What the class of 2019 wants from employers

Forget all of your stereotypes. Gen-Z workers came of age in the shadow of the Great Recession, and they want stability over “fun.”

What the class of 2019 wants from employers
[Photo: Cole Keister/Unsplash]

With the labor market tighter than dress trousers after the holidays, companies are trying to gain every advantage to attract the best talent. As a crop of newly degreed graduates looks for gainful employment, the companies that seek to hire them has a question: What does the class of 2019 want in an employer?


Fortunately, there is some new research to answer the question. LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing agency, released a report aptly titled, “What the Class of 2019 Wants.” And some of the findings were surprising.

First, 35% of respondents said they’d go to work for any industry that hired them–the highest percentage in the four years the agency has done the report. Among those that are employed, 65% received between two and four job offers in 2019. They expect to earn between $51,000 and $60,000 per year in their first job out of college–and 89% will get that or more.

LaSalle CEO Tom Gimbel says these findings aren’t surprising, given the economy. “In a down economy, there is not going to be work-life balance, so the money is the driver,” he says. As jobs reports continue to show increases in available positions, people are going to look beyond money because they are secure that they can find another job that pays similarly or more.

But there are some indicators that generation-Z does approach prospective employers a bit differently. When they’re evaluating a job or company, there are several things that many want to see.

Future-focused professionals

Gen-Z is looking for a great culture above all, according to the LaSalle report. They’re savvy enough to see beyond ping-pong tables and brightly colored walls and look for companies that invest in their people and offer a growth path. Among workers analyzing potential jobs, opportunity for growth was the No. 1 factor they considered, followed by work-life balance (up one spot from last year), and compensation (down one spot from last year). Seventy-six percent want a promotion within one to two years, versus 40% of millennials.


Kristin Mascolo, a dual public relations and entrepreneurship major at Syracuse University, is graduating with three job offers. Culture was a big factor in her search. “You ask yourself, Would you want to be with these people outside of work?” she says. But what led her to accept a job at a financial data firm was that she would enter into a rotational program, experiencing different jobs and departments in the company. “I would spend five months just learning before I even started my new job,” she says. Her firm also invests in employee education and certifications outside the firm, which was a priority for her.

They begin looking for that culture from the start, so a premier candidate experience is important, says Kim Hoffman, director of talent acquisition, products and technologies, at Intuit. “Gen Z-ers are digital natives. They grew up with information accessible to them; an instant, personalized experience is the norm. They expect this same experience from their employers,” she says. Hoffman adds that showing them how the company will invest in future growth is essential, even if it’s how they’ll grow from their internship experience to new college grad role.

True to form, Mascolo reached out cold to employees at the firms she was considering via LinkedIn. Those who seemed happy with their jobs and the company were happy to respond. Those who were reluctant to discuss their experience were also telling, but in a negative way.

Pragmatism beyond experience

Gen-Z workers came of age in the shadow of the Great Recession, and they want stability, says Jason Dorsey, president of The Center for Generational Kinetics, a global gen-Z speaking and research firm based in Austin. “Surprisingly, we’re even seeing them ask about things like benefits, including retirement, which is pretty unusual, given their overall age,” Dorsey says. LaSalle found that the top benefits they seek are medical coverage and a 401(k) match.

Those were two priorities for Mascolo. “I’m dedicated to starting my 401(k) early. I know one of the biggest complaints about millennials and gen-Z is that we don’t save for retirement. I didn’t want to fall into that bracket. I want to have a great 401(k) matching program and healthcare.”


Dorsey says these preferences may give bigger companies an edge in recruiting, but Gimbel says that this generation also wants access to executives, which could bode well for leaner firms. “The shine’s beginning to wane a little bit on the LinkedIns and the Googles, when they’re sitting there saying what those companies do now for their growth to hit revenue targets is to buy other high-growth companies,” he says. “The one thing you don’t get at a huge technology company is access to executive leadership.”

These workers also don’t want surprises about their performance–they want to know how they’re doing on a regular basis. “Gen-Z also wants a different relationship with their managers, often expecting immediate feedback and responses, as opposed to traditional methods like email, meetings, performance reviews, etc.,” Hoffman says. And they want to have a voice through vehicles like surveys, beta testing, and other ways to make difference.

Oh, and long commutes aren’t going to cut it. Proximity was a key factor in choosing a role, in LaSalle’s research.

Meaningful work at a company with impact

“Gen-Z, similar to millennials, are global citizens. They will look for opportunities and companies that follow sustainable business practices, give back to their communities, and know how their work is making an impact,” Hoffman says. Intuit offers employees paid time off to volunteer in their community. As the most diverse generation in U.S. history, they also expect diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Dorsey says gen-Z wants an employer with a purpose beyond money. “And it’s not superficial, like just writing a cheque, or sponsoring some organization, but they actually have some goal that is to make the world, whether it’s in the local community, or somewhere else a better place,” he says.


Where can you find them? LaSalle found that gen-Z workers are looking at career fairs, their own networks, and job boards for employment, in that order. Sixty percent would take a temporary or temp-to-permanent position, up from 16% last year.

Attracting new workers entering the labor pool requires giving them a peek into their futures, especially how you can help them develop their skills and career. Companies that can give the class of 2019 what they want have an edge in landing the best talent.

About the author

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites