Common challenges

Blue Jeans or Blazers? How to Create a Dress Code in a Multigenerational Setting

September 30, 2016

In today's working world, we see more employees from multiple generations working together than ever before. This means different interests, goals, priorities, and ideals combining to achieve the same work mission. This generational mix may affect workplace dress codes. Finding a way to implement a dress code that makes everyone happy and at the same time meet the objectives of the company can prove difficult for HR managers and employers.

There are two sides to the dress code argument. One side suggests that a more casual dress code leads to a more casual attitude, which could lead to a casual work ethic. The other side suggests that when allowed to dress more casually, employees are more comfortable. This in turn leads to more confidence in work, and higher productivity and output.

How do you decide which type of dress code suits your workplace environment? Consider this action plan to help make the best choice for your organization and your employees.

The type of dress code you decide to implement depends on your work environment because a one-size-fits-all dress code policy will not meet each and every business' dress code requirements. What type of work is done? How often do employees interact with customers? Is it an industry where employees are expected to dress professionally? These questions should be considered when deciding on appropriate dress.

Also, keep in mind that customers often judge a business' productivity and success based on its professionalism. If customers expect a certain level of professionalism, a company's dress code should reflect this. In turn, if a business is dominated by manual labour, or employees are not customer-facing, a stringent professional dress code is probably unnecessary. Download the Company Dress Code and Hygiene Policy for a template you can customize to meet your company’s environment.

2. Gather employee input

What better way is there to learn what employees want in a dress code than by asking them? When requesting employee input, remember to not make false promises. You should not request employee input on a new dress code if you really have no intention of making changes. And be prepared to disappoint one group, please another, or make concessions to please several groups at once.

3. Consider a middle-of-the-road dress code and set clear expectations

A lack of consensus on dress code typically leads employers to take a middle-of-the-road approach. In an office environment, consider implementing a business casual dress code instead of business professional. A business casual look can include khakis, slacks, trousers, etc. rather than suit pants. For many organizations, jeans would not be considered business casual, even dark denim. If your employees meet with clients or customers and you would like them to still dress in a business professional manner, include a clause in the dress code that enforces this type of dress.

Also, implementing a casual day is a great option for appeasing employees who prefer a relaxed dress code. If you implement a dress-down day, there should still be guidelines, so remember to address what counts as acceptable and unacceptable attire.

Final Thought

Implementing a dress code that makes everyone happy is difficult. As generational workplace diversity increases, it's important to plan ahead. Determining what your employees prefer, and balancing their preferences with your workplace environment, will help determine whether you choose blue jeans, blazers, or both.

Help set clear expectations and begin enforcing dress code using HRdownloads' Company Dress Code and Personal Hygiene Policy.

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