Question: My Generation Z employees feel disconnected. How can I help?
This is the type of question that demands that I first declare a potential conflict of interest in the answer I will give below. I belong to the Baby Boomer generation, meaning that in practical Kenyan terms, I was born at a time that corresponds to the period just after the Second World War and the time of the struggle for independence. (1946-1964).
Most of us are either in retirement or are about to do so. It is during our heyday that we protested the Vietnam war and the family planning pill which was used extensively for the first time. Young men of my generation were truly rebellious, and we were the first generation to rebel against adult authority by, for example, smoking cannabis openly.
Looking now at Generation Z, one finds rather similar characteristics, in this group that is the age group of my granddaughter born between 1995 and 2012. Typically, these are the children born into the digital age and for whom no other lifestyle seems to make sense.
The first challenge you must deal with is the fact that the typical discussion about the generations is often about the young people and what typifies that generation. One, for example, will hear that GenZ is different from Generation Y in being more abstemious and risk-averse than their preceding generations which were more self-centered.
Each generation almost by definition has evolved to demonstrate this rebellion using “the tools” available in its days. In mine, it was a rebellion against the Vietnam war and the potential use of the Atom Bomb. For GenZ the same is not only expressed using the gadgets that they carry but is about those things that are most proximal to them such as climate change, LGBT rights as well as, and this is interesting, academic performance.
That said and just to complicate issues for you as you plan to deal with and perhaps understand this generation, you must remember that this is a very large segment of Kenyans which is different from the typical Gen Z described in America, India or China.
Culture in other words would not allow me to give you a direct answer to your question without emphasising the differences not only across international borders but also between social groups within the same country. A member of Gen Z living in an area where there has not been raining for the past four years would express their concern about the fact of climate change from an American looking for shelter from a hurricane.
It is therefore after considering all these factors that you will can decide how to handle the member of Gen Z before you. All I know as a member of my generation is that as we approach generation Alpha, more questions will arise as those before them struggle to find new ways of dealing with this new generation. Flexibility in your approach is the best advice I can give you.
Dr Njenga is a psychiatrist and mental health consultant who has authored several scientific papers and books.