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Hot topic: should beauty matter at work?

David Woods , 04 Apr 2012

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The London Olympics are almost here, with thousands of people expected to visit the capital.

The London Olympics are almost here, with thousands of people expected to visit the capital. These tourists, ranging from families to CEOs, will be staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and drinking in bars, placing hospitality in the spotlight. Staff in this sector will represent the UK. Image will be a key criterion, but is it time for employers to be more open-minded when recruiting? Should they place attitude, cultural fit and the ability to deliver excellent service above how an individual looks?

Andrew Stones, operations director at Be at One

We don't employ team members based on their experience or what they look like, but on how their personality can contribute to our business.

Our aim is to serve consistently high quality drinks, to a varying number of guests through knowledge of products, skills and interaction. We train every bartender we employ for eight weeks, at a cost of £5,000 per person and this means we can concentrate on employing the right people before teaching them everything they need to know to be a great bartender.

If we were to judge applicants based on what they look like, in terms of whether or not they have tattoos, a funky haircut or piercings, we could potentially lose out on some personalities in our business. While we have guidelines on personal hygiene and uniform standards, we want our team members to express themselves and live and breathe our values without censoring them, as they are the most important people in our business.

Helen Flint, development director at Learnpurple

In an ideal world, employers would recruit regardless of image, looking solely at attitude and cultural fit. If these things aren't there, it's unlikely an employee will be engaged and progress. Many successful brands take this approach. Hawksmoor restaurants' style is cool, casual yet professional; staff wear jeans and having piercings and tattoos on show is what makes it unique.

Organisations invest in creating brands and protecting integrity. It's hard not to consider expressions of individuality. The question is whether this individual and their image match your brand. The Hawksmoor example wouldn't work in a five star hotel such as The Berkeley. These types of organisation choose to be more specific with the appearance they're after. The green-haired guy's appearance would have to change to fit the presentation code. That's a matter of choice.

A realistic option is one where expectations around image are explained, and there are guidelines or a framework to follow.

 

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