Designs on Dress
MOST companies have established codes of dressing but there are some that are today confused by what they need to wear to make a positive impact.
Once upon a time (as all good stories start) companies and institutions decided on a uniform or a code that would make a favourable impression on their customers. Today the definition of a customer has shifted from being an external client to that of being both external as well as internal.
Employees today are seen as internal customers who need to `buy' in to the mission and objectives of the organisation and whose views in any and all matters relating to their participation is as important, probably more important than the perception of the external customer.
Organisations today then look at several options when deciding on an appropriate dress code for their people where the concerns below are addressed in some detail.
What should the apparel you decide on state about the business you do, the service you provide or the product you make? Do you want to make a `statement'? If so what statement is that? Your mission statement, or is it a take-off from your brand perception?
The opinion of certain key clients could be requested. How do they see you and how would they like your people to dress? For instance, if your people need to go to them for service requirements or maintenance, how will their code gel with those of the client company? Do your clients like zany, pop-art dressers regularly visiting their offices?
How would the people who work for you like to look? They will of course like to look respectable, important even. Remember they leave home in the morning, making an effort to look as if they are going for work and not to a picnic! They need to send a subtle signal to their family that they are off to work at a place that puts the bread on the table, and that there is a certain dignity attached to that ritual.
On the other hand, some might consider comfort over dignity, and might like to look avant-garde and `with-it'
Dignity should not be the only thing on your mind. Appropriateness is what should be uppermost when planning a code of this sort. It is important to understand that everybody cannot dress as if they are girding their loins for battle in the boardroom. Similarly, it is certainly odd to expect the Managing Director to look the same as a grandly outfitted doorman! There must be different clothes for different jobs.
There are several large corporations who have the same uniform for everybody. This is the Japanese ethic that has found application in several establishments around the world.
While this may have met the purpose a decade ago, today people are looking at variegation and ocular relief. A case in example is the megalithic behemoth Bharat Electronics that employs over 25000 people at one of their several plants across India. Everyone from the bus driver to the Managing Director wear the same beige and brown uniform. The sea that erupts during work-breaks is one of such monotonous visual impact that the casual observer is immediately transported to some desert purgatory during a sandstorm! People get bored seeing the same thing, and psychology begins to insert their ennui into the quality of work output.
The result will eventually be a drop in productivity. If a dress code has not been decided prior to the establishment of the company or if a change is being envisaged from an old code, a draft could, with benefit, be sent to the employees for their comments and subsequent buy-in.
Reasons must be provided for every suggestion and requirement. Once concurrence has been obtained, the code can be posted and applied
All good codes of this kind should be open to revision and rethink
A stringent dress code can always be revised, a lax code will be very difficult to enforce with resentment
Remember, dress will need to be different if you have offices in several parts of the country, region or the world. For one thing, the weather may be different and social perceptions may differ, in which case the code will have to be amended accordingly
Also, if there is a need to have a code for just one group of people in your organisation, have one for everybody
Dress codes are really a must in today's world because of the diversity of workforces and the multi-cultural setting companies find themselves in.
We might be tempted to think that the rule does not apply to the `free' man who works for himself from the confines of his home. As it happens even that `free' man is today `dressing right' to make his commute from the bedroom to his home office in the next room!
`Dressing' for office lends a certain work culture that, in these fast-paced times provides the cutting edge in competitive strategising.
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