First, I believe we have to answer what defines success to the generations we want to attract. Is it earnings, title, time with a company, or being a team player at the expense of the individual? The answers will always vary based on the foresight of the person asked. As we reflect on the job market and trending over the last several years, I believe the current answer lies within the younger generations entering the workplace.
The Millennials (1977-1995), and the Centennials (1996-TBD) are redefining what workplace success looks like and only select companies are creating an environment to attract the most talented of the groups. There were many in Generation X (1965-1976) that just missed the boom era of the 1990’s and early 2000’s and has had the experience of watching their parent’s material definition of success be crushed by the great recession of 2007. While material mattered, it quickly became immaterial and years of disciplined savings vanished in an instant. As a result, Generation X was left waiting on the older generations who had to stall retirement due to the markets devastating effects on the individual. This mentality led Generation X to become a parent of future generations with mixed values and changing views on what defined success. The result is what we see entering the workplace today.
Therefore, based on my experience working and interacting with the younger generations, I believe the current definition of success through this new pair of glasses is self-awareness, community, and finding meaning and passion in work. While this sounds like something that would be easy to find it is seldom seen in the workplace. When it is you immediately know it.
Personally, when I think of success I think of failure. It is through failure; I have learned the most valuable lessons about who I am and what I am capable of achieving. In 2017, I trained for my first marathon. The training was so intense during the humid summer months in Georgia that runs would often end in chills and vomiting. I wanted to give up so many times, but could see the finish line and the day I crossed it in the hometown where I grew up and had registered to race.
During these times of self-doubt and perceived failure was where I reflect and see success was achieved. It was learning to listen to my heart more than my head and blocking out the worldly noise that limits capabilities. The environment we grow up in and create often defines us. Those that see this and break through the barriers are the definition of success to me. We all have something inside us that comes out in the most challenging times. Find this and you will find personal fulfillment/success.
The race changed my life forever. At mile eighteen individuals were literally falling out on the side of the road with paramedics at their side. Would this be me? At mile twenty three I ran by my grandmothers house as we re-entered the downtown area. This moment sent a surge of determination and strong emotions as I reflected on life and family. I knew nothing would stop me now…success was found in the failure, connection, and emotion leading up to and in this moment.
In closing, I believe the answer to the question is to encourage failure more often and create an environment that accepts and even welcomes it with public recognition of failure being a mark of success. As a result, the younger generations will achieve their definition of success earlier in life. This environment will complement many of their desires to be a part of something bigger than just the stereotypical definition of material success. This is what the youth in the workplace need and it is earned through learning to fail in order to succeed with a level of encouragement and acceptance hard to find in today’s work environment.