An employee dress code is often little more than a few undocumented standards for appearance. This can lead to confusion, with some employees arriving to work dressed in jeans, T-shirts and sandals while others dress in business suits and heels. Inconsistency in employee appearance can muddle a company's brand. Having a written, specific dress policy in place — instead of a verbal one or none at all — helps honor the image you want your business to project to the rest of the world.
Matching an Employee Dress Code to the Brand Personality
To establish an appropriate dress code policy, small business owners must first define their brand and ideal image; then they should review regulations or speak to legal counsel to ensure that their brand image is flexible and allows for employees to accommodate any sincerely held religious beliefs that may influence the way they look or dress.
Included in the brand image is an understanding of the industry your company operates in, the types of clients you serve and the general personality of the future hires you want to attract. For example, it's common for companies in the technology sector to implement flexible dress codes for employees who work behind the scenes in product development and support, but to require managers and sales professionals to wear attire that is more business-oriented for client-facing tasks.
How a Corporate Dress Code Can Impact the Business
When employees are asked to dress according to a branded corporate dress code, it can have a transformational effect on their attitude. A 2015 Columbia University and California State University study indicates that simply wearing formal clothing to work each day changes the way employees see themselves, making them feel more powerful.
Creating a Written Employee Dress Code for Your Company
Developing a branded employee dress code doesn't have to be overly complex. Here are some guidelines for creating a written policy:
- Assign a dress code for common employee roles. What are the general requirements of each job type? Base the dress code on the work environment for each department and role, the tasks performed, the protective clothing or gear required and whether they interact face-to-face with clients or customers. A manufacturing crew will have very different attire requirements than administrative personnel, for example.
- Consider a corporate uniform or standard clothing colors. As part of your effort to brand your corporate image, you may choose to color code the acceptable attire or institute a uniform policy. Many organizations implement this to simplify their dress codes. A corporate branded polo shirt or T-shirt may work nicely for your business, along with instructions for bottom garment colors, like khaki or black dress pants.
- Create a visual employee dress code guidebook. To communicate the branded dress code, dedicate a few pages in your employee handbook to illustrating acceptable attire. Visuals help educate employees about the types of clothing that are appropriate for the kinds of activities they perform, like client meetings held in or outside the office.
- Ensure that your policy allows for employees to follow their religious practices regarding dress and appearance. Your policy should encourage employees with sincerely held religious beliefs to ask for an accommodation or flexibility on any points that conflict with their religious practices.
An employee dress code may seem like a small thing, but creating one that complies with EEOC guidance can better help you reflect your brand and image both inside and outside your organization.
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