What do college graduates want from employers? A four-day week is a good start

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RESEARCH CAN BE GOOD or bad, but when it is good AND useful, it can help guide us to better insights that improve our decision-making moving ahead.

Here’s some research from earlier this summer that caught my attention — a survey that shows what new college graduates really want from their would-be employers.

It comes from the A.Team, an organization that started in Israel but is now based in New York. Its mission is simply stated but very intriguing:

A.Team was born from a simple idea — that teams matter, because the best things in the world are built by great teams. A.Team is a members-only movement of highly-skilled product builders and bold companies teaming up to build what matters.

I know them from their weekly Mission by A Team newsletter. It frequently has interesting articles you don’t find anywhere else.

What do today’s college grads REALLY want?

They recently published results of a survey of college graduates, and here’s how they set it up:

“There’s a common misconception about young workers. Recent college grads are taking flak from older generations for being coddled, headstrong, and unwilling to make sacrifices for their work.

If this critique sounds familiar  and possibly mistaken  it’s because we heard the same complaints two decades ago against Gen X slackers and a decade ago against Millennials, the generation that literally invented hustle culture.

We wanted to find out what was really going on, so we partnered with Pollfish to survey 500 students about to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree and begin their professional lives. We targeted a comprehensive snapshot of college students, including adult learners who are often overlooked but make up a significant portion of the student population  the average age of respondents was 26.4 years old.

We sought to understand what they expect from their future employers, what matters to them when deciding on jobs, and how they rank their priorities— information that will be incredibly important for companies attempting to attract young talent.

This makes you wonder: what does this new generation of workers care about, and where should companies start paying more attention?

76% want to work a four-day week

HERE ARE KEY FINDINGS from the survey of 500 recent college graduates across the U.S.:

  • 33% rated the ability to work remotely as the most important factor in their job search more than any other factor including salary (21%).
  • 57% prefer a flexible hybrid work model, versus just 7% who are looking for all-remote.
  • 57% said they would search for a new job if their employer issued a return-to-office mandate.
  • 76% believe that four-day work weeks should be the standard, and new grads ranked work-life balance as their top concern heading into the job market.
  • 65% would choose a job with slightly lower pay if it meant working at a company whose mission aligns with their personal values.
  • 75% are planning to pursue a side hustle on top of their full-time job, and 61% want to turn their side hustle into their full-time job.
  • 68% are considering starting their careers by freelancing instead of committing to one full-time employer.

The recent college grads said having the option to work remote was the most important factor in their job search  and a third of them (33%) said it was their top concern, above “alignment with personal values and interests” (25%) and salary (21%).

But, they prefer a hybrid model over 100% remote.

More than half (57%) reported a hybrid (with 2-3 days mandated in office) or a flexible-hybrid schedule (option to work in-office or in person) as their preferred work environment. By comparison, just 7% rated fully remote as their top choice.

And new grads aren’t strangers to remote work. Some 76% reported either interning or working remotely in the past.

Survey methodology is critically important

Here’s my take: This is a VERY interesting survey, and what gives it credibility is the transparency of the methodology behind the survey methods.

I have seen a great many surveys over the years, and I’ve found that the organizations that soft-pedal the methodology behind their research are probably trying to hide the weakness of it. The most reputable research firms — like Gallup and Harris — are clear and transparent about who and when they surveyed and how they did it.

ONE MORE THING: If the survey methodology is sketchy  — or worse yet, non-existent altogether — you should consider the findings to be a good waste of your time.

I gave a lot of grades in my time as an adjunct college professor, and I’d give the A.Team a “B” for the methodology behind their survey.

It’s better than most but should have surveyed a lot more college students (at least 2,000) than the 500 they list. But, they get kudos for working to get a more diverse age range of college students involved.

In other words, this survey has strong enough methodology to satisfy my standards. It is worth considering in your organization’s decision making as you look to hire some of the latest college grads moving ahead.

Here is the methodology:

Between March 23-24, 2023, (A.Team) partnered with Pollfish to survey 500 students in the U.S. who are set to complete their Bachelors Degree in May. Our goal was to understand their expectations from future employers, their priorities when deciding on jobs, and their overall approach to work. The survey polled a diverse group of college students, including adult learners, with an average age of 26.4 years. The majority (57%) of students we polled were under 34 years old, while 42% were older than 35. 

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