In the past, “business” style meant a fairly formal dress code, with minor variations for “business casual” attire. For most corporate roles, this dress code included two branches: male and female.
- Neatly trimmed hair and beard
- No jewelry but a single wedding band
- Suit and tie, or at least slacks, button-up, and tie
- Dress shoes
- Neatly styled hair either down around shoulders or in an up-do
- Single pair of stud earrings and two rings (which could include a wedding band and engagement ring)
- Dress suit with a skirt, button-up, and blazer, or dress under a blazer
- Heels and stockings
These standards were in place for many years before new generations began to speak out on the inherent biases and prejudices built into these requirements. As we continue our Know Better, Do Better series, we’d like to look at how diversity and inclusion strategies helped shape the idea of “professionalism.”
BIPOC changes to professional fashion
For a long time, BIPOC workers weren’t counted in the field of professionalism, mainly regarding their dress and hair. Ethnic hairstyles like braids, cornrows, afros, and styled cuts, though culturally more acceptable, weren’t as acceptable within white-collar workspaces. Body types that were hypersexualized in media needed to be camouflaged and hidden to be considered acceptable in the office. Generation X, flowing into Millennials and Gen Z, changed the landscape. Working only for money wasn’t good enough anymore; it wasn’t worth being unhappy and forcing oneself into a box.
The “natural hair, don’t care” ethos expanded into widespread opposition to the cultural discrimination built into the philosophy that these hairstyles weren’t acceptable. Colors, kinky coils, big hair, and fabulous designs didn’t affect someone’s ability to do their job well. Progressive companies joined these movements, celebrating diversity and inclusion while expanding on their employee handbooks and requirements, directly influencing employee satisfaction in the workplace.
BIPOC-centered operational changes are a direct result of experience becoming the primary differentiator in not only consumerism but employee experience as well. Employees’ expectations have changed in a post-pandemic world defined by the “Great Resignation” and quiet quitting, illustrating employees’ power over organizations. BIPOC workers changed the idea of what was acceptable, and didn’t stop at their own protected classes.
Outsider changes to professional fashion
The outsider, nerd, geek, outcast—whatever the name they’ve gone by over time—is no longer out of the loop. (Yay!) The culture of normalizing differences has led to an influx of people being comfortable in their skin without worrying about how they will be perceived. Henry Cavill built a gaming PC during the lockdown, and the Superman actor shared how much of a comic fan he was. This overjoyed fans further when he was named the titular character in The Witcher. Jack Black danced in joy for being a part of the new release of FNAF (Friday Nights at Freddy’s), a horror game with an occult following and massively debated lore.
No longer could being oneself be ignored or stifled, even at work. The boundary between personal and professional branding was thinning, with many companies even scanning through potential employees’ social media during the hiring process. This further affected the definition of professionalism. DEI efforts now include not encroaching on someone’s sense of self and determining their work ethic simply by how they looked. Tattoos, piercings, interest paraphernalia, and colors are not the same detriment to hiring the way they once were.
Generational changes to professional fashion
One can’t talk about changes in philosophies and strategies without acknowledging generational changes. “Okay, Boomer” is a regular response from Millennials and Zoomers when it comes to what they perceive as outdated and “canceled” ways of thinking. These generations took the in-your-face revolutionary ideals of Gen X and mobilized them with social media power and celebration of the unique. They wouldn’t be silenced or ignored because of their age, nor would they allow anyone to make them feel less important in any way.
Through their fight, organizations had to change or risk employee churn, not attracting this amazing class of talent, or not resonating with these eventual consumers. It’s a moment where customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) have come together to provide the best experiences possible. These changes have led companies to realize their consumers can one day become employees, and many of their employees are also consumers. Understanding people and their needs is what matters the most.
A final word about the changes
While these changes have been amazing, molding new business strategies and innovation, employee experience and satisfaction all starts with listening to feedback first. Truly understanding people’s expectations, their needs, and how to solve their problems is the most direct path to success for any business. These changes are signs that customers and employees expect more from their companies and the birth of social media has ensured authenticity reigns supreme. Make sure you’re listening and making smart decisions based on actionable data!
Now is the best time to get feedback from your customers and employees with powerful analytics to drive action. Don’t know where to start? We’re here to support your efforts!