Goldman Sachs, the fifth largest U.S. bank, has unbuttoned its dress code to help attract and retain tech talent. According to an internal memo, employees in its technology division now may dress down and "exercise judgment in determining when to adapt to business attire." While using rather stuffy language to convey an air of casualness, the move raises a good question: Does dress code really matter when it comes to keeping employees happy and engaged?
Uh, yeah. In fact, I want to know why it took so long.
Blame the devices (again).
Millennials, in particular, tend to be suit-averse. The fact that they've had had a mobile device within reach most of their lives has changed the way people think and behave in countless ways. People demand immediacy, for one thing. Whatever answer you need to anything is merely a few taps away as you query Google or Bing. And if you want to reach a friend, co-worker, or mate, he or she had better pick up or text back quickly, otherwise assumptions are made and feelings get hurt.
Short attention spans, the fast pace of information exchange, the rate at which people engage with each other on social media--all of this has created a collective mindset which desires and rewards speed, agility, and responsiveness. It's a way of thinking more suited to hoodies and sneakers and less inclined to the confines of high heels or neckties.
Culture is what really matters.
Will a dress code policy change help Goldman get and hold onto more tech talent? Considering it's coming so late, my guess is that morphing the bank's culture into an environment that can lure superstars away from Silicon Valley is going to take some time. Keep in mind, only two years ago the company had to formally make a rule that its interns were prohibited from working more than 17 hours at a time. Yes, it's a prestigious thing to work for the Wall Street firm, but some of the best and the brightest engineers simply are not going to sign up for those kinds of hard-core working hours.
Who do tech stars want to work for?
Then again, Goldman's relaxed dress code is one of the first changes to be made by the bank's chief information officer, Elisha Wiesel. Wiesel--the only child of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel--sounds like someone programmers and other geeks can relate to, at least the way The New York Times portrays him:
He describes himself as a socially awkward young man who was most interested in programming computer games.... Mr. Wiesel drifted from programming in his teenage years. "I put down my computer and picked up an electric guitar," is the way he describes it. "I got interested in girls and rock." His favorites were the big heavy metal bands of the period, like Iron Maiden and Metallica. But he also caught "the tail end of the Ramones," he said, and fancied himself a bit of a punk rocker. His mother and father worried, but weathered the rebellious phase, even the time he came home with a purple mohawk.... He went to Yale with every intention of majoring in the humanities. But one day, working on an assignment in a computer lab, he noticed that the guy next to him seemed to be having more fun. "He was programming," Mr. Wiesel said.
And, in a story he penned for The New York Jewish Week, the image he chose may speak to his personality: Wiesel poses with his arm around his dad, looking a lot like Mark Zuckerberg--wearing a hoodie and t-shirt.