Teaching the Value of Work


By Phil Harwood

Employers today are recognizing that they are going to have to teach a new generation the value of work, a value that has eroded over the past several decades in our society. Far too many young people today are unprepared to work full-time on a regular basis, lacking a basic understanding of the value of work. Teaching the value of work may be a burden to employers but it is also a great opportunity.  

The reality is that work has value beyond simply producing income. Work keeps our minds sharp and our bodies fit, depending on the nature of the work. Work situations challenge us to apply our talents and to further develop ourselves. When we are working, we are sharpening ourselves and developing ourselves. This is true regardless of what type of work we are doing.

In my experience, I have seen an increasing percentage of young people who have not been taught the value of work. Those who have been taught are rockstars immediately. In some companies, just showing up for work every day makes one a rockstar.

I also understand how we got to this place. Here in the U.S., we have had decades of peace and prosperity. We have the luxury of being able to squabble over never-ending political positions. We have the financial ability to give our children that which previous generations could not. Unlike the selfless “Greatest Generation” willing to risk life and limb for the greater good, we’ve become a society willing to tear down each other for our own selfish interests.

Today’s young people grew up in a world vastly different than the world my generation grew up in. The information age has transformed how we work and play. In most arenas, intellect is valued over brawn. We send our children off to college, racking up massive student loans, without a career plan in mind. Did Johnny really spend 5 years at the university and take on $100,000 in debt to be a barista at Starbucks? I don’t think so. 

From my perspective, all work has value. No matter what the job is, there is value in doing it correctly. There is value in applying ourselves to the situation. There is value in giving our best effort. There is value in showing up every day, on time, ready to go. Do you agree with me? 

I grew up in a family business and was working at a young age, not because I was required to, but because there was an opportunity, it was interesting, and it was nice to have some spending money. While my friends were out goofing around, I was learning how to run equipment, fill orders, and make deliveries. I have to admit that I wasn’t always the greatest worker--I liked to goof around with my friends too--but the appreciation I gained for work at a young age has been a huge blessing to me throughout my career. 

My grandfather never retired. I see myself following in his footsteps. Retirement in the traditional sense doesn’t interest me. Although I actually did retire from my managerial career as a contractor, I have never stopped working. In fact, I have started or acquired four businesses since retiring. That’s the kind of work ethic I’m talking about. 

I also grew up playing sports and often heard a coach espousing some version of, “Leave it all on the field.” It simply means to give your best effort so that you have no regrets. If you fail to give it everything you have, you’re hurting yourself, your teammates, and everyone else involved (customers, community, and society in general). This is an important concept to train on. 

If you are in need of some resources to help develop your people, I invite you to check out GrowTheBench.com to discover on-demand education and professional development courses that are affordable for all. For a free 30-day trial, simply click here

Now go forth. 

Tags: college , Work Ethic , Retirement , Drive ,