Reflections by Sara Cook


Head of Operations, Sara Cook, shares her thoughts and reflections, following her first month working at Get the Gen

We all started somewhere…

Perhaps it’s the beginning of the New Year, perhaps it’s the start of a new chapter in my own career, but one month into my role at Get The Gen, I’ve been doing lots of reflection around starting points.

For some, that first step may be a launchpad into great things and bountiful future opportunities, for others it may be a false start that requires some adjustments before taking the next step. Regardless of how that panned out, we all had our first career step and no doubt it has, in one way or another, shaped who we are today.

I suppose we might choose to reflect on different starting points depending on the narrative we’re telling and the context within which we’re sitting.

Not ready to take on young people…

The experience I had through my own starting point, my first ‘proper’ job, after a string of retail and hospitality roles whilst studying, was one of the things that drove me to apply for the role at Get The Gen.

Employed through a local company in a scheme to support ‘underemployed young people’, the company I went into were simply not ready to take on young people, and had given no consideration to the support, structure and culture needed to ensure early years recruits thrive. Instead, I sat facing a wall with my desk positioned away from the rest of the team, with a boss who would look out of her office window sternly if she overheard too much talking. To be honest, it felt like going back to school, and as my first step into the world of work, it felt like a giant leap backwards.

Valuing the positive impact that young people provide…

On reflection, it was this experience which pushed me into the line of work I’ve dedicated myself to since leaving this ‘first proper job’ after 9 months. Since then, I’ve been driven to work with organisations who are values-led with a supportive, inclusive culture, and specifically those who understand and value the positive impact that young people, when positioned correctly, can have on an organisation.

I’m absolutely thrilled to now be advocating for this everyday with Get The Gen.

I’m now just over a month into my role as Head of Operations, and I’ve spent those weeks listening, learning, questioning and (although somewhat less than I’d like…) acting and implementing. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of our long-standing clients who see the value of the training and insights we share around how to embrace and build a cohesive multigenerational workforce.

It’s clear that many workplaces across the UK are becoming more comfortable in talking about various aspects of diversity and inclusion. However, it is interesting to observe that age diversity doesn’t usually form part of the standard conversation, and instead organisations expect to hire and retain a multigenerational workforce organically, and then everyone to just get on!

Changing the messaging…

This past month has opened my eyes around the need to change the messaging on this and just how universal this need is across public, private and third sector organisations.

On speaking to a friend who recently left her job as a Manager at a call centre after 8 years, and explaining my role at Get The Gen and our purpose as a social enterprise… She confessed that many of the reasons she resigned had been due to intergenerational tensions around ways of working, culture and values alignment. It wasn’t until I positioned the lens around generational stereotypes and some of the reasons those frustrations may have existed that she shared the prevalence of inter-team conflict, which could have been due to little more than generational divides.

Especially when the mission to find quality talent for employers is so fraught, it’s a pity to think these challenges could be ironed out through some practical, evidence-based learning from Get The Gen’s programmes.   

Recruiting and retaining young people

The importance in building a robust support structure for those taking their first steps into the working world comes into sharp focus when you consider the number of organisations who have taken on young people over the period of the last two years, especially due to the help of initiatives like the UK government-backed Kickstarter scheme.

However, through my own experiences and that of many others, we know that recruiting a young person and putting them through a brief ‘onboarding day’ is not enough.

Who is to say those young people are supported, encouraged, listened to and given the opportunity to thrive?

This is where employers have an obligation to ensure they are not just filling staffing gaps, but ensuring they do right by their teams to ensure they create an environment where everyone, regardless of age, experience or future ambition, has the opportunity to meaningfully contribute and, most importantly, acknowledges that…

The ‘one size fits all’ approach to working with others just doesn’t cut it any more!

This is where Get The Gen comes in…

We’ve been working with businesses across the UK and internationally, to consider the shift in mindset around recruiting and retaining a multigenerational workforce, specifically in the context of the changing world of work.

Now, I’m not going to be so condescending to tell you that the world of work has changed. We all know that and we’re currently living it.

But, the change is much more dramatic – and what we’re seeing is in fact the role of work within the world is changing. And what’s pushing that?

Well, the generational shift of our workforce is definitely playing its part, and this is a trend which has come into sharp focus as the pandemic amplifies the contract between perception and reality.

Developing a Gen Z workforce…

Especially amongst Millennials and Gen Z, there has been a blurring of lines between traditional ‘work’ and how people now choose to spend their time. This mindset is one which is in direct opposition to the approach of clocking in and out at the same hours every week, and prompts an important conversation around how teams and workforces come together when beliefs and expectations around work and it’s role are so opposed.

“One in four Gen Z employees would work harder and stay longer at a company with flexible schedules”

Kronos Incorporated Global Study into working generations

And on top of that a third of Gen Z would never tolerate an employer who gave them no say over their work schedule.

When you consider that many of these Gen Z workers will be line managed by a Baby Boomer, or a Millennial, how do we enable shared perspectives and understanding across reporting lines to create a culture and an environment which is meaningful to all?

If you’re interested in the answer, drop me a line and we can have a conversation…

What is certain is that organisations who acknowledge these challenges and face them head on will be the ones able to get ahead and support a continual, thriving workplace culture. Even just creating space to consider these concepts is a good pace to begin.

And if we accept that we all need to start somewhere, that’s as good a place as any.

Sara Cook –

Head of Operations

Find out more about Sara.