For 10 years, I have to admit, I have loved What Not to Wear. I didn’t really love Season 1, actually. There was a different male host and the show was a little predictable. But Season 2 turned the corner. Men and women (okay, it’s been all women for the last six seasons) with varying fashion dilemmas are nominated by friends and family for a makeover. Seems classic, right? In many ways, you would be correct. So why with all of the other makeover shows that have come and gone, did #WNTW (oh yeah, I’m down with the hashtag) last for ten years?
In part, the hosts are hilarious. Stacy and Clinton, bravo. In part, too, it’s because there is the understanding that the clothes don’t make you feel something, but rather, who you are is highlighted by the clothes you wear. Personality, professionalism and passion all pour through your outfit. Silly? What does it say to you when someone highly qualified shows up to an interview with ripped jeans and a graphic T? Unless it’s Urban Outfitters or a company in your mom’s basement, you might be disappointed that this person did not think it worthwhile to dress accordingly. Clothes do make the man (or woman, as it may be), but the tactic of #WNTW is to do so as an output of who the person is.
The hosts spend time talking to family and friends. They ask the contributor what life has been like, where they want to go in the future personally, professionally, and how those around him/her can know those desires just by the contributor walking into the room. It’s not a clean shirt, trendy haircut and new lipstick kind of engagement.
We can do the same thing…not the wardrobe makeover part (I’ve seen what some of you wear and you’re lucky there won’t be an 11th year of What Not to Wear!), but a talent makeover. Some of the issues for our long-term employees are that they’ve done work a certain way for years and it’s tough to get them to try new ideas or new processes. Perhaps they used to try and it didn’t work out or the plans were too all over the place, so they don’t “waste their time.” They have gotten used to playing on the same swing set and don’t want to hear about the latest and greatest stuff. It’s very much like some of the contributors on the show. They are still wearing clothes from the 80’s and don’t know why they can’t get a date or that the dates they do get are psycho. They’re comfortable in what they know; “it’s worked for me” is a common phrase.
Let’s show them how valuable their experience can be in light of new understandings of production, marketing and technology. Let’s get them into a new “outfit” not because we want to make them look hip, but because it will allow people to engage with them quicker and find out what they know. Take the time to look at how things work in your place of employment. Do the seasoned employees hang out with each other exclusively? How will the younger ones feel okay to engage? What about knowledge management? What if some of those seasoned employees retire…where will that know-how go?
Assess the environment. Not just the physical attributes, but the cultural attributes. What is it the company values and how is that upheld? Just like the contributor is encouraged to let his/her inner passions and interests shine through the deliberately chosen wardrobe, so too should our companies shine the mission and values through it’s outer markings. And that is largely seen in our employees.
We ought to be the experts at recognizing competencies in our people. We should look for ways to accent and highlight those KSAs in ways that others in the organization will take notice and want to engage. Think of it like dressing someone up for a date. He/She may look good when they walk in the door and cause the date to be thrilled at the sight, but the conversation throughout the date will determine how likely this relationship is to continue. So many companies have thrown thousands at image and surface tactics only to come right back to square one once the hoopla is over. We know better than to fall for that (I hope).
The territory we’re in charge of is our organization. Allow talent to speak through our talent. How can we facilitate the recognition of such talent? How can we get our talent to go deeper and express more? It’s our primary job in human resources to manage talent fully (that’s a lot of “talent” usage, isn’t it?). We don’t get a $5000 gift card per employee to get it done, but we do get to use the resources at our disposal, which includes our smarts, to make it happen.