Many people mistakenly think that appearance is not important. Big mistake.
What is it that you think people notice about you first? Let’s be frank – We judge people on the basis of what their clothes, hair and accessories look like. Why wouldn’t those same people judge you too? Looking good is not about vanity because you are so much more than your appearance. Allow people to make the right association with your appearance, especially in the workplace and when you are representing your company.
As corporate image consultants, we cannot help but notice that many companies do not have a formal dress code or, if they do, they seldom enforce it. This can cause problems for the HR department.
In the absence of a policy or where a policy is not implemented or maintained, employees tend to get comfortable. It is extremely difficult to manage people out of a comfort zone. Employees will naturally tend to make excuses as to why they should not adhere to the dress code policy. Reasons will include: money; culture; comfort. The list goes on. You will soon be battling against multiple resistance points unless you stake a dress code position for the company.
The reality is that our beautiful country is home to a wonderful array of cultures. There is no reasonable way that employers can be expected to make provision in their policies for the diversity that we find in our country. Remember, the employer has spent years of effort and money to build a brand around a specific image. That brand by the way, attracts revenue and that revenue pays salaries.
The excuse about money is valid for everyone. We all have financial limitations and it would be great to have more money for the wardrobes that we desire. Companies should consider making provision to assist employees to acquire a more professional or appropriate corporate wardrobe. Clearly, not all companies can however afford to commit to this expense. However, irrespective of whether employers subsidise or provide budget for clothing, employees must budget to dress in a professional way.
Apart from having a dress code, employers can encourage employees by offering clothing and shopping incentives. And get a professional in to guide employees on how to buy cost effectively and within the dress code.
The excuse of “I want to be comfortable in what I wear” simply does not cut it. Typically, these employees wear sweat pants, leggings and oversized chino’s to work. Don’t buy in to that story. When they were interviewed for the job, they looked the part. Make sure that they stay sharp.
The overwhelming truth is that image DOES matter. It is your first impression. It is also an impression of the company that you represent. You need a dress code to avoid to avoid grey areas and build consistency.
The law also supports the employer’s right to ensure uniformity and positive brand association of employees. Do not let image become the proverbial elephant in the room. From an employer’s perspective, it’s also important to introduce a dress code and grooming policy which is reasonable, fair, lawful and non-discrimatory. Perhaps one of the most compelling benefits of taking care of dress code and grooming is that if people look and feel good about their appearance, it will have a positive domino effect in their lives and at the workplace.
Carissa Bosman, Image Avenue.