What employee benefits should tech startups offer a graduate?

employee benefits

What employee benefits should you offer new graduates to make your company standout from the competition, and feel valued?

You’re never going to compete with the large tech players on monetary benefits, they have deep pockets and office perks galore. However, young people are increasingly looking at workplace culture and employee benefits over salary as important factors when making employment decisions. Every day we hear from our graduates that they care far more about lifestyle, opportunity and culture. Now is the time to start understanding Gen-Z.


Let’s talk about lifestyle. A good work life balance is far more important today than it ever has been for everyone. So to tick that box many companies offer flexible working or remote working or generous holiday entitlements as part of their employee benefits package. It’s pretty much that simple, and it’s a big box to tick, especially for new graduates.

You don’t have to offer all of the above either, so the trick is to come up with a package that is generous, but works for your business. Here are some common options we see working quite well:

  • One day a week working from home saves your employee some travel money and commuting time, but you also get four days of office time. 
  • Starting early and finishing early or starting late and finishing late can also be a good way to help commuters avoid packed trains. 
  • An extra day’s holiday for your birthday every year.
  • Earning an additional holiday day for every year you work up to a maximum of 5 extra days for example may help with retention.


Younger employees value companies that demonstrate social responsibility. A common way of doing this is providing employees with voluntary days that can be spent working on a voluntary or charitable project that is close to the employees heart.

At DigitalGrads we also do our bit by donating to youth charities for every successful referral we receive using the WorkforGood scheme. If you do something similar make sure you include it in your job ad.


Young graduates are looking to join tech companies that will pave the way for their future career. They have a thirst for knowledge and a wish to continue learning new skills as they grow in a company. 

So how can you package that up into an employee benefit that graduates will find attractive?

  • A day a month shadowing the senior director to expose them to the day to day running of the organisation;
  • A mentorship programme with a senior member of staff who is not their manager;
  • New employee meet-ups to encourage sharing of knowledge among new employees. 
  • Give them an opportunity to make a difference, and have their voice heard. E.g. a monthly ideas meeting or a quarterly chat with the CEO.

You may even ask your newest recruits what really made a difference to them when they first started and try to formalise it.


Most new recruits expect some form of training when they start a new job. The more effort you put into specifying their on-the-job training the bigger impact it will have, as it will make your employee feel valued. Some examples I’ve seen work are:

  • On the job training specified in the job description and explained at interview, then followed through in the induction programme.
  • A day by day programme of meetings with key departments organised in advance.
  • Access to a company intranet of online training programmes that employees can take at their leisure.
  • An annual personal development budget.
  • Meetings set-up with any critical external suppliers or contacts.

When I started my first role in a publishing house my training in the first month included a visit to the printer with two of the company directors, a visit to the circulation fulfilment bureau, and a training course and accreditation by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. I also had a pack of business cards, a brand new desk phone and computer waiting for me on a clean desk on my first day. At 21 years old I felt so important and valued and ended up staying at the company for 10 years!

Often it’s the small things that count

As I mentioned earlier, part of my positive first job experience was the business cards waiting for me on a clean desk with a new phone and computer. That was over 20 years ago now, but small things really do still count and we know that young people joining a tech company are likely to be heavy utilisers of digital tech so why not give them some gadgets to play with? Some of these small benefits add up and are very attractive to young digital natives:

  • New technology – i.e. mobile and laptop;
  • Other gadgets such as wireless earphones and second screens that will help them do their job more efficiently;
  • Fresh fruit in the office every day;
  • Breakfast / lunch provided once a week.

These are the small benefits that will save the grads extra £££s and as they are probably on a low salary they will be counting their pennies and really appreciate it.

Monetary benefits

Of course it’s easy for companies to simply put cash behind benefits and so to round it all off, here are the most common cash benefits we see in tech start-ups:

And far less often than in the past we also sometimes see:

  • Additional % pension employer contributions
  • Medical insurance
  • Life insurance and critical illness cover

It’s unlikely that all of these benefits will be offered, usually we see around 3-5 listed on a job ad.


I know I said young people care less about salary but I thought it is worth  mentioning that whilst that is true, when you are hovering around the £20k salary mark which is actually less than the Real Living Wage for London, you are dealing with whether your employee can afford to live and work in London. Can they afford the expensive rent, the expensive commute and have enough left over to live the life they want. So that’s when the salary being offered is important to the grad because it comes back to lifestyle.

We strongly advocate employers who we work with pay the Real Living Wage as a minimum which at time of writing stands at £10.75 an hour in London and equates to a £20,962.50 gross annual salary for a 37.5 hour week.

It’s how you communicate the benefits, not what they are…

One of our bigger tech clients have one of the slickest hiring processes for juniors that I’ve seen and they also offer an attractive benefits package that includes monthly travel allowance, flexible holiday (you can take as much as you like), free snacks, lunch in the office and a welcome trip to their HQ in San Francisco. 

So a pretty good benefits package! But more than the benefits, it’s the way they communicate it to the market that’s compelling. They have an attractively designed page on their website with images of happy staff members and details of their benefits. 

They have given us a slide deck that we share with the candidates explaining what working for them is like, what the hiring process is going to be and what the training and development programme is. It manages expectations from the start and the clarity and organisation is what’s compelling for the candidates. It clearly says that this is an organised company who is going to look after me.

So I posit to you, that if you haven’t got deep pockets but you want to compete for talent the way to do it is by spending time thinking about what training and learning opportunities you can offer and be specific about those, and couple them with the small things you can offer and hey presto you will appeal to the younger generation.

If you’d like any advice on this topic, or indeed any other hiring topic, please feel free to drop me a line on lucy@digitalgrads.com or register as an employer on our platform.