Dress Code: Presentation is Everything
"Uniforms provide a sense of security for residents knowing who is at their door or on the property and providing a means to identify workers," says Paul J. Bettano, CFO of Beverly, Mass.-based Symes Associates, a residential developer and owner/operator for office buildings, apartment buildings and retail centers.
Dress codes serve to brand the company—particularly if the dress code provides uniforms or company apparel. Uniforms also can promote accountability and raise the expectations of management. "Site staff that wear uniforms bearing the company name or logo represent the company and instill a sense of pride and professionalism," Bettano says. "Their job performance will reflect on the company. From an internal perspective, the uniform can help unify the team and remind the employee that he or she is a single part in a whole company."
Promote Company Image
A uniform for site and service staff helps brand the company and can promote accountability among staff that otherwise might not be identified easily by customers. When visiting a property at different stages of completion—from sub-contractors to potential buyers and residents—dress codes may help visitors find their way faster and more conveniently to someone who can help them.
Uniforms must be professional and represent the profession of the employee. "Following standards such as visible name tags and a theme, such as a color, unifies all the uniforms and allows visitors to identify the employees," Bettano says. "This helps them know who they are talking to and their role in the organizational structure."
It is important to have a dress code that is well-received by employees. "Dress codes that are imposed without input and without an explanation tend to be poorly received by employees," Bettano says. The dress code should allow for clothing that is comfortable, professional in appearance, and that employees will wear with pride." You also want to find the right balance in a dress code. "Often relaxing dress codes for the summer or for one day a week can be a slippery slope as it may be slow to revert back to the period when it is not relaxed," he adds.
There is a substantial difference between casual attire and business casual, and some employees will blur the lines if given the chance. "It's important to have a universal dress code because people are ruled by their individual perspective and objectives," says Susan Gustin, marketing projects manager for Braintree, Mass.-based real estate firm Peabody Properties Inc. "Everyone has a different interpretation of how to dress and why."
Companies may tend to overlook the impact a dress code has on productivity. A dress code establishes a consciousness far greater than an organization without a formal dress code policy because it builds loyalty. "Without saying a word, uniforms communicate a visual style that indicates you are a leader or follower," says Paul Lawrence Vann, author of Living on Higher Ground and leadership and workplace expert.
When setting the dress code companies don't recognize that the business casual dress code fails because it is often contradictory. "With a casual dress code it is important to find the right balance," Gustin says. "Perhaps a better term for this is what I have recently heard to be ‘business appropriate.'" This would eliminate employees wearing tee shirts and jeans.
A dress code helps the public form a perception about a company's abilities. "If you overlook the fashion piece of business, it can undermine the hard work you might have put into a presentation or new business contract," Gustin says. She suggests getting feedback from the staff. "This should be made a part of the orientation process for new employees," she says.
Businesses using a dress code gain a competitive advantage and establish an excellent first impression with the public. Businesses can leverage its brand while projecting a powerful image that reflects strength and stability.