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Reliable Tips to Consider When Updating or Introducing a New Dress Code in Your Company

“To wear or not to wear?

That is the only real question around here.

According to a study conducted by Office Team, professionals spend an average of 11 minutes a day choosing their office attire; men typically take longer than women.

Don’t get us started on those uncomfortable conversations between HR managers and employees on their dressing choices.

Dress Codes at the workplace can be a touchy subject especially when you’re trying to consider your employees’ individual personalities alongside your company’s objectives.

In fact, OfficeTeam found that 86% of employees and 80% of managers feel that dress choices influence the chances of employees getting promoted.

worried woman using eye glasses
Image from: Robert Half by SlideShare

A dress code is exactly what your employees need to create this much-needed healthy balance between individualism and professionalism.

Here are some tips for creating and implementing a dress code for today’s modern workforce.

What Are Your Company Values?

In 2017, Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street giant, shocked the world by moving to relax its dress code in a bid to appeal to top talent. The company went as far as collecting views on Twitter through a poll they created. (Hint: Mark Zuckerberg’s go-to hoodie and sneakers carried the win!)

Goldman’s announcement was aimed at updating the company’s policies to accommodate its dominant workforce – members of the Millennial or Gen Z generations who account for more than 75% of their workforce.

Just like Goldman, here are six ways to retain Millennial and Gen Z employees.

So what are your goals and objectives as a company? What values does your brand represent? This is a great place to start when determining your company’s dress code.

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As the HR manager, it’s not your work to police employees but to create a conducive work environment for everyone’s optimum performance.

Bearing this in mind, encourage employees to dress in a way that reflects the values of the company.

Values that you’ll have ideally effectively communicated to them during their elaborate onboarding process. Learn how to onboard the right way here.

Include all the glory details in your compliance materials then make it accessible to your employees through a customized online training program on the best Learning Management System.

Once you’ve identified your core values such as teamwork, diversity, simplicity, safety, fun, comfort, etc tailor the messaging around the dress code to convey these values.

This will inculcate a sense of ownership whereby your employees will consider themselves a part of something bigger as opposed to a heap of rules they simply need to follow.

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4 Keys When Revising the Company Dress Code

  1. Over-communicate. Assumptions aside, your employees won’t know the difference between casual and business casual unless you make it clear to them. Get creative; use our Train and Develop suite to design customize landing pages and scenario-based training.
    Leave it to their imagination and you get all sorts of subjective mix-ups. OfficeTeam points out that the top two most common dress code violations that HR managers see at work are employees dressing too casually (47%) and employees wearing revealing clothing (32%).

    office attire mistake tip 1
    Image from: Robert Half

    Office attire mistake tips 7
    Image from: Robert Half
  2. Simplicity is Key. Numerous rules can be just as stifling as the formal dress code you’re trying to augment.
  3. Location Matters. If you’re a franchise, consider all locations and seasons when updating your dress code policy. You might want to use a mobile app, just like YMCA, to keep track of your employees’ progress once you update your compliance training.
  4. Start from Management. You want the dress code to reflect the company’s values right? Who better to embody them than the company leaders themselves

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Create a Fair and Inclusive Policy

We wanted to set a tone that we are a professional services firm and we should dress the part. However, when we’re at the office, we do not have many clients visiting (as we go to them more than they come to us) and our office had become more casual over the years as our partners relaxed enforcement of the business casual dress code,” – Lauren Williams, Principal at the CPA Firm Johnson Lambert LLP

Ryan Jenkins, Millennial and Generation Z speaker and generations expert, shares how Johnson Lambert expressed their desire to change their existing dress code from one of his speaking engagements.

Companies often make the mistake of listing their dress code as ‘business formal’, ‘business casual’ or just ‘business’. But what do these terms really mean?

Start by making things clear on paper. Ensure your employees can access this material at any time. Forget a handbook, how does mobile e-learning sound?

Compliance issues wreak of paperwork but here are four tips for successful online compliance training.

Be as specific and detailed with your language when describing your preferred attire choices. For example, no jeans or flip-flops? Be clear on this. Keep in mind your company values throughout the process.

Take special care when using language in your policy that unfairly relates to gender, race, or religious background. You want to maintain your employees’ sense of peace and dignity.

Since your employees should already have a basic understanding of the dos and don’ts of officewear through the compliance training, there’s no need to single out a specific demographic to make an example.

Focus, instead, on principles that all employees can collectively enact. Rather than going into detail on the acceptable hemline length, for instance, employee discretion will do.

Let your dress policy evolve with the changing trends and times. Especially in the wake of an influx of Millennial and Gen Z employees at the workplace. Johnson Lambert gives us a candid look into what that transition could look like.

Upon hearing their new goal, Ryan Jenkins recommended smart casual to Johnson Lambert as it tried to regain a more formal look. He followed up with Williams, a top manager at the firm,  a few months later and this is what she had to say,

Our goal for smart casual was to allow people to wear jeans any day of the week (previously we only wore jeans on Friday) or wear tailored shorts along with a nice shirt tucked in. Jeans shouldn’t have holes and should be more fitted and put together. No tennis shoes or flip flops. More tailored outfits regardless of the fabric involved.

We previously allowed certain cargo shorts, flip flops, etc. that do not fit in with the new dress code. Enforcing the new code for those people was initially a challenge but given the lenient boundaries of the new code, most people adapted nicely.”

The benefits of the smart casual dress code are that we have a younger demographic of people in our office and through reading about trends, we learned that the easiest thing you can do for Millennials to make them happy is to let them dress how they want.

Given that we are a professional services firm, we applied some boundaries to that but overall employees are empowered to wear what works for them to get them through the workday and into the evening. Another benefit has been with recruiting. It is a selling point to potential new hires that we have a smart casual dress code in the office.

We continue to dress business casual and business professional at client sites and for various professional events, but we have received very positive feedback from employees. Overall I think we found a nice balance between ‘looking the part’ and allowing people to dress comfortably and appropriately for the office.

Still not quite certain about the specific clothing items to shun or endorse? Here’s a snapshot of what’s in and what’s out for the workplace.

IN and OUT work compared chart
Image from: Robert Half by SlideShare

Communication Is Everything!

Your delivery of the dress code policy will make or break your chances of positive reception and a smooth transition.

Roll out the new policy with a proper plan in mind. If the policy is more reflective of company values that enhance corporate culture, employees are less likely to view it as a limitation on their self-expression.

Communication surrounding the policy could include:

  • A public announcement and explanation of the policy at a company-wide meeting. You may have to sit down with your employees in batches to give a breakdown of the policy and its purpose. Mobilize competent managers who are conversant with the policy beforehand for this activity. Here are five key employee training mistakes to avoid.
  • An open welcome for employees to provide feedback. Design employee surveys and create forum discussions to give employees an opportunity to give their two cents on the policy.
  • Email a digital copy to each employee through automated scheduling on your LMS platform so that they can refer to it anytime anywhere.
  • Post numerous copies of the policy around the office especially in areas such as the tea room where employees flock for breaks. Next to these copies, drive employee engagement with our free employee feedback posters.
  • Flex your creative muscles here! Go as far as using gamification features in your online training program and designing customized landing pages to keep your employees engaged. Learn how to make learning inspirational and fun for adults here.
  • Consequences. What’s the penalty for going against the policy? An initial warning is a great place to start. Explain exactly what’s inappropriate about the way they’re dressed, refer to your policy in their presence. If the employee in question persists, a formal warning or suspension may be the next step, depending on how serious the incident is.

Dress codes can be a tricky subject, we get that. We’ve got just the right tools you need to make rolling them out a little easier. So what are you waiting for? Book a demo today!

Disclaimer: This information is meant to provide general guidelines and should be used as a reference. It may not take into account all relevant local, state or federal laws and is not a legal document. Neither the author nor World Manager will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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