Closing The Gap

These are Gen Z’s top work priorities—and remote isn’t one of them


In the past few years, workplaces have changed significantly due to the Covid pandemic. Employees had an increased need for different perks and support like hybrid and remote work, child care, and expanded health benefits. Though many of these remain a priority, for Gen Z, expectations for the workplace have changed significantly, according to a survey from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).

The 2022 Career Interest Survey from NSHSS dives into the "career motivations" for the next generation of talent, members of Gen Z, which includes individuals born between 1997 and 2012. The survey reveals the concerns and preferences of 11,495 diverse high school and college-aged people.

According to NSHSS, workplace equity is a non-negotiable for Gen Z talent, and Covid concerns aren't as prominent as they were in the last two years.

An emphasis on equity

The survey found that over a fifth of survey respondents (22%) say that their own personal experiences with racial inequalities and discrimination have influenced their career choices. Equitable treatment for all employees of different races and genders is of the utmost importance to Gen Z, trailed by quality of life, employer flexibility/adaptability, and corporate social responsibility.

NSHSS President James Lewis says that Gen Z's desire for an equitable workplace is "admirable," and something employers should take heed to.

"It's so important for employers to understand and listen to the young people when it comes to DE&I. Equity for all is a big priority, because they would like to be associated with an organization that treats everyone fairly, provides opportunities for everyone, provides training, and an environment of diversity and inclusion," Lewis explains. "That's how [employers] can keep this high-quality candidate excited about being a part of your organization and retaining them over time."

The desire to positively impact the world and fulfill their "social responsibility" has also influenced the types of fields younger talent wants to work in. Thirty-five percent of Gen Z wants to work in human rights. Social justice, science/tech innovation, and health care followed closely behind, with each being a field of interest for 34% of respondents. 

Tired of remote work

NSHSS also found that Gen Z is "tired" of online working and training, after remote schooling during the pandemic "soured" the remote-working experience for young talent. Gen Zers would much rather be in the field gaining hands-on experience.

 Only 23% of survey respondents express that remote work is very or extremely important to them. Additionally, 63% of Gen Z want in-person training from their employers, compared to only 13% in favor of online training. 

"We found that, in this next generation of future employees, employers, and leaders, they don't want to work from home. They want to have an enriched experience in the office, so they can roll up their sleeves and learn from fellow workers and their managers."

Lewis says this is "big news" for companies, as many have expressed intentions to return to their pre-pandemic office cultures. 

"A love for learning"

Overall, the opportunity for continued learning and upward mobility is what Gen Z is most excited about when it comes to entering the workforce, and something companies should plan on executing if they want to attract younger talent.

Thinking about their first full-time job, 67% of survey respondents want to work at companies that will "enable them to learn skills to advance their careers." Pathways to promotion and professional development are second and third in order of importance. Furthermore, 65% of Gen Zers say they know they have a lot to learn but are eager to do so.

"These young people have a love for learning. And they learn at a faster rate than previous generations. So this is an opportunity for entities to say, how do we create an environment where there's good learning in the office? How do we make sure there are good, challenging opportunities for them to keep them engaged? And how are we fulfilling their strong capacity to learn?"

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