Category Archives: Performance assessment

Makeup: A career issue for both men and women!

How makeup is impacting the workplace
I was facilitating a meeting in Paris last week and one delegate asked about women, makeup and career advancement. There wasn’t time to go into it in detail – but we were obviously in France where the grooming benchmark is particularly high. As I was still recovering from surgery and leading the meeting on one crutch (not the height of chic) and struggling to stay on my high heels, I possibly may not have been a convincing fashionista. In fact had I not been wearing makeup, combined with my crutch, I suspect para medics might have been put on alert.

Visual world
There is much research to suggest that basic looks, appearance and grooming lead to more rapid promotions and higher salaries. We live in a visual world where appearances matter. However, just to focus on one tiny aspect of the lookism and appearance issue, is the application of makeup that critical to career success? There is strong empirical evidence to suggest there is a connection for women.

Make up = making an effort
In fact,a recent survey, commissioned by The Aziz Corporation, reveals new information about appearance in the workplace. A survey reported in The Times also suggests that 64 per cent of directors considered women who wore make-up look more professional and 18 per cent of directors said that women who do not wear make-up “look like they can’t be bothered to make an effort”. As a career coach I would advise any woman to focus on overall professional grooming and that would include sector appropriate make-up. In a general professional sense all women are advised to wear light make up. A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetics Science in 2006 on Caucasian women has found that people judge women wearing cosmetics as higher earners with more prestigious jobs

Claire Soper an Image Consultant based in Brussels told me ” Without doubt make-up is part of your professional dress and is as important as your outfit. It must be appropriate and well applied and if you wear none, you look under dressed. A well-groomed look sends a positive message about who you, your capabilities and potential. Think about how you are perceived if you wear none? Believe it or not you could be sending signals that you are disorganized, uninterested and unable to cope and you need to be aware of this. We can control the way we look but not how people perceive us and our professional dress, the impact our image makes has a massive impact on our chances of promotion and career advancement. Know that internal career progression is based 50% on image!”

According to the Mail Online, the average British woman spends £9000 in a lifetime on makeup. Given that women are the greatest global consumer group, I’m assuming the minute they start feeling OK with their faces, bodies and general appearances whole industry sectors would simply disappear. It would seem that there are certain economic imperatives for us all to feel insecure about our appearance and therefore spend huge sums striving for improvement.

However in light of Josef Ackmerman’s CEO of Deutsche Bank’s suggestion that women would  “add colour to the boardroom“, a major faux pas, how and where do we we start overturning traditional stereotypes? Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Member of the European Party retorted pretty promptly “If Mr Ackermann wants more color in the management board, he should hang pictures on the wall.”

Claire adds “If you look capable, motivated and interested you stand a better chance of getting the promotion. It’s about releasing your potential. Many people’s careers are blocked simply because of the way they dress and women in particular, can gain authority and credibility by wearing make-up so they are perceived as somebody worth listening to.

The male view
Further research from The Aziz Corporation would indicate that men are also changing their perceptions about personal grooming. According to a study a carried out by Opinion Research, cited in the Mail Online – there is a sharp rise in male attention to makeup, with 20% admitting to wearing it to work.

William, a Senior Partner in an international law firm told me ” we live in such a “lookist” society that of course I use men’s grooming products. Men have to make sure their grooming assistance is not obvious. Women are actually lucky in this area because they can hide and enhance certain aspects of their appearance with makeup. At one time men as they got older, were deemed distinguished and women were simply “older”. Now it’s changing. If a man obviously wore make-up, it would probably be professional suicide. Most of the well-groomed women I know in their 50s, look way better than their male counterparts. An increasingly number of men in my circle have had cosmetic surgery to maintain a more youthful appearance, because they see it as a professional advantage .” Nip/tucking does indeed seem a bit drastic, when a quick dab of YSL Touche Eclat might do the trick. Guys – here’s how!

So I wondered, thinking that through, is it really better to be in a lower earning junior position, looking younger, wearing full make-up , than being a senior partner, on a great salary, looking his age? “That’s the irony” said Tom ” women are penalised for not wearing make-up and men would be penalised for doing so

So is it time to let go of our stereotypes and if women want to go to work without their “faces” and men want to head for the cosmetic counter, or will light makeup eventually be recommended for both sexes to enhance career prospects? Should any of it make a difference to the way we’re perceived in the workplace?

What do you think?

Why onboarding is vital


And why probationary periods are Ok
So you’ve  created a winning resume,  negotiated any number of telephone screenings, sailed through all the face to face interviews, maybe even  aced the behavioral tests.  Finally you are opening that coveted offer letter.   Your heart races as you realise you’ve landed a great job, maybe a salary increase and fantastic future career opportunities.

But one phrase stands out, casting  a dark shadow over a great moment  ” subject to the satisfactory completion of a x month probationary period”   

What does this mean?
This pretty much means what it says. Before your contract will be definitively confirmed,  you need to successfully complete a x month trial period. Does this mean that you will be giving up a job for a position that isn’t necessarily secure?  Well, yes actually it does.

But before you get into a flat spin let’s take a closer look. Hiring companies invest thousands of dollars/euros/pounds in a selection process.   There will also be an impact on revenue during the period the position is open and in any subsequent onboarding  process which can take up to a year.  The company want you to hit peak efficiency as early as possible and should be doing everything they can to make sure that happens.

According to research by the Wynhurst Group ,  new employees who go through a structured on-boarding programme are  58% more likely to be with the organization after three years and the cost of losing an employee in the first year is estimated to be at least three times their salary.

Worst case scenario
So no one wants you to leave!  You will also have left a job and  probably don’t fancy the idea of unemployment appearing in  your  short-term future. So both parties are heavily invested in making sure that the appointment and transition period are successful.

What is being catered for is a worst case scenario which allows all involved an easier exit strategy with a specified notice period. It is usually more about cultural and team fit than core competencies, those indefinable and intangible things that come about when people interact with each other in any relationship or organisation. It’s a bit like dating – without being dumped overnight.

What is onboarding  ?
Wally Bock suggests  somewhat cynically that  the term onboarding  has been  made up by people  ”  ..who revel in jargon…. it means many different things to different people  …who have different ideas about where it starts and ends and what is and isn’t included  ..”

That’s certainly true.  Essentially it is the process that will accelerate the new employee’s learning curve and increase the chances of early effectiveness and productivity for the new hire and also reduce the possibility of early attrition ( biz speak for you resigning). Where it starts and finishes will vary from one organisation to another and  for some companies includes the interviewing and hiring process.  On arrival the new appointee should be given detailed information not only about the location of the coffee machine,  stationery cabinet and the position they’ve just accepted, but also key company information,  as well as insights into corporate culture, ethics and vision.

Jane Perdue,  CEO of the Braithwaite Group told me that in her corporate HR days,  programmes could last 1 week or 6 months depending on the level of the position  “ the perspective was to teach culture, process, procedure and not let the water cooler conversations be the only introduction that new folks receive.”

Hiring phase
In an ideal world employers will have covered many of the issues that  could result in early attrition in the pre-offer stage, through clear and open communication to avoid any surprises, or worse still, shocks.  At the point of making an offer , the hiring management team should have examined the fit of the new appointee,   not just with the profile, but with the new boss and the existing team.  Plans should have been made to fill any anticipated  skill set gaps.

The existing team
The arrival of a new team member or even boss, also causes the existing team members to be in transition, so any impact on that dynamic should also be appraised. Any anticipated repercussions both positive and negative have to be factored in. This is a bit like bringing a new baby home! Some ” family ” members will adapt quickly, others may take longer and sometimes some members may not like the fact that the “baby” is there at all and react badly. Ideally contingency plans will be in place and the situation reviewed regularly, so that early steps can be taken to resolve any issues.

So what should be clear to both parties?

  •  A job description should exist with defined, achievable goals.
  •  The review method should be stated and transparent with regular review periods and clear feedback.
  •  Reporting lines should be outlined and all parties involved in the review process will be clear.
  • Methods of preferred communication should be made clear. If there is  a flat, open door,  informal culture then new hires need to know that. If the line mangers prefer written reports and formally scheduled interviews that needs to be clear too.
  • A mentoring structure should exist either internally or through the provision of an external coach.
  • Provision should be made to cover any periods of sickness.

Wally adds sagely ” We know that their first impressions of our shop are going to be important and lasting. So we want to make the process of getting hired, joining the company, and becoming a productive member of it as effective and seamless as possible. I just don’t know what parts of that constitute “onboarding”

Possibly all of it!  A successful onboarding process should provide an opportunity to align the expectations of all the players for the best possible outcome for all concerned.

Everyone should be happy! Right?