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Aesthetic Labour

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Aesthetic Labour

Employer branding shows the value in the company’s name. Employees are also the main assets in an organisation. In this report, we will look into how organisations use aesthetic labour to build and strengthen their brand, the concepts of aesthetic labour and to which extent that aesthetic labour is being practiced as well as the ethical problems that practicing aesthetic labour brings. This report will also look into how aesthetic labour contradicts good human resources practice.

According to Backhaus and Tikoo (2004), the term employer branding suggests the differentiation of an organisation’s characteristics as an employer from their competitors. Employer brand highlights the unique characteristics of an organisation’s employment offerings or employment.

As stated by Jenner and Taylor (2007), there are several reasons why employer branding is important. The reasons are to establish brand power, facilitating human resource (HR) department’s search for credibility, helps in employee engagement and helps the organisation to prevail labour market conditions.

Brand as a central concept in organisational and social life has seen a rise in the last 20 years. Brand power is also commonly known as the ability of a brand to attract the customers. Branding is not just about getting people to know your name, but it is also about the value behind the name. This is why good employer branding is crucial as it helps an organisation remain competitive and obtain the best talents in the market.In order to hire the best talents that suit the company, an organisation’s employer branding needs to be strong. Therefore organisations use Aesthetic labour to represent their brand.

        It is said that employer branding decreases the cost per hire. This is because organisations don’t have to worry about advertising and marketing costs. By investing in the employer brand, more people will be aware of the company and will therefore attract potential employees. Ansari (2018) has said that 78% of people will look into a company’s reputation as an employer before applying for the job. This is because millennials believe that it is important to have a good organisational culture. Having a strong employer brand allows potential employees to access these information with a click of a button allows them to see their potential fit to the company. With that being said, social media plays an important role in maintaining the strong employer branding as well. Ansari also said that a strong employer brand leads to 50% more qualified applicants. This saves a lot of time during the selection and recruitment process.

        To ensure strong employer branding, the organisation itself would need to train their existing employees to portray their company image well to the public. Not only to attract potential applicants but also customers.

Aesthetics has become very important especially in this time of age as the human race becomes more and more materialistic. Visual and aural senses help in attracting attention which brings recognition to a company. The kind of image a company portrays also helps determine their target audience. For example, Chanel gives off a classy image which is targeted to a higher income group and Cotton On gives off a youthful image which is targeted for the youth. As it can see in any Chanel boutique, their employees are dressed smartly with a certain posture and proper etiquette while employees at Cotton On dress comfortably in their brand’s clothing. This kind of recognition is important for every organisation as applicants will want to know the organisational culture before applying.

The word “Aesthetic” means the appreciation of beauty, therefore the term “Aesthetic Labour” is the supply of embodied capacities and attributes used as a source of competitive advantage (Warhurst et al., 2000).  As Fine (1992) defined, an aesthetic object or act is intended to produce a sensory response in an audience, therefore the presentation of employees must be perfect in order to create a good impression on the customers as they are the first in line to be in contact with the customers. Aesthetic labour has been practiced as early as 1910s and is still being practiced by many organisations in the world. Although skills and talent play an important role in recruiting employees, physical appearance is more important for organisations that practices aesthetic labour.

Aesthetic labour is mostly carried out in fashion, retail, airline and hospitality industries. This includes many companies such as Mac Cosmetics, Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria Secret. As industries like these involves sensory engagement and social interaction, visual and aural presentation play a crucial part and thus making the right hire is very important. In aesthetic labour, it is always about looking good and sounding fine as employees are expected to deliver a certain “style” of service that best portrays the company’s image to the audience (Karlsson, 2012).  For example, figures 1 and 2 shows how flight attendants are required to be polite, caring, joyous and on top of all that, they have to be attractive while serving passengers their meals and drinks as well as fulfilling their requests (Ren, 2017). This shows how the airline’s image is portrayed to their passengers and one small mistake could tarnish the entire airline’s reputation. Therefore, the recruitment and selection process is very important for making the right hire as finding the right fit is not easy. However, it does not stop there. The employees have to be trained and monitored for them to continuously deliver to the passengers. This goes for every other organisation that practices aesthetic labour.

Every detail is looked into, from the language and body postures to the length of their skirts for the ladies, and hairstyles as well as their make-up and weight. The managers have every right to control how their employees look as they know what image their employees should carry out which would suit their brand best (Hochschild, 1983). While many organisations practice aesthetic labour, many have questioned the jurisdiction of this practice as to whether or not it is ethical. Many would feel that aesthetic labour discriminates because of how they select their candidates based on “requirements” they must fulfil before applying. For example, a certain height, weight and vital statistics, race and ethnicity. As stated clearly above, employers have total control of how they want their employees to dress and look, however some of these employees have actually brought their employers to court due discrimination.



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