A common criticism of managers around the country is a perceived lack of professionalism among employees. As Pamela Eyring writes for the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, the principles of professionalism are what distinguishes individuals and companies from their competitors. Understanding the fundamentals of business protocol and professional etiquette is more important than ever in our constantly evolving, multicultural workforce.”
Eyring points to five specific elements of what she sees as key indicators of professionalism.
1. Body Language
So much of communication is nonverbal, and body language is a key component of this nonverbal communication. Looking too relaxed or casual, for example, can send the wrong message when meeting with a potential customer for the first time.
First impressions matter, and the most immediate impression most people will have of someone is when he or she is introduced. It’s key to make sure everyone in the group is greeted and acknowledged and that employees being introduced properly identify themselves and their roles within the organization.
3. Business Card Etiquette
Particularly for younger employees, business cards can seem a bit archaic, but they are still very heavily used around the world, and it’s a common expectation to give and receive business cards. Even in an age of advanced technology, having a tangible card with someone’s title and contact information can be very convenient.
It’s simple to say that appearance is an important element of professionalism, but different industries and different situations impose different standards. For example, the standards for appropriate attire can be vastly different in a financial institution relative to a tech company.
As more and more communication moves online, it’s sometimes easy for people to overlook basic formalities. Just because a message is sent via e-mail or text doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t still adhere to basic rules of professionalism and etiquette.
While technical aptitude and other “hard skills” are certainly important in the business world, employers are increasingly putting a strong emphasis on so-called soft skills, as well. Hard skills may be necessary in many positions, but they are not always sufficient for an employee to reach the next level. The concept of professionalism is a key example. Eyring’s article highlights five specific aspects of professionalism, but there are, of course, many more, and different industries and different situations will require different elements of professionalism.