How Do You Teach Professionalism in the Workplace?
Chances are, your organization has been impacted by the Great Resignation and the historic levels of new hires. This churning of the workforce has had an impact on culture. New hires bring enthusiasm, new skills, and innovative ideas to your teams, but many have limited professional experience. Many employers are challenged by a need to develop programs to develop professional behaviors and communication in their new teams.
The Covid-19 pandemic also changed how business was done. Workplace culture evolved as employers and employees welcomed each other into their homes via videoconferencing. Workers valued this new intimacy. For many, these more authentic relationships enhanced employee engagement. Few employees want to return to dated standards of professionalism, and doing so could backfire and decrease employee satisfaction. Your customers have changed too, and many welcome the cultural shift.
Each business is unique and must meet the needs of its customers. Every employee represents your company and must deliver the brand promise. While there is no one-size-fits-all definition of professionalism, there are some essential components. The building blocks of professionalism must include expectations for respectful communication, reliability, ability to meet or exceed expectations, and ethics. Other elements of professionalism are tied to the type of business and include dress, formality, and approachability.
Many of the behaviors we call professionalism are soft skills. For many supervisors, coaching and training employees in the soft skills of their profession is the most challenging. There are few objective standards of professionalism, and many supervisors are not prepared to coach employees on subjective performance standards. Concerns about how to best teach professionalism are not unfounded as culture is part of what defines the unique standards of professionalism.
The first step for initiating a professionalism training program is to define professionalism in terms of the post-covid reality and assess what behaviors and practices are in best alignment with your company values and will best meet your client’s needs. Often collaborating with a consultant will help your business define standards that genuinely reflect your organization and are not based on personal preference and habit.
The next step is to look at professionalism through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sometimes expectations for professionalism are set by the experience and expectations of the dominant cultural group in your organization. Narrow definitions of professionalism can exclude or marginalize people from diverse backgrounds. The best training programs will be able to weed out expectations that limit inclusions and reduce engagement. Professionalism should not be so narrowly defined that it excludes or marginalizes other groups. An effective program will teach professionalism while ensuring that people can express their culture.
Training is an effective way to teach professionalism, but much of the growth will come from ongoing mentorship and supervision. Develop your leadership and make sure there is a shared understanding of the professional expectations.
8 Tips for Teaching Professionalism
- Have uncomfortable conversations. If you shy away from the awkward conversation, you lose the opportunity to coach and mentor your employees.
- Embrace uncomfortable conversations. If you shy away from conversations about professionalism, you lose the opportunity to coach and mentor your employees, and morale and culture may be negatively impacted.
- Connect with compassion: Approach employees with compassion. Behavior, communication, and attire are all tied to a person’s sense of self, upbringing, and culture. Compassion will reduce the likelihood of your employee feeling shamed.
- Open two-way communication and partner with your employees to understand obstacles and identify solutions.
- Model the behaviors and communication you seek to develop in your teams.
- Identify clear standards. Photos, videos, and scripting can take away the guesswork.
- Provide a meaningful context that ties to the company culture, the customers you serve, and their values. Removing the appearance that these standards are arbitrary will increase buy-in.
- Help the employee understand how professional behavior benefits them. Professionalism is a factor in career advancement. Ethics and boundaries are essential for the kind of culture where employees thrive. When you teach your employees professionalism, you invest in their future success.
Contact Us Today
TANDIUM Corporation is a complete human resources service organization.
TANDIUM Corporation can be your partner in developing the professional skills of your employees. We can help you assess your culture and design modern standards that meet the needs of your organization while creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all employees.