Talent has always mattered in retail, but today it matters more than ever and in more ways than ever. Credit the blistering pace of change that has accelerated throughout the world of grocery to the point where words such as “innovation,” “disruption” and “transformation” are now a familiar part of the industry’s vocabulary.
This dynamic environment requires that companies employ talented leaders with diverse skill sets to manage familiar as well as a growing number of new types of challenges. This reality was evidenced by the unprecedented number of submissions that Progressive Grocer received for our annual GenNext Awards program. The large number of nominees is testament to the fact that many individuals distinguished themselves during a year in which the food and consumables industry dealt with ongoing pandemic challenges.
To determine this year’s GenNext recipients, we reached out with a simple ask of the industry: “Do you know an innovator, disruptor or difference-maker having an impact on their organization, the industry and colleagues, someone who possesses that “it” factor that’s hard to describe but that sets them apart as a next-generation industry leader?”
The answer was an enthusiastic “yes” from all quarters, with retailers, suppliers and solution providers sharing inspiring stories that made so many individuals worthy of the GenNext distinction. We ended up recognizing 90 of the industry’s best and brightest under the age of 40 who possess a combination of the following traits:
- A high level of commitment to a career in the food retailing industry and the communities their companies serve.
- Innovative thinking and an ability to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities to serve shoppers more effectively.
- An ability to inspire others through actions, accomplishments, leadership and vision.
- A willingness to make an impact on the world beyond work through various types of community involvement.
The goal was to identify individuals capable of moving their companies, communities and the industry forward in a future of further change and emerging opportunities. That’s why we wanted to understand accomplishments and impact, and asked for examples in which a nominee demonstrated leadership, whether through innovation, interactions with others or by making difficult choices. Further, to gain a sense of the individual’s ability to inspire others, we asked what three words come to mind when thinking about a nominee’s leadership style, defining characteristics and accomplishments.
The words that came to mind for us were “optimistic,” “hopeful” and “encouraging.” Those are all variations on a theme of optimism, but it’s easy to feel good about where grocery is headed after reviewing this year’s GenNext Award winners and imagining their future accomplishments.
Check out the class of 2021 below, and see whether you agree.