We’ve all heard the saying: “dress for the job you want” but how seriously do we consider our appearance at work and does it even matter?
There’s no denying that first impressions count, and this is especially true when starting a new career. According to research by Harvard Medical School, people assess your competence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds) – based solely on how you look. While your physical appearance was deemed less important than gravitas and communication skills, it’s the very first thing people see, which is why many of us believe that our looks are vital in determining the success of other aspects of our lives.
It stands to reason, then, that people with conditions affecting their appearance could feel this has an impact on the way they are perceived in the workplace. Research from Clinic Compare revealed that an estimated 27 percent of people suffering from hair loss in the UK said that it affected their self-confidence at work. Despite being a common condition, with an estimated three million sufferers in the UK alone, it seems the stigma of having a visible condition such as this is still an issue.
This seems to be especially true for women. The survey showed that 75 percent of men think it’s more embarrassing for women to hair loss than men and 88 percent of women agree – so how can we help those suffering from body hang-ups?
Appreciate everyone’s unique strengths
The arrival of millennials in the workplace has probably changed the dynamic of your workforce. Having a growing proportion of young tech savvy professionals may have caused older generations to be more self-conscious about their appearance, and for those seeking a promotion, it might even inject the notion that they can only progress to the next level if they are still viewed as being “in their prime”. A way to manage this is to reward employees with more experience for their long standing service to their business.
Millennials have grown up in the digital revolution and are likely more comfortable with a smart device then they are with a pen and paper. And as the world progresses deeper into the world of tech, it’s vital that you praise every employee’s specific strengths. Older generations may not have digital experience, however they do have a wealth of other experiences which are critical for the success of any business.
Organisations need a wide range of employees to stay ahead; no company can afford not to have the best talent and this is a combination of generation X, Y and Z. We all have unique talents, but by focusing on the contribution that everyone makes you are placing your employees on an even level – where age and appearance are irrelevant.
Have a realistic dress code
Depending on what industry you work in (i.e. police, air stewardess, and lab technician) you may already have a standard set uniform that comes with the role. However, if you don’t, remember to set realistic and consistent guidelines. Not everyone will be born with a natural sense of fashion so by suggesting something simple like ‘everyone should wear a smart jacket to meetings’ you level the playing field and keep a consistent look for your company.
Alongside this, it is vital that you enforce the same dress code for the whole company (not one rule for directors and another for juniors). This will demonstrate the lack of hierarchy and, in turn, make appearance less important when trying to climb the ladder.
Your employees are the heart and soul
The success of a company lies with its employees. They are the heart and soul of your business, and without them it would be impossible to operate. Therefore it is imperative that you have employees that reflect your company culture. One factor that employers consider when hiring a new employee is the personality they need to mould within the company’s fabric and within the team.
Draw the company closer together by conveying the value that each personality brings. By doing so you’re diminishing the importance of a person’s exterior appearance and appreciating their inner personality. Set a company example by holding a social events and rewarding the business as a whole for hitting key targets or doing exceptionally well. This will emphasise the idea of a family unit and the unique individuals that contribute to it.
Career progression should always be based on aptitude, work ethic and experience, and while dress code may play a minor role, it is not the determining factor. A way to ensure that your employees aren’t competing based on appearance (or age) is to convey what little importance it has.