Learning & Development

How to Teach the Basics of Professionalism

HR professionals have probably seen it all, including those employees that come off as less than professional. Their unprofessional behavior might have no bearing on their skills and knowledge, but you might not put them in front of a customer. Luckily, a skill like being professional can be taught.

An article in the Association for Talent Development by Pamela Eyring looks at five key aspects of professionalism, which are simple and straightforward and can be taught to just about any employee—domestically and internationally.

Body Language

Body language is key to first impressions. When you first meet someone, if he or she is slouching or standing too casually, you’ll quickly get the impression that he or she isn’t interested or that he or she is being dismissive.

Raising, or rolling, eyes also conveys the feeling of derisiveness. Folded arms convey disagreement. And on and on. There are many ways that we both communicate—and interpret—communication based on face and body signals.

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Introductions

How we greet people is another big factor in that first impression that drives so much of how we perceive each other. “The most important thing to remember is to know how to correctly introduce yourself and others, and always demonstrate proper forms of address,” writes Eyring “Formalities are especially important internationally, and you will never be incorrect with a formal demeanor.”

Business Card Etiquette

The giving and receiving of business cards is an almost ceremonial process in the United States and globally. Knowing the proper etiquette around business cards will go a long way in ensuring your employees don’t commit an easily avoidable faux pas.

Appearance

How often have we heard that someone does or does not look professional? Appearance is a key aspect of how we are perceived, for good or bad. “Dressing to professional standards demonstrates an important level of respect and understanding that’s extremely critical to making a good first impression,” says Eyring.

What’s “professional”? That depends, but it’s something that your organization should clearly convey to employees through both policy and the example set by senior leaders and managers.

e-Etiquette

Just because communication happens online doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to follow the basic rules of etiquette that face-to-face or voice-to-voice encounters demand. An e-mail to a colleague or customer isn’t the same as a text message to a friend. Avoid slang and being too familiar and casual.

Many companies offer guidelines and templates to employees for writing e-mails that are professional and contain the pertinent information that recipients may need—e.g., title, phone, address.

Every company wants its employees to be seen and perceived as professional. And while it might seem like some employees simply aren’t and never will be professional, there are some simple tips that can help change perceptions of any employee.

Importantly, don’t leave professionalism to chance. Clearly convey to employees what your expectations are for their performance in the workplace and when interacting with customers, clients, and vendors.