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The art of listening

Youngsters will soon start mentoring their seniors. The objective: How to listen to GenY.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: September 19, 2010

More than half of Ruchi Mann's co-workers are less than 27 years old and at least half of them are women. Yet, Mann, 26, is in a minority - 90 per cent of the leaders in her organisation are GenXers, over 28 years of age. Still, in the three years she's been at American Express India, Mann, a communications specialist, has seen the organisation turn itself 180 degrees almost, all to accommodate its young workers.

"The biggest inhibitors of innovation are the leaders," says Pradeep Kapur, Regional Vice President and GM, World Service India. "The older generations need to learn a lot more to deal with GenY." The company plans a "reverse mentoring" programme that will have GenYers teach GenXers new tricks.

For his part, Kapur has learnt to listen. The need for career progression and fun at the workplace came as no surprise in a survey Amex conducted about a year ago. The desire among employees for flexibility on office hours did. Mann, who works from home once a week, says: "The need for a flexible work environment has become extremely visible now and I like every bit of it."

But, yes, you need to walk the talk, as Kapur discovered early in 2009 when Amex started a healthy living drive. Kapur smoked 10-15 cigarettes a day. He quit smoking; so did nearly a third of the smokers in Amex India. Listening helped, says Kapur, beaming.

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