “Graduates are saying they want to work hard and be ambitious, but there’s more to life than work.

“They are a generation who have seen the problems faced by their parents, and it’s had quite an impact on them.”

The Halifax, which takes on about 100 graduate recruits a year, introduced a flexible working policy three years ago for its 36,000 employees.

“The typical graduate recruit is far more discerning these days.” said Rachel Southerton, the bank’s graduate recruitment manager. “They are likely to be much more probing about what we do and how it works. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose people by having a rigid hours structure when there is no business need for it.”

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? is available from the Association of Graduate Recruiters on 01926 623236, price £40.

• Graduate vacancies are expected to fall by 1.6 per cent overall this year, but will rise by 2.5 per cent in the industrial sector, according to the AGR. The strongest growth is predicted in manufacturing, while the number of jobs in business services, public services and electrical and electronic engineering could rise by 19 per cent. The median salary offered to new graduates last year was £16,500, with a predicted increase this year of 5.5 per cent to £17,400.


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