According to research conducted by the US Department of Commerce, first generation college students experience unique challenges during their academic lives. Simplified reasoning chalks it up to the lack of differing collegiate opportunities for students from that of their parents.
However, these barriers can provide first generation students with lessons that may not be common for other students. The skills acquired by these students will benefit them as first generation professionals (FGPs). While they may still face individual career obstacles, it’s important that they aren’t overlooked during your recruiting efforts. FGPs can add unique perspectives and help your business portray its willingness to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). DE&I is becoming so important, in fact, that 70% of candidates prefer to work for a company with demonstrated commitment.
Here are some of the most impactful ways to support first generation professionals in their careers and beyond.
A study published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows first generation professionals rated almost every statement lower than non-FGPs including, “My personality type is valued,” “I have access to ,” “I feel comfortable talking about my family and personal life,” and “My unique skills are valued and utilized.”
FGPs are known to overcome obstacles and building a career for themselves. If you want these employees to strengthen your organization culturally, they must feel engaged and that it is worth their time and energy to stay (aka. retention).
As the leader of your business, it’s important to give FGPs access to higher-level employees and learning opportunities to help bolster their networks with influential individuals and provide exposure to real-life workplaces situations.
Set Professional Goals
First generation professionals have already accomplished so much. They have earned the title of first in their family to get a degree, and now, start a career. Be sure to encourage your FGP employees to strive for even more and set career goals.
Whether it be a promotion or to help the company with new initiatives, FGPs need to be made aware that they have the full support of your business.
You also need to keep on top of their goals to gain insight as to how you can help them surpass any roadblocks they may face. To do so, conduct regular employee evaluations with the help of an employee evaluation form template.
Follow First, Lead Second
The phrase is common: be a leader, not a follower. In many cases, this is true. However, first generation professionals have so much to learn about the workplace, workforce, and the many industries they are working in.
It is imperative that you become not just a leader for them, but a teacher and a mentor. Teach FGPs about the unwritten rules of business, like things you shouldn’t speak about in the workplace and how to properly dress for engagements. Teach them about negotiating and decision-making in sticky situations. If possible, consider implementing programs for FGPs that provide critical information and resources to help them thrive.
Beyond business, teach them about financial literacy and provide resources to help them with retirement planning, such as an Employer’s Guide to 401(k).
Assess Workplace Culture
In order to support a more inclusive workplace, you need to take a harder look at the type of culture promoted within the workplace.
For example, recruiting a higher number of FGPs will require the team to take into account the various backgrounds and religious beliefs associated with this group of individuals. During an employee’s onboarding, detail what forms of paid time off you offer and other benefits or reasonable accommodations that may be provided. PTO will provide FGPs and non-FGPs the time they need to observe holidays and other cultural events.
Furthermore, you want to stay ahead of employee burnout for all workers. Employees who are energetic, excited to work, and buy in to your company’s mission will make for a happier and more productive workforce. If you need further assistance managing your human resources efforts, including attracting and retaining first generation professionals, consider working with a professional employer organization (PEO). As experts in the HR field, a PEO can provide great value when it comes to making backend decisions for your business.