When building a company, there are a myriad of factors to consider — including how your employees appear to customers. To give your business a more professional appearance, consider instituting a dress code to provide a set of guidelines to help your employees decide on appropriate workplace attire. Here are a few factors to help you decide if a dress code suits the needs of your company.
Considering the pros and cons
There are plenty of good reasons to consider a dress code for your employees, as well as a few drawbacks to keep in mind. A dress code could benefit your company by encouraging your crew to present a neat, professional appearance to your customers. It also makes your workers easy for customers to spot, and helps establish your organization’s brand. However, while a formal or uniform-based dress code may look sharp, many competitive workplaces offer casual and business-casual dress codes as a perk. According to Susan M. Heathfield, an HR and management consultant who contributes to The Balance Careers, 60 percent of millennial employees prefer more casual workplace attire guidelines. Thus, it’s a good idea to consider your industry and your employees’ duties when creating a dress code policy.
Understanding your employees’ roles
Based on the tasks your employees perform, you may find you need more than one dress code. Client-facing workers, such as receptionists, salespeople, and consultants will represent your company better if they’re dressed in formal attire. Similarly, if your client-facing crew has to visit customers’ houses or provide foodservice, consider having those employees wear uniforms. In your customers’ eyes, this builds an image of professionalism by setting your employees apart from the general public, Heathfield says. On the other hand, internal employees may be more comfortable and productive when allowed to dress in business-casual attire. Discuss these roles with your business partners and managers to determine an appropriate dress code for your employees.
Setting fair guidelines
When establishing your company’s dress policy, give clear examples of what’s acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace. While employees should exercise common sense when choosing attire, openly state what articles of clothing are deemed unacceptable. For a business-casual environment, this may include collarless shirts, flip-flop sandals, jeans and sneakers, according to Heathfield. Regardless of the exact guidelines you choose to enforce, make sure your dress code is fair when dealing with employees of all genders and religions. Some religions require followers to wear head coverings or specific jewelry items, and your dress code should make room for them to avoid discrimination. To make sure that your policy is fair, run it by an employment attorney before you publish an official policy.
Enforcing the dress code
If one of your employees violates the dress code, Kyra Kudick, a contributor to The Business Journals, recommends taking the code-violating employee aside for a private chat. Instead of accusing the employee, gently inquire about their faux pas. If the employee has simply forgotten, remind them to wear appropriate attire the next time they’re at work. However, if the employee has a philosophical reason for violating the dress code, allow your crewmember to be heard. Pass along the employee’s complaint to your Human Resources department, but encourage the employee to comply with current regulations in the meantime. However, your worker may have a medical or religious reason to break the dress code. If that’s the case, Kudick recommends discussing a reasonable accommodation with human resources.
A dress code can provide your employees with structure, build your brand image, and make your company seem more professional in the eyes of customers. If you’d like guidance on establishing a dress code, consult with your Human Resources department, your business partner and an employment attorney.