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Growing Gap Between What Young Talent Wants and What Employers Can Offer

By Universum, 2022-11-01

New research shows university students prioritize compensation and quality of work-life, while desire for “challenging work” plummets. Bumpy road ahead for hiring negotiations?

The 2022 World’s Most Attractive Employers (WMAE) rankings highlight a growing misalignment between students’ job expectations and what employers can offer in a cooling economy. “Competitive salary” and “high future earnings” are now two of the top-three priorities for business, engineering, and IT university students — and these were among the fastest-growing priorities across all variables cited this year.

“We expect 2023 will be a year of rebalancing,” says Mats Röjdmark, Chief Executive Officer, Universum. “Over the last 18 months, employers offered generous contracts and working conditions to attract young talent because demand exceeded supply in many regions. Now that hiring is slowing and company resources are strained, we expect more realistic employment deals in 2023 — meaning employees will need to ‘give’ as much as they ‘get’ in their first professional jobs.” 

Universum surveyed over 185,000 students in business, engineering, and IT from the 9 largest economies between September 2021 and May 2022. The much-anticipated survey asks students which employer characteristics are most influential as they consider future employment, and which employer brands they most admire. 

Key Findings From the Research

Google drops to #2

For the first time in the WMAE survey’s 13+ year history, Google has dropped to #2 “most attractive employer” among business students. (Google still ranks #1 for engineering and IT students.) Google was edged out by Apple, which rose two places this year to win the #1 ranking. 

Apple, Google & Microsoft dominate rankings

Big Tech companies are still students’ top choices for future employers. Other big “winners” in 2022? Nike and Daimler/Mercedes-Benz among business students; Volvo and Facebook among engineering students; Oracle and JPMorgan Chase & Company among IT students. All these rank in the Top 25 and moved up significantly in 2022. 

Quality-of-life benefits are still a growing priority for young people

From a list of 40 attributes, “work-life balance” rose 6 places to rank as #8 most important in 2022, and “flexible working conditions” rose 7 places, landing at #10. The key question: Can employers deliver on quality-of-life benefits that young people have come to expect, even while there is growing pressure to do more with less?

Evidence of “quiet quitting” in business, engineering & IT students?

When asked to rank their top priorities in a future employer, young people were significantly less likely to choose “challenging work” in 2022. This attribute registered the largest one-year drop of any priority in 2022 — and may be yet another sign of a growing mismatch between student expectations and the demanding economic environment companies must navigate.

Universum’s Global Account Director, Richard Mosley, says the 2022 study offers critical data points for employers as they enter the 2023 budget season: “Companies are still hungry for young talent in tech, business, and engineering, but budget tightening in 2023 will likely force them to make difficult decisions. One thing is clear: University students prioritize compensation above all else — even above quality-of-life factors — so even in a soft economy, we expect starting salaries will need to remain competitive to recruit the best student talent.” 

To download a copy of the World’s Most Attractive Employers report, which includes detailed insights about industry preferences, ideal employer brand attributes, and rankings, visit universumglobal.com/wmae2022/

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