DO YOUR EM­PLOY­EES NEED A DRESS CODE?

Ex­pect­ing new team mem­bers to take their dress cues from your ex­ist­ing staff can be fraught with prob­lems; es­pe­cially if you have a few chal­lenges with the way your cur­rent team dress. By Jackie O’Fee.

NZ Business - - FROM THE EDITOR - Jackie O’Fee is the owner of per­sonal style con­sul­tancy Sig­na­ture Style. She works with both in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions and is a pop­u­lar speaker and tele­vi­sion presenter. www.sig­na­turestyle.co.nz

Ex­pect­ing new team mem­bers to take their dress cues from your ex­ist­ing staff can be fraught with prob­lems; es­pe­cially if you have a few chal­lenges with the way your cur­rent team dress. By Jackie O’Fee.

It’s grad­u­ate sea­son – the time of year when you are on-board­ing bright young things, fresh from univer­sity, who are tak­ing their first steps into the “real world” of their cho­sen ca­reer.

As well as the hugely im­por­tant team-build­ing, cul­ture in­te­gra­tion and gen­eral in­for­ma­tion you’ll be im­part­ing, it’s a good idea to in­clude a ‘Dress Code’ com­po­nent to your in­duc­tion pro­gramme. Ex­pect­ing your new team mem­bers to take their dress cues from your ex­ist­ing staff can be fraught with prob­lems; es­pe­cially if you have a few chal­lenges with the way your cur­rent team dress.

The con­ver­sa­tion around how your peo­ple dress can be dif­fi­cult to bring up be­cause it’s such a per­sonal topic. Al­though you no doubt have staff mem­bers who dress very well, you may equally have one or two who choose what to wear to work based solely on what’s easy.

As an em­ployer you have the right to state how you want your peo­ple to dress, but how do you tell some­one they aren’t dress­ing well? I’ve had many em­ploy­ers share their frus­tra­tions about em­ployee dress stan­dards with me, in­clud­ing one busi­ness owner who told me she had stopped one of her team from meet­ing with key clients, as she felt the em­ployee’s dress stan­dard was such a poor re­flec­tion on her busi­ness.

Your staff rep­re­sent your brand in every­thing they do – not sim­ply in client in­ter­ac­tion, and the way they dress is an ex­ten­sion of that. A study un­der­taken in 2004 con­cluded that: “Not only are cus­tomers likely to judge em­ploy­ees them­selves by their dress, but cus­tomers are also likely to use em­ployee dress as cues to the qual­ity of the or­gan­i­sa­tion it­self” [Source: The ef­fect of dress on cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions of ser­vice qual­ity and pur­chase in­ten­tion’ – Jour­nal of Busi­ness Re­search.]

While much may have changed since 2004, more re­cent stud­ies sug­gest that our ca­sual dress codes do in fact cre­ate more ca­sual work­ing habits. When dressed ca­su­ally, an­other study sug­gested a 44 per­cent in­crease in tar­di­ness and ab­sen­teeism, while em­ploy­ees them­selves ad­mit­ted to feel­ing less fo­cused at work when in ca­sual dress.

Hav­ing a writ­ten dress code is an im­por­tant tool to add to your “how we do it here” ethos with the writ­ten specifics of what is ap­pro­pri­ate in your workspace pro­vid­ing less room for per­sonal in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

When writ­ing your dress code work out what con­sti­tutes the dress stan­dard you’d like to see your em­ploy­ees ad­here to; be it shirt and tie, or sim­ply a col­lared shirt. Then drill this down to specifics – is it a “col­lared shirt” or “Long sleeved col­lared busi­ness shirt”? Think about the de­tails such as footwear. Are open-toed san­dals ac­cept­able? If so, you may wish to spec­ify well main­tained feet and nails (and state that Birken­stocks are not work ap­pro­pri­ate).

How about short skirts or strappy sun­dresses? Jeans? Pro­vide your em­ploy­ees with spe­cific in­for­ma­tion as to what they can and can’t wear. Are vis­i­ble tat­toos OK or should they go on the “don’t” list? What about T-shirts or polo shirts?

As well as be­ing spe­cific, gen­der guide­lines are also help­ful. Hav­ing a “Do’s and Don’ts” style means you can list any busi­ness dress faux-pas that are un­ac­cept­able in your en­vi­ron­ment, of­ten in a light-hearted man­ner.

Con­sider health and safety guide­lines also – do your em­ploy­ees need to wear steel capped boots for ex­am­ple?

Ad­ding a sec­tion on groom­ing stan­dards is a good idea. This can be quite gen­eral with a sim­ple state­ment of “High stan­dards of groom­ing are re­quired at all times”, through to specifics like well-main­tained hands and nails and welltrimmed fa­cial hair.

When draft­ing your doc­u­ment it may be a good idea to en­list mem­bers of your team to help – this would cer­tainly im­prove their en­gage­ment with the process. Ask them what they be­lieve is ac­cept­able, and what isn’t. You might be sur­prised at how high the stan­dards be­come when your peo­ple start to think about them.

Jackie O'Fee.

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