What is Professionalism and how to Judge it?

Professionalism, a term commonly used for managers and has difficult meanings in the dictionary (Don’t even want to go through them). I derived a completely new definition of professionalism based on my experience. Ok, I know, many of you may not agree but this is the best definition to me and helps to keep my selection criteria clear and focused to my organizational goals. Initially I thought of it as “The ACT that makes the body or mind used to an activity and the experience leads to professionalism” But the new definition to me is “The ATTITUDE which consistently guides your activities and your conduct with the colleagues in the organization.” Those who doubt or want to add something more to this definition are welcomed.
Let’s stay focused to organizations while discussing professionalism. The trend has evolved completely. Formerly, the companies used to pick the candidates on the basis of their experience. The problem with the approach was that their results on those experiences were never evaluated. Today, it’s an entirely different story. Due to the presence of assessment tools, the process has become a bit irrational (what many of you might call) but holds objectivity. So now, a talent is preferred over experience.

Experience does not lead to professionalism; it is a prerequisite that only ENHANCES professionalism. Professionalism is an approach that is in the mind. The companies prefer hiring managers with inbuilt abilities and professional attitude towards work and work environment. Managers are least interested to waste time grooming the talent and making professionals. They prefer fine-tuning the talents already having a professional attitude and developing them to manage huge tasks in a short time span resulting in achieving the organizational goals faster.

Another point of concern is that the organizations want every department to have an ROI. So organizations now evaluate the hiring expenditure made by HR. Every HR department wants to be a profit center in this period of recession. Companies have shortened their training periods by picking the right talent and by assessing their abilities. As per HireLabs’ research, a company can develop a professional within 4 to 5 months. This is far easier as compared to hiring an experienced manager who is then resistant to changes and learning i.e. lacking professionalism.

To cut the long story short, since the definition to professionalism has changed, this has steered a call to change the entire selection and recruitment processes.

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Comment by Harry Urschel on November 4, 2009 at 11:12am
Good thought provoking piece Hassan. I think too often 'professionalism' is thought of as a single dimension (i.e. appearance, or communication skills, or structure, etc). However, I do believe professionalism is a composite of all those traits and more. Attitude is a critical component and often sets the tone for all the other traits. The willingness, and ability to learn and develop new skills is an outgrowth of a good attitude. Unfortunately for hiring managers, those less tangible and measurable characteristics often make it more difficult to accurately assess a candidate.

Thanks for the contribution!

Harry Urschel
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on November 4, 2009 at 8:30pm

Thanks, an interesting perspective on professionalism. Making it the key to the recruitment process brings an interesting challenge with it. Whilst experience enhances it, you are quite right that the approach or attitude defines the perception of professionalism.

I tend to divide general competence - be it technical, interpersonal, business or leadership - into three levels:
(1) Operational
(2) Professional
(3) Expert

Based on this, as cooking shows tend to be the flavour of the month at the moment, a young chef with the right attitude can be developed into a true professional. But a lot of people get stuck at the operational level, due to their attitude and approach. How people deal and cope with change is fundamental to their own personal growth.

Moving to being recognised as a true expert is another story, as we have seen by watching celebrity chefs!

Best regards
Comment by Hassan Rizwan on November 5, 2009 at 2:12am
Thanks Harry for your positive feedback.
Charles you are always brilliant adding more and more to it. Thank you.
Comment by Dan Nuroo on November 5, 2009 at 8:24am
Professionalism is in the eye of the beholder, I really dislike the term because it gives visions of stuffy boring, uptight people.
Comment by Martin H.Snyder on November 5, 2009 at 1:55pm
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

Professionalism cannot be defined- its like beauty: you know it when you see it. Too often it's a maladaptive shorthand that only enforces classism and local social morality. OTH its one of the highest accolades we confer on people....

Fuentes: You know, I-I'm a professional.
Creasy: That's what everybody keeps saying. "I'm just a professional". Everybody keeps saying that to me. "I'm just a professional", "I'm just a professional". I'm getting sick and tired of hearing that.

Man On Fire (2004)
Comment by Hassan Rizwan on November 6, 2009 at 1:26am
Thank you Dan and Martin for giving two more perspectives on Professionalism.


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