Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

The freshest generation of talent – Gen Z, those born between 1995-2004 – are filtering into the jobs market and are looking for their first role. Brett Hill, managing director at The Health Insurance Group highlights how SMEs are in a great position to attract the best of this latest group to enter the workforce.

Small but mighty

SMEs can often fall into the trap of believing they can’t compete against larger organisations when it comes to attracting the best graduates. In fact, the opposite is true – as research found that of the students and graduates planning on starting a new job or career within 12 months, 37% said they wanted to work for an SME. It is crucial that SMEs capitalise on this sentiment, laying out very clearly why they are a great place to work.

A good place to start is to tap into Gen Z motivators and drivers, aligning SME employment offerings accordingly, and understanding the context Gen Z has grown up in – what has shaped their interests and passions.

Money, money, money

Gen Z witnessed a recession, grew up in an era of economic uncertainty and saw a near tripling of tuition fees. This strained fiscal landscape has resulted in them becoming savvy with their finances and they are well versed in knowing how to make their money go further.

SMEs looking to attract this group should highlight in the recruitment process, and beyond, any benefits they offer to help them get more bang for their buck. Whether it is discounted gym membership, shopping vouchers or cash plans that give money off things like dentistry, SMEs should highlight how they are helping to make salaries go further.

True digital natives

The cohort following “Millennials”, Gen Z are the true digital natives as they can’t remember a time without the internet. The result of growing up in a technologically advanced generation means that their expectations are high; they have an eight second attention span when using digital platforms.

To attract and retain this generation, SMEs need to highlight their technologically savvy benefits. For example, some SMEs offer benefits portals that enable the individual to link up their health tracker or fitness wearables and gain rewards for their exercise efforts. Not only does this encourage a healthy workforce, but it taps into the generation’s money-saving mentality, as they can earn rewards such as free cinema tickets.

Having a clear and punchy employee benefits portal is a great way to showcase why it is a great place to work. As work/life boundaries continue to blur for Gen Z as well, having information accessible out of the workplace and mobile friendly is a must.


Gen Z are a health-conscious group, smoking and drinking less than previous generations. They regularly exercise and turn to YouTube for workout and healthy eating inspiration. SMEs can tap into this health-conscious generation by offering a holistic array of benefits such as workplace health checks, nutrition talks, smoking-cessation programmes, corporate sports days and so on.

By highlighting all of this up front in the recruitment process, and continuing into employment, SMEs are demonstrating that the health and wellbeing of their employees is paramount. Creating opportunities to exercise and eat healthily really appeals to Gen Z, and SMEs are in a prime position to offer just this.

Another area of wellbeing that is increasingly synonymous with this age group is mental health. Research by the NHS found that under-19s seek treatment for mental health issues more so than any previous generation on record. SMEs should continually highlight mental health support for both the individual and overall workforce, during recruitment and once in role. For example, providing an employee assistance programme (EAP) allows employees to access tailored and confidential counselling if they feel they need support, and organising mental health training teaches managers how to identify when there is a concern – giving them the knowledge and tools needed to signpost employees to additional support.

With mental health being such an important topic for Gen Z, SMEs need to showcase that they take it seriously, have support processes in place, and communicate them. As research by Mind finds that only half of those who had experienced problems with stress, anxiety or low mood talked to their employer about it – SMEs need to show they actively support mental health and encourage open dialogue.


What it inevitably comes down to is communication. For some in Gen Z, working for an SME could be their first full-time role. So, it is important to clearly explain what employee benefits packages include, how individuals can use them and what the advantages are. This can be done during face-to-face interviews and subsequent management conversations thereafter, but this information needs to be upfront during the recruitment process too – with job adverts clearly stating additional benefits.

Looking at internal communication of employee benefits after the initial recruitment process is crucial in aiding retention too. Employees want to see a continuation of benefits, rather than thinking it’s only used as an attraction tool. Internal newsletters, company posters and wellbeing days are all great ways to spread the message about benefits available to suit individual lifestyles.

Linking in with known information about individuals and generational insight can aid uptake of benefits too. The more obvious the connection between personal lifestyle and employee benefits, the greater the understanding, engagement and take-up – helping to attract and retain the best talent across all generations.