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Aesthetic labour essay

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Within significant sectors of the economy it is clear that employers are tiling labor and seek labor markets that do not, in the first instance, require acquired technical skills but, instead, rely to a large extent upon the physical appearance, or more specifically, the embodied capacities and attributes of those to be employed or are employed, providing what we term ‘ aesthetic labor’. Only later is ‘ on the job’ training offered to these workers. Parts of the service sector are indicative of this model.

In short, at work, employers in the service sector desire a matrix of skills; technical, social and aesthetic. Previous research has emphasized the first, current research has rough greater attention to the second, but the third -aesthetic – has been overlooked to date.

There are undoubtedly shifts occurring in employment patterns. In Britain, agriculture accounts for 2. 3 per CCNY of en-plowmen, industry 24. 3 per cent and services 73. 4 per cent. Much the same pattern can be found in countries throughout Europe, North America, Japan and Australia [Icebox Market Trends, 19961.

It is forecast that 90 per cent of all jobs created in the future will be in the service sector Reemitted, 1 9941. Acknowledgement of this shift from manufacturing to services is important. For academics and policy knackers has engendered a ramifications of work and employment in localities and regions. The De-industrialization that this entails has meant that increasingly nations, regions and cities have sought to recreate and reinvent themselves as ‘ post-industrial’ economies. The ‘ new’ Glasgow is offered here as an exemplar of this general trend within the KICK.

However we would suggest that these figures must be treated with some caution.

This caution is outlined more fully in Nicks et al. [1998]. Here three points suffice. Firstly, much of this employment is fragile (see, for example, Goodhearted and Wood, 994; Bucking, 1995; Wallace, 1995: Donovan, 1 996; Sinned, 1 9961.

Secondly, the data indicating this shift is aggregate, and much of the dependency linkages between the service and manufacturing sectors is not apparent as a result [see, for example, the COED Jobs Study, 19941.

Thirdly, and most importantly, much of this data does not adequately distinguish the range of jobs now emerging within the service sector [for a discussion on this issue see Warhorse and Thompson, 1 9981. The problem, these authors note, lies in official classifications of the occupational structure which focus upon the form of jobs rather then the Downloaded by [University Of surrey] at 06: 07 30 December 2014 AESTHETIC LA U R 3 content of labor.

As a consequence, there is insufficient sensitivity to the heterogeneity of work and employment within the service sector – not just between the high skill, high wage knowledge ‘ Imax Jobs’ eulogists by policy- makers such as Robert Reich and Gordon Brown on the one hand and the low skill, low wage ‘ Macomb’ outlined by Ritzier [19981 and Lieder 119931 on the other, but also the heterogeneity that exists within the same employment classification within the service sector; retail and hospitality, for example.

What is also often missing according to Fuchs 1 1 988: 321 1 is an appreciation that in the provision of services there is also a production process going on’.

Recent research has attempted to address this omission. In contrast to manufacturing work and employment, service provision, with its direct interaction between employees and customers, is characterized by intangibility, simultaneous production and consumption and heterogeneity [Allen and du Gay, 19941.

Consequently service organizations face different and complex challenges in their management of the ‘ service encounter’; that is, the interaction between employees and customers. Because of this interaction, management seek workers with personal characteristics likely to make them interact spontaneously and perform effectively because they possess intangible qualities making them ‘ the right kind of person for the job’. The personality traits of sociabilitylfriendliness, drive, honestly integrity, conscientiousness and adaptability, Campbell err al. 1 998] discovered, are more important than technical skills as criteria in the selection of service workers in the hotel industry, for example.

As a consequence, the shift is also generating debate about the need to adopt new approaches to the acquirement, selection, training and management of employees. The key issue here is that workers in new forms of ‘ interactive service work’ [Lieder, 1 9931 , which involve face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction with customers, are asked to inhabit jobs in new ways.

It is precisely the heterogeneity of work and employment in ‘ services’ that poses the greatest challenge to researchers seeking to discern and explain the changing nature and meaning of work in contemporary Western societies, as well as ARQ airing new responses from practitioners and policy makers concerned with organizational imitativeness and economic restructuring respectively. Previously overlooked as an explicit focus of analysis, it is with aesthetic labor that these new approaches to the recruitment, selection, training and management of employees within the service sector are most apparent.

Within the context of wider debates about shifts to a service economy skill requirements in this new economy, the article explores the forms of aesthetic labor and examines new organizational practices that, in relation to aesthetic labor, are intended to provide commercial advantage. The argument presented here does not claim THE SERVICE INDUSTRIES JOURNAL to draw upon extensive empirical research.

Instead, the aim is to signal the need for an appreciation and analysis of aesthetic labor as an important emerging development in the service sector. In doing so, empirical -trilateral is included for ill causative purposes. A discussion and definition of aesthetic labor is first required. AESTHETIC LABOR Existing research on the service sector has focused on a number of facets of the interaction of employee and customer, for example Adkins’ 119951 research on sexuality at work, Arsine’s 119971 examination of technical skill,

Household’s [19831 work on emotional labor, and Leader’s 1: 1993 1 and Rioter’s [19961 outline of behave–oral ratification and compliance.

What is missing in these analyses of management’s utilization of employees’ knowledge, skills, behavior and emotions – and absent too in the current debate about ‘ human capital’ with its emphasis on technical skill – is an overt appreciation of workers’ embodied competencies and skills ‘ aesthetic labor’.

Whilst some academic research does allude in passing to the importance of physical appearance [most obviously in discussions of sexuality], its importance has not been lost on management as descriptive accounts of employment at Disney [Van Mean, 1 9901 illustrates and company recruitment material and practices demonstrates, for example that of Monarch Airlines, the Burtons Retail Group and Boots Pl. Indeed, increasingly retailers are looking to control both appearance and behavior in the name of customer care.

Lowe and Crew 11996: 2001 note that as customer care initiatives beguile increasingly important in the late 1 sass and early sass a whole host of consultants sought to ‘ educate retailers in the nuances of the hard sell’. An example of this development is provided by one insulate lecturing FRR the British Shops and Stores Association who suggested ‘ arm folding, nose-scratching and slouching posture are all vital body language signs now being squashed’ [Lowe and Crew, 1 996: 2001.

Hence, an important gap in knowledge and analysis exists in terms of both an appreciation of the significance of aesthetic labor and an analysis of the nature of this labor.

We define ‘ aesthetic labor’ as a supply Of ’embodied capacities and attributes’ possessed by workers at the point of entry into employment. Employers then knobblies, develop kind commodity these capacities and attributes through processes of recruitment, selection and training, transforming them into ‘ competencies’ or ‘ skills’ which are then aesthetically geared towards producing a ‘ style’ of service encounter.

By ‘ aesthetically geared’ we mean deliberately intended to appeal to the senses of customers, most obviously in a visual or aural way. Drawing upon AESTHETIC ALBA U R 5 Cookbook’s 1 19831 delineation of skill, these aesthetic skills encompass individual attributes and task requirements in terms of producing a favorable interaction with the customer, and complement any technical kills. With some small overlap, competencies can be defined as the characteristics of an individual which produce a desired or optimum performance [Darlington and Hall, 1 9981.

Less tangible than traditional manual and mental skills, we argue that employer demand for these aesthetic skills and competencies is becoming more prevalent because of its perceived commercial utility.

For example, as Lowe and Crew [19961 note in their discussion of changing trends in retail, there is an increased awareness of the importance of people within the overall product and this can be contrasted tit the 1 adds, when retailers were concerned with seeking differentiation via image, which was based on ‘ design interiors’.

However Lowe and Cry; ewe [1 996: 1 991 argue that in the sass ‘ concerns regarding image and presentation have been transferred to the retail workforce’. Thus as Lowe and Wrigley 1 1 996: 241 note: Unlike the labor force of many large industrial corporations, retail sales assistants are constantly ‘ on display’ to purchasers of their products. Hence ‘ the ability to communicate, be polite, smile and have a great appearance’ [Hudson CT al. , 19921 is of critical importance of such workers and..

The employment of particular types of individuals to front the retail store is essential.. The retail assistants… Increasingly co-? nephritis actual product on sale.

This point is also raised by Hatfield and Speeches [1 986: 551: Hiring on the basis of looks may be especially pervasive when a job requires employees to deal with the public. The employer may know there is no real difference in competence between an attractive and an unattractive employee, but there roily be a difference in how they are perceived by the public or the client that could mean a difference in profit (emphasis in original).

This view can be seen to have a good deal of resonance with debate engendered by the opening in the LIKE of the first branch of the American restaurant chain, Hooters, ‘ which unashamedly uses nubile young waitresses dressed in skimpy tops to attract customers’ [Gelding, 1998: 71 . The company, which incidentally does not advertise for waitresses, looks for what their vice-president of marketing describes as the Florida beachwear look Giggling 1 998: 71 . It is interesting to note the reaction to this by Forbes Match, the editor of Caterer arid Hotelier.

The trade magazine for the hospitality industry. In an opinion piece entitled, ‘ Sex sells – so why not in restaurants? ‘, Match sees little to worry about in the emergence of 6 Rooters. In answer to his own question of whether ‘ the moralists and protectors of women’s’ rights [real being distracted by a bit of heartless fun? ‘, he goes on to suggest that: ‘ Blatant titillation has become widely accepted in the selling of countless commodities, from fast cars to chocolate bars. From drinks to holidays …

If we are not offended by this, then we shouldn’t get upset about Hooters, because the principle is much the same’ [Match, 1998: 231 . This point is important. Many workers can have capacities and attributes which make them perceived to be attractive in the workplace, and some evidence indicates that en-? playability levels of remuneration are linked to perceived attractiveness [see, for example, Hammerers and Fiddle, 1994; Hatfield and Speeches, 1 986; loosely et 01. , 19891.

In the social psychology literature dealing with organizational behavior emphasis is placed on the physicality of potential and actual employees and the ways in which these individuals can present themselves through posture, gesture, use of personal pace, facial characteristics and eye contact, for example, at interviews and during meetings [Husking, 19961.

Within popular business literature, too, great play is made of the way in which individual loneliness can manage their image, that is engage in ‘ impression management’ or ‘ non-verbal influencing’ in order to socially negotiate their interactions with other organizational members.

Such management of personal aesthetics is said to contribute to the career prospects of these individuals. As Davies [1990: 7. 51 suggests ‘ in the way that manufacturers pay great attention to the packaging of products n order to get us to buy them, we need to attend to our “ packaging” if we want to “ sell” ourselves to others, and get them to take a closer look at what’s inside’.

This material is clearly focused on how individual employees can use aesthetics to express and portray ‘ themselves’ for themselves.

In neither case is an explicit relationship made of this perceived attractiveness and commercial benefit, as profit, for the organization. Nevertheless, whilst this labor has perceived commercial utility, it is important to note that aesthetic labor may vary from one type of service establishment to another. The ‘ aesthetic’ capacities and attributes of employees can be conceptualizes as ‘ dispositions’ [Broodier, 1 9841 – language and dress codes, manner, style, shape and size of the body. However, in analyzing the economic circumstances and consequences of this physical capital.

Bourgeoisie’s concern is with class reproduction. Moreover, for Broodier. Although a collective manifestation, physical capital is mobiles by individuals. As a consequence, with analysis pitched at the societal level, analysis Of the workplace is omitted and the possibility of organizationally mobiles and developed aesthetics is overlooked.

We do recognize that previous research has indicated the existence of aesthetic embodiments in 7 the workplace but observe that these indications are unexplored in themselves (for example Van Mean, 1990 in his reference to Disney workers as ‘ talking statues’).

In establishing an appropriate relationship with the customer, workers such as those reported by Van Mean are engaging distinct and new forms of ‘ work capacities’ but the embodied dimension of this work has so far remained unappreciated and analyses. Aesthetic labor is most apparent at the level of ‘ physical appearance’. But even at this level, current forms of aesthetic confound conventional understandings, in pa reticular those informing the framing of the concept Of ‘ discriminatory’ employment practices in relation to class, sex, race, age and weight.

Furthermore, the aesthetic of ‘ physical appearance’ is becoming fragmented and heterogeneous.

Our notion of ’embodied capacities and attributes’ then goes deeper than ‘ physical appearance’. Aesthetics are related to sensory experience, these senses being sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Organizations can play on any of these senses as part of the customer experience, for example the use of obvious visual national signifies such as wood, light and space, and Kea furniture by the hotel chain ‘ Swedes’ [Jones et al. , 19941.

A typology of aesthetics and organization can be found in Witt et 01 . [1998]. With aesthetic labor, we focus here on sight and sound, or visual and aural. With call centre operatives, for example, organizations are concerned with the aural experience of the customer, particularly the customers’ reception of accent and vocal intonation.

Our attempt to more comprehensively explore the conceptualization of aesthetic labor, and its imposter, can also be found in Witt e? Al. 1 19981 and is partially derived from the findings of the pilot study reported here.

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