York College of Pennsylvania recently conducted a survey of 400 U.S. HR managers to better understand professionalism in recent university graduates. To be a professional in the workplace, an employee should demonstrate these qualities:
- Work until a task is completed competently
- Interpersonal skills including civility
- Appropriate appearance
- Punctuality and regular attendance
- Communication skills
An extension of defining the qualities of a professional is describing the qualities associated with being unprofessional. Here too, the findings have been consistent. The unprofessional employee is characterized most often by these qualities:
- Inappropriate appearance
- Poor work ethic
- Sense of entitlement
- Disrespectful and rude
- Lack of time management
The sad fact is that many recent graduates are not professional in behaviour or appearance. According to my friends still in the work world, and to the York College study, this appears to be getting worse. I don’t know if this is the classic older generation the believes the younger generation doesn’t get it, or if there is truly a problem. I do know that my current students need much more direction and hand holding than even five years ago.
Most interesting in the York study, 32.7% of respondents felt that parents were responsible for teaching professionalism, while 32.2% felt that higher education should be teaching professionalism. Many of my friends are surprised that we need to teach this at all. Meantime productivity issues continue to mount, with reports in the U.K. of 15% white-collar productivity declines, attributed to technology distractions such as social media.
In an era where competition is accelerating, jobs are scarce and the world is meaner, professionalism and work ethic can differentiate strong from average performers. Whether or not we like it, professional behaviour matters.
Part of leadership is role modelling the behaviour you want to see in others. Ask yourself whether you are demonstrating the work ethic and professionalism you want to see in your organization. If not, what are you going to do about it?
Source: York College of Pennsylvania (2013). Polk-Lepson Research Group York, Pennsylvania. http://www.ycp.edu/offices-and-services/academic-services/center-for-professional-excellence/2013-professionalism-study/