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Employers urged to be open-minded about company culture

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Start-ups should remain open-minded with regard to piercings and tattoos among potential employees, experts say, or risk becoming too rigid in their culture and customer interactions.


Erminio Putignano, managing director of FutureBrand Australia, says brand personality is extremely important, particularly among start-ups.


“There are two considerations here. The first is that you need to build a culture – you need to hire people around the brand you want to be,” Putignano says.


“But it’s also true the other way around, and especially true for start-ups.”


“Often, it’s the people you already have driving the business from the beginning that inform the brand personality of your business.”


“They need to fit each other but, in my experience with small businesses and start-ups, it’s the culture that starts first. Brand personality and brand expression comes later.”


Putignano’s comments come on the back of a News.com.au article about brand personality. The article refers to a young hospitality worker with pink hair, multiple piercings and tattoos.


The worker, Ashleigh Humphreys, said her appearance has hurt her job prospects in the past. But her current employer said customers often remembered Humphreys because of her distinct look.


According to Putignano, employers aren’t just looking at the skills and competencies of job candidates. They’re also looking at whether that person would be a cultural fit for their business.


“This is especially true for small businesses simply because if one or two employees don’t fit culturally, in a small businesses or a start-up that can have a very big negative impact,” he says.


“[However,] you need to be careful because you don’t want your business to become too rigid.”


“The risk is you are building a team of people that are too like-minded and too similar, and you will become an organisation that is not able to adapt, can’t evolve and can’t grow.”


Putignano says while it’s important to hire employees who fit the culture and brand personality of your business, diversity is equally important.


“You always need to have some people that are a little bit different from the mainstream,” he says.


Martin Nally, founder of hranywhere, says employers need to think like their consumers in order to build the right brand personality.


“In a high-tech computer store, you don’t care what the person looks like. If they can answer your question, you’re delighted,” Nally says.


“If you go to a fine dining restaurant, you’re not expecting to be served by someone [with piercings and tattoos].”


“If you go to your tax accountant and they’ve got a swastika on their face and piercings, how does that make you feel? If they’re wearing a suit, even without a tie, you feel comfortable.”


“If a Jim’s Mowing guy turns up in a suit, you go, ‘What the?’ If he has tattoos and piercings, but he’s absolutely fit and healthy, you go, ‘So what?’”


“As consumers, we expect employers to discriminate... The consumer is actually giving permission to employers to discriminate so their experience is consumer-appropriate.”