If the old adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have” is true, then carefully considering what to wear in the workplace should be a high priority for anyone looking to advance his or her career. From the moment of the first impression at a job interview to the day-to-day schedule of any job, the way employees present themselves can affect how they advance in the workplace.
You can project an image of professionalism through the way you carry yourself, how you speak, and of course how you look. The way you dress for work and your personal grooming habits say a lot about your attitude towards the job. If you dress sloppily for work, it sends a message that you don’t really care about your appearance and how you’re perceived by your coworkers and employers. In some cases, employee dress habits can even be distracting and affect overall productivity.
Establishing and enforcing a company dress code is part of the HR department’s job, working to promote and maintain a productive and happy workforce. Here are some tips for how to establish an effective dress code and encourage employees to follow it.
‘>Follow your company culture. All companies are not created equal. In the wide range of industries today, there are many different levels of formality, and the need for business attire versus more casual attire varies a lot. Some companies meet with clients face to face on a daily basis, and first impressions are crucial to their success. But in many cases, only certain departments have to meet with clients, while the rest of the employees operate behind the scenes.
Before establishing a dress code, consider what your company needs. If you work for a software development company that has a laid-back culture with mostly 20-something-year-old employees, then a casual dress code might work best. If you work for a law firm where employees have to constantly meet with clients and appear in courtrooms, then a more strict business dress code is more appropriate.
‘>Be flexible. Regardless of the level of dress you determine works best for your company’s employees, always make sure that your policy remains flexible. Remember, the way a person dresses is how they express themselves. To stifle that too much could result in pushback and even a blatant disregard for any dress code policy. A looser, more flexible dress code will have more chance of success than an unnecessarily strict one.
Consider a dress code that offers guidelines that managers don’t have to actually police. For instance, dress codes that prohibit skirts that are higher than three inches above the knee tend to fail because no manager is going to follow female employees around with a ruler to measure the height of their skirts. One tip is to ban specific clothing, like miniskirts, sweatpants, pajamas, athletic clothing, etc. Also, consider establishing a casual day by allowing employees to wear jeans on Fridays, for example. This will give them a little flexibility, which can go a long way.
‘>Get management’s support. One of the main reasons that dress codes tend to fail is because they often don’t have the support of supervisors and managers. When the HR department is trying to enforce a policy but managers throughout the company are ignoring it, chances are it’s not going to work. In the case of a dress code, managers tend to be afraid that it will annoy employees, so they are unlikely to enforce it.
When establishing a dress code for your company, try to get management’s support from the get go. Consider asking some managers and maybe even some employees to come together to actually help develop the dress code, so they have a chance to provide their input and feedback. This way you’ll avoid springing a policy on them that they had nothing to do with creating.
‘>Deal with individuals. Most people want to make a good impression and fit in with the workplace dress code, even if it’s unofficial. But there are always some people who like to push the envelope. The main value in having a dress code in place is so that you have an impartial standard to refer to when someone dresses inappropriately. If you establish limits in the company-wide policy, no one can accuse you of discriminating against him or her when you try to enforce it.
Setting a dress code policy will ensure fairness. If it’s in the employee handbook and is part of the onboarding process, you’ll ensure that everyone understands that you expect all employees to dress professionally and have good judgment when choosing their work clothes.
Enforcing a policy that deals with something as personal as clothing can be tricky. To succeed, it’s best to be flexible, focus on what works for your company and the employees, keep it simple, and allow for managerial discretion.