HRA Blog

Summer Workplace Fashion Musings

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

With Memorial Day in our rear view mirror, summer is finally here! That means vacations, flexible work schedules and a relaxed dress code, right?

I was in NYC this week for a client meeting and was sitting in a café eating breakfast.  There was a group of individuals at the table next to mine and it was obvious that they were preparing for a presentation. Everyone in the group had on dark suits, white shirts and/or blouses and ties. The same goes for here in Washington, DC., as it tends to be very conservative looking. However, I have a colleague who is based in Silicon Valley and won’t be caught dead in a suit and tie. Even when he travels to Washington, DC, “dressing up” means putting on a sport coat over his jeans.

What’s right? What’s not right? What works for your organization? Why should we even care?

They’re all great questions that my clients and colleagues have all the time. With the pending summer months, discussions have revolved around what’s appropriate for summer? Should there be a more relaxed dress code? What is considered appropriate business attire?

Let me give some practical thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with a casual dress code in the summer, but it’s helpful to communicate what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. For example, jeans are fine, but jeans cannot have holes or tatters in them. T-shirts are acceptable, but they must have sleeves.   Sun dresses can possibly work, but if it is the same dress you are wearing to a night club after hours, perhaps select another option.

The importance of clearly articulating dress code “Do’s and Don’ts” is that it avoids anyone claiming interpretation of what they are wearing due to other circumstance, i.e., an employee says that they are being reprimanded not for their dress, but for other motives.

Most importantly, know your business. If you have clients that regularly come into your office and you have an open office space, maybe a casual environment isn’t appropriate. Or, if you have regular meetings with individuals who dress casually, jeans and sneakers might be appropriate.  There’s a lot of studies and individuals that advocate one way or the other on how dress codes impact workforce performance, happiness and productivity, and frankly, I’m not here to argue one way or not. If you think your employees can be professional, maintain their level of productivity and increase their workplace happiness by allowing a more relaxed dress code in the summer (or the entire year) go for it!

Happy summer all!


Inspiring Your Next Generation of Leaders

Written by Cyndi Branciforte on .

I recently read an article by George Bradt about the Academy Award winning movie Whiplash, where, JK Simmons plays a music instructor who crushes his students’ confidence by demanding impossible musical perfection while opposing one student against the other.   Brandt directs the reader to correlate Simmons’ teaching with pushing an employee beyond the bounds of reason to develop their leadership skills.   The “best” performers respond to the challenge, while the others “go away.” I found his analysis interesting, but at the same time a bit unsettling.

Brandt goes on to identify a flaw in this argument and clarifies that, rather than be motivated by others to achieve their potential – one can be inspired towards achievement with the help of an enlightened leader who is able to leverage his or her strengths and remove barriers that stand in the way of success.

This article got me thinking about how companies are identifying and developing their future leaders to inspire employees.  Unfortunately, due to many reasons, I find leadership development is not always at a priority for organizations.

With so many resources, options and metaphors at our fingertips it’s no wonder the question of how and when to transform managers into leaders leaves many organizational and HR executives with a hallow pit in their stomach. In addition, current employee leadership development expectations have changed and can be confusing to sort out.  In some cases, leadership training initiatives or programs are outdated and/or have never existed, and the thought of updating them or implementing can be overwhelming.

Regardless of your physiological response to the question, teaching your future leaders “how to lead and inspire” is not a choice – it’s a competitive business requirement that will allow you to attract and retain top talent and maintain employee commitment, interest and engagement.

Recent studies on Millennials in the workplace conducted by Virtuali explored, among other things, their leadership values as well as the quality and type of leadership training they received from employers.  The Viruali reports found that Millennials (who make up the largest generation in the workforce) believe employee development, including leadership development programs, is an essential element in their careers.   Explored further, when asked to identify critical development areas, Millennials responded that training should be adaptive and incorporate skills development in relationship management, networking and development.

Interestingly, the Virtuali report found 64 percent of current Millennial leaders felt unprepared when assuming their leadership role.  Yes – they are already in leadership positions!  In fact, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte, 50 percent of Millennials already occupy leadership positions.  Meanwhile, they continue to report lack of experiences (something they greatly value) makes it challenging to manage difficult people and resolve conflict.  This knowledge alone should inspire an organization to develop a leadership strategy.

So, what steps can you take to begin to distinguish or overhaul your organizational leadership development strategy?  Below are a few considerations:

  • Identify current AND potential leaders that can benefit from leadership development
  • Survey your emerging leadership group and current senior leadership team to determine and align how your organization defines success
  • Identify essential competencies your emerging leaders should posses in order to guide the future of your organizations
  • Audit your current organizational learning programs
  • Invest in an emerging leadership training program and begin to develop essential leadership skills and knowledge
  • Ensure that your emerging leadership program aligns with your organizational expectations, relevant workplace trends/issues and incorporates experiential learning opportunities
  • Provide on-going development coaching and/or mentorship opportunities

Organizations taking the lead in developing their current and future leaders ensure business longevity.  They look through the eyes of current and future leaders to explore the leadership gaps and strengths of their workforce and improve and reinforce them along side business strategies and goals.  Pairing dynamic, relevant and intentional leadership strategies with business initiatives will transform your organizational destiny!