It’s time we redefined what professional means

When I set up Lightning Travel Recruitment I had a clear goal in mind: to consciously connect humans with businesses to help both thrive. What does that mean?

Essentially, it means recognising that candidates are more than the sum of their CVs and that businesses need more than an automaton to carry out the role, they need someone who will become a core part of the team.

In reality, no one can become a core part of any team if they are not able to be their authentic selves.

Making a difference:

Norms are changing and HR needs to up its game

The hidden tax on being different

Different strokes for different folks

Historically you’d have your in-work persona and your outside-work persona.

Increasingly the two are becoming one and the same.

This has been supercharged by our experiences during the pandemic.

We have become used to a different way of living and working which has been heavily influenced by the trauma of our way of life being shut down so dramatically.

This has impacted everything from the number of days we are willing to physically come into the office to the version of ourselves that we project when we get there.

Our understanding around mental health as well as neurodiversity and gender diversity has skyrocketed as the topics have entered into our virtual watercooler chat.

These once taboo conversations are now the cornerstone around which those more aware organisations are developing their employer brand in a bid to attract and retain the very best talent.

Because, as it turns out, the very best talent does not fit a particular mould, it is diverse in the way it looks and the way it behaves and crucially in the work it produces.

It turns out that, contrary to what our parents told us, there is absolutely no correlation between how someone presents themselves and their ability to do a good job.

In fact, the more employers allow their staff to be their authentic selves, the more likely they are to want to do a good job.

It’s also important to realise that the notion of what does and what does not constitute 'professional' can be a way for unconscious bias to show up in the workplace.

And when this does happen it tends to be directed at those who are different, resulting in them being overlooked.

In addition to an increase in understanding around our own needs as employees, we have also become more aware of the role that employers have to play in ensuring their workforce feels seen and valued.

Fortunately this has had a direct knock-on effect with employers also acknowledging that they have a responsibility to provide a better working environment than ever before, rather than assuming candidates will just be grateful to have a job.

Of course, the skills shortage has had a very real impact on businesses and the reality is that candidates have more sway than they ever had in the past, placing the ball very firmly in their court.

This has empowered the individual, making employees feel more comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.

We see this both literally, as shirtsleeves are rolled up revealing tattoos, and piercings are put back in during the workday, and figuratively, as candidates feel more comfortable revealing some of the less visible challenges they may be facing.

We have started a meaningful open conversation around how professional looks and behaves and our parameters are finally beginning to shift.

This has been further boosted by the increased focus on ED&I, something I am hugely passionate about.

I dedicate much of my time to working with companies and shaking them out of their dull, grey, binary mindset when it comes to recruiting top talent.

As an out, non-binary female presenting individual with ADHD, I am probably as far removed from the stale image of the traditional employee as it is possible to get.

I would love to see the word professional redefined entirely, basing it not on the aesthetic, the way people act or look, but what an employee is able to bring to the workforce in their unique ways and who they know themselves to truly be.

We need to celebrate diversity, support authenticity and thrive in inclusivity and make our workplace an environment where everyone can thrive.

Chris King is CEO at Lightning Travel Recruitment