Gen Z to older workers: We're just like you

It appears that Generation Z is not as disparate from their elder colleagues as stereotypes might suggest. According to a study by Seramount, a professional services and research firm, both young and older workers share similar career aspirations such as equitable pay and flexible work arrangements. This contradicts the portrayal of Gen Z as solely interested in remote work and minimal effort. Instead, both demographic groups seek meaningful impact through their work and appropriate compensation [citation].

Seramount's research involved interviews with Gen Z workers born between 1997 and 2012, specifically those who are already part of the workforce. Jon Veasey-Deters, a senior research analyst at Seramount and a member of Gen Z, emphasized that the core aspirations of younger workers align closely with those of older generations. The study highlights that, by 2024, Gen Z is expected to outnumber baby boomers in the U.S. workforce [citation].

The research also reveals a preference among Gen Z workers for a hybrid work model, as nearly three-quarters of them favor a mix of office and remote work, compared to about half of the older generations. Only a minority of Gen Z workers prefer to work entirely remotely, contrary to popular belief. Veasey-Deters noted the social aspect of working in an office is valued among younger workers, many of whom graduated during the pandemic and missed out on traditional workplace interactions [citation].

Furthermore, while corporate leaders are increasingly accommodating flexible working arrangements, many Gen Z workers are motivated by factors beyond salary. The study found that 51% of Gen Z consider salary as the most crucial aspect of a job, which is only slightly higher than the 47% of older workers who feel the same [citation].

The desire for advancement is notably stronger among Gen Z, with a significant portion expecting to assume leadership roles, indicating a higher drive for career progression compared to their older colleagues [citation].

Overall, Veasey-Deters asserts that the needs and desires of Gen Z workers are not fundamentally different from other generations, underscoring that they are simply the newest cohort entering the workforce with similar values and goals [citation].  

Khan Academy’s AI assistant will now be free to K-12 teachers in the U.S., thanks to a new deal with Microsoft, the companies said Tuesday during Microsoft’s Build conference.

Microsoft is donating access to its Microsoft Azure infrastructure to give teachers free use of the tool, which previously required a $4 per month subscription to pay for the cost of the underlying AI service. 

“They just have a very long reputation now of very successfully delivering these educational materials to learners everywhere in the world,” says Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s CTO and EVP of AI, referring to Khan Academy.

The education nonprofit, known for years for its acclaimed educational videos, will continue to charge school districts and other users for student access to the AI system, though Khan says the organization continues to search for ways to lower prices.

[Image: Khan Academy]

Khan Academy’s AI assistant, Khanmigo, has earned praise for helping students to understand and practice everything from math to English, but it can also help teachers devise lesson plans, formulate questions about assigned readings, and even generate reading passages appropriate for students at different levels. More than just a chatbot, the software offers specific AI-powered tools for generating quizzes and assignment instructions, drafting lesson plans, and formulating letters of recommendation. 

“This is something that hopefully a teacher, within hours of using it, is already starting to see a huge ROI,” says Khan Academy founder and CEO Sal Khan.

In announcing the deal, the companies pointed to examples of teachers who’ve successfully used the software to come up with colorful analogies to make abstract science topics stick—like comparing particles in chemical reactions to dancers changing partners—and adjust reading practice passages to include vocabulary at an appropriate level.

Having a virtual teaching assistant is especially valuable in light of recent research from the RAND Corporation that found teachers work longer hours than most working adults, which includes administrative and prep work outside the classroom. Long hours relative to pay can lead to teacher burnout and cause educators to leave the profession, which means students lose the benefit of their experience, according to the report. Khan Academy’s teacher tools can help reduce the amount of time teachers have to spend getting those lessons ready. 

“We are hoping that 10 to 20 hours can look a lot more like one to five hours,” says Khan.

Generative AI’s rapid growth initially brought anxiety to the world of education, with teachers from elementary school to the college level concerned about students simply having the software do their homework for them. But even beyond helping teachers, organizations including Khan Academy have increasingly honed AI-powered tools that function more like a human tutor, patiently walking students through solving a problem or offering tips for tightening up an essay without actually doing the assignment. 

“They don’t make you feel bad about asking dumb questions,” says Microsoft’s Scott. “Whenever your curiosity arises, if it’s at all hours of the night or in the morning, they’re there for you.”

Scott, who grew up in pre-online rural Virginia and recalls having to seek out information and guidance, sees how AI is already giving an edge to younger generations: His daughter, a high school freshman with an interest in biochemistry, can use ChatGPT to help understand research papers from the field. 

“Even though no one was targeting a 15-year-old when they were writing this material, she can make it accessible to herself with a free tool,” he says.

Microsoft and Khan Academy will also be working together to develop AI tutoring tools for math, an area where generative AI has often struggled. The software will be powered by Microsoft’s Phi-3 small language models. As the name suggests, small language models are more compact and less computationally intensive than large language models like GPT-4, which means they can be cheaper to use and can potentially even be run on local devices instead of in the cloud. 

“If that means that more kids can have access to the product, then that’s a thing really, really, really worth exploring,” says Scott.

Small language models can also require fewer resources to fine-tune them for a specific purpose, he says. And Khan Academy provides sample educational content like math problems and detailed answers to help the models get better at math. Microsoft has already fine-tuned the current version of Phi-3 to call external code when it needs to do calculations it can’t do directly and reports the AI can already generate math problems for specific topics at specific grade levels and walk students through explanations. 

Khan Academy user data won’t be used to train the models, the organizations say. 

Microsoft will also incorporate more material from Khan Academy into its own AI tools, ready to be surfaced when users ask questions where it can provide educational value.

“If a student wants to learn something, and they’re asking the AI for that help, I think it is much healthier for that AI to slip in Khan Academy content than not,” says Khan.

Employees are struggling with burnout, but taking time off isn’t always that easy. For its latest report on out-of-office (OOO) culture, the Harris Poll surveyed 1,170 American employees over the age of 18. It found that employees not only struggle to ask for time off but often feel guilty when they do.

What do they do instead? According to the survey, many are coming up with workarounds to play hooky at work. Here are some of the key findings.

  • It’s a culture problem, not a policy problem: 83% of respondents said they are happy with their employer’s time-off policy and 60% get more than 10 days off a year. However, 78% don’t use all of their days off. The average American took 15 days off last year, although about half have more than 15 days off a year.
  • Workers, especially younger ones, are afraid to ask for time off: Half of employees said they get nervous asking to take time off. (This increases to 61% for millennials.) In fact, 76% said they wished their employer placed more emphasis on the value of taking time off.
  • Out of office doesn’t mean rest: While 62% of people say being out of office means not working, 60% say they struggle to fully disconnect, and 56% have taken work calls or meetings during their time off.
  • Bosses share the blame: Nearly 90% of employees said they have read emails from their boss, and 47% say they feel guilty about taking time off.
  • Employees are coming up with their own work-arounds: On average, 31% have moved their mouse to keep their status active on their company messaging system. Meanwhile, 30% have scheduled messages to send outside of working hours to create the impression they are working longer; 28% have taken time off without telling their manager.
  • Especially younger ones: Nearly 40% of millennials—the group most terrified of asking for time off—admit to using these workarounds.

“The data underscores a nuanced challenge in today’s workforce: the pervasive fear of being ‘out of office’ and the difficulty in fully disconnecting,” said Libby Rodney, The Harris Poll’s chief strategy officer and resident futurist, in a statement. “As we navigate an increasingly connected world, it’s crucial for individuals to set boundaries and for employers to support their employees in achieving a healthy work-life balance.”

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