Students name Australia’s ideal employers

The Google monopoly

“Do Cool Things That Matter.” It’s a recruitment pitch that’s hard to resist and one that has worked wonders for Google. The tech behemoth consistently ranks among the top companies people would most like to see on their business card.

Graduates are no exception, with Google positioned in the top 10 favoured companies according to a survey of students in management/commerce and engineering/life courses at Australian universities.

These are young people who’ve grown up alongside the company, variously using its eponymous search engine as a study tool and leisure activity. Some probably even Googled to find out about the cool perks on-tap at its legendary Palo Alto headquarters.

Benefits like games rooms; yoga, pilates and fitness classes; massage and physiotherapy; catering; and time off to pursue personal goals are all included in the employee package for Googlers.

The Sydney office is no exception, with all of the above plus a “distinctly true blue take” that includes harbour views and two repurposed monorail cars as conference rooms.

All of which begs the question: who doesn’t want to work there?

Well, for management/commerce students taking part in the survey, professional services firms Ernst & Young, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG ranked just below Google in the top 10, along with Apple, CBA, Coca-Cola Amatil, ANZ, and Federal and Commonwealth governments.

For engineering/life science students, resources companies like BHP Billiton and Rio led the pack, followed by the CSIRO, Shell and all three levels of government, leaving Google at number seven.

Beyond bells and whistles

The ultimate goal of Universum’s student survey – which sought responses from 5,757 students at 36 universities – was to discover the qualities that set one attractive employer apart from another. The data will then assist companies in better identifying the groups and communication channels to target their brand messages.

In addition to revealing students’ ideal employers, the global study found clear similarities between students in Australia and other countries when it comes to the most desirable attributes of a particular company. Namely work-life balance, job security and stability.

Rachele Focardi, senior vice president of employer branding and talent strategy at Universum, told HC Online the latter two in particular reflect the millennial generation’s concerns about “ongoing economic uncertainty”.

That’s one reason management/commerce students also tend to gravitate towards banks and financial services. Their focus on training, development and clear career progression, says Focardi, are “important to fresh talent”.

So it would appear that perks and stratospheric salaries aren’t everything – although they don’t hurt. What graduates most desire in a future employer is a stimulating mix of challenges and downtime, autonomy and team work, experiment and innovation.

The same, but different

Of course, regional differences also come into play. Business undergraduates in the US ranked the top three companies as Google, Walt Disney Company and Apple. And others which are considered highly-coveted include professional services firms, big name finance companies and sporting manufacturer, Nike.

For American engineering students, NASA, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are on the ascent, while in Germany it’s all about the automotive industry: Audi, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen all beating Google to the top parking spots.

Broadly speaking, today’s talented graduates are less concerned with what companies produce than how they do it. They’re prepared to put in long hours in exchange for flexibility and a commitment from employers that their loyalty will be valued in good times and bad.

Above all, they want to avoid falling into the “treadmill trap” of past generations, says social researcher, Hugh Mackay. “They watched [baby boomers] giving too much to employers, and they learnt that during lean times loyalty to the firm won't be repaid if economic pressures dictate otherwise.”

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