Talented people are as diverse as the clothes they wear. You may be stifling your employees with your dress policy.
When I got out of college, in 1989, I worked double duty: My primary job was for a local TV station called WCBS-TV during the day, and my second job was at Express, a hip retail company, in the evening. (New York City is expensive out of college, no?) Both places required that their people dress pretty sharp (even if we were never in front of clients), and Express even made us wear pantyhose if our legs were showing. Archaic? Today, maybe. But each business wanted its image to be "put together" and its people to be the same.
Fast-forward more than a few years to my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, and you'll often see myself and my team in jeans and T-shirts. Why? I think it's important that people are comfortable in their clothes each and every day. Even when we go to trade shows, we oftentimes wear pretty casual clothes. When I speak in front of large audiences, I'll dress up in a pair of dark jeans with a jacket. (How conservative!) In general, I want our customers to know that they're doing business with real and generally casual people.
But it's not the same for every company. Tech companies are different from law offices, which are different from car detailing shops, which are different from construction sites, and so on. You need to have the proper dress code for each.
I do believe that if more "cubicle"-type companies offered a more casual work environment, they might just attract more talent. Talented people are as diverse as the clothes they wear.
Some benefits that might be considered if a corporate dress code goes casual:
1. People get creative. At VerticalResponse, we had "great shoes Friday," which made dressing up to work fun. We even had people vote for their faves!
2. People love to wear their logo'd hoodies wherever they go; a great culture driver.
3. Our employees are comfortable doing their work in what they want to wear, not what we require them to.
4. No one judges colleagues for what they're wearing.
5. There is less stress on "picking the right outfit" each and every morning.
The worst dress-code experience I've had: a lovely engineer who showed up to work in a bathrobe and Birks. Not a good look if you have people coming into the office; your jeans, all of a sudden, look like a tuxedo!
Do you have any great (or horror) stories you can share?
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick