Know Your Audience: Our Future Workforce

April 8, 2022 | Solutions for Iowa's Evolving Workforce Jessi McQuerrey, Director of Programs, ABI Foundation,

Evolving workforce needs seem to be a “chicken or the egg” scenario. Which came first? For example, was it the creation of new technology that reshaped our business models and needs for workforce? Or did each generation’s increased desire for instant connectivity and gratification cause us to innovate as these same individuals became both team members and customers?

If the one constant is change – what’s next?

Our Leadership Iowa University participants are college students who are considered young leaders and identifiably top-notch employees. (A.K.A. people you’ll soon want to hire.) Given the infinite opportunities for them in Iowa, now more than ever, we’ve asked them: What are you looking for in a future employer? Three key areas rose to the top:

1. Values: In nearly every response – the need for solid guiding principles behind company decisions. Students want to see value placed on their time and opinions, and given “real responsibility.” They want somewhere that values the diversity of its employees, as well as creativity, communication and collaboration.

"I’m looking for a company working towards the future who values me and the world in which we operate." – Jaxen Shaw-VanNatta, University of Iowa ‘22

2. Culture: While a welcoming, positive work environment is essential, so is its footprint. A “culture of care” extends beyond the office walls and students are taking note of businesses who are directly invested in the community it serves.

“I want a culture that encourages innovation, growth, and understanding. I would like to be pushed and challenged to continue to advance my career.” – Jill Vonnahme, University of Northern Iowa ‘22

3. Advancement: Career advancement is essential, but if you want to keep them, they also need a clear vision of where that corporate ladder is leading. Companies should foster personal and professional growth, and showcase the significance of their work within a larger, forward-thinking mission.

It’s more than adding a ping-pong table in the breakroom, folks. These needs aren’t new, but they’re the difference between a great hire and “Help Wanted.” How do you show your employees, including your new hires, that they, their time and their ideas are valued? How transparent is your company culture and vision? Students have the ability to decline their first offer, so relay your values before their ID badge has finished printing. 

If you’re looking for a fun way to invest in your interns this summer, consider adding Leadership Iowa University to your internship experience. Contact us or learn more at