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Human Resource Management: Good Looks, Nice Voice, Lousy Product

It has become part of modern business language that employers recruit staff in some sectors who have the right attitude in face-to-face interactions or 'smile' down the telephone rather than have well-developed technical skills. Several projects led by Nickson and Warhurst have investigated this issue in the retail sector, both in the UK and in Australia. They report that workers are being selected on the basis of their looks and clothes or their voices. This is referred to as 'the commercial utility of aesthetic labour', where image and design pervade the new economy. For example, about three-quarters of the Manchester retailers and nearly 90% of the Sydney employers surveyed rated appearance as very important or essential. Specifically, this related to personal hygiene and general tidiness, clothing style and personal grooming. This was argued to be important to maintain brand image. Interestingly, having the right personality and appearance were rated much higher than prior experience or qualifications. Warhurst et al (2011) conclude that 'as employer strategies to control workers' feelings complement strategies to control workers' heads, these are now complemented by other strategies centred on controlling workers' bodies'. The implication of this is that certain people who are overweight or speak in the wrong dialect may be excluded from an increasing range of employment opportunities.


Sources: Adapted from Warhurst and Nickson (2007); Warhurst et al (2011).


 


Questions to Answer:


  • Does it make sense to focus so much on attitudes and appearance rather than technical skills, or do you think the latter can be taught effectively once people have been appointed? What would the person specification contain? Do you find this approach discriminatory in any way?


  • How can we reduce unconscious bias in recruitment & selection Process?

(CIPD report on Unconscious Bias) Report URL: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8f60ifyg78vy84m/a-head-for-hiring_2015-behavioural-science-of-recruitment-and-selection_tcm18-9557%20%282%29.pdf?dl=0

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Human Resource Management: Good Looks, Nice Voice, Lousy Product It has become part of modern business language that employers recruit staff in some...
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