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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!


Sobering Advice for HR

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

Recently, Deloitte released their annual Human Capital Trends Report, their annual study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges compiled using data from surveys and interviews taken by 3,300+ HR and business leaders in 106 countries around the world. The report, as always, is chocked full of really terrific information and insights. If you have a few minutes, the executive summary and accompanying infographic are great reads.

One of the biggest things that struck me from this year’s report was some shot across the bow for the HR profession. Reskilling HR came in as the fourth most important talent issue for the year, with business leaders rating HR’s performance 20 percent lower than HR leaders’ ranking. So basically, our bosses, are telling us we’re not doing a good job.

For the most part, Deloitte put it bluntly, HR is just not keeping up with the pace of business and a reskilling of HR professionals while reinventing the role of HR is becoming critical.

Those are some extremely serious warning signs for those of us in the HR profession. However, the need represents an incredible opportunity for those in the HR field to take charge of this and offer some strategy around how to possibly mitigate this issue.

But where do organizations start? Deloitte offers the following advice:

  • Redesign HR with a focus on consulting and service delivery, not just efficiency of administration. HR business partners must become trusted business advisors with the requisite skills to analyze, consult, and resolve critical business issues.


  • Rather than locating HR specialists in central teams, embed them into the business — but coordinate them by building a strong network of expertise. Recruitment, development, employee relations, and coaching are all strategic programs that should be centrally coordinated but locally implemented.


  • Make HR a talent and leadership magnet … Create rigorous assessments for top HR staff and rotate high performers from the business into HR to create a magnet for strong leaders.


  • Invest in HR development and skills as if the business depended on it … Focus on capabilities such as business acumen, consulting and project management skills, organizational design and change, and HR analytical skills.

Yes, businesses are moving at lightning speed, technology is rapidly advancing and employee talent needs are through the roof in an effort to stay competitive. At times it may seem overwhelming, but, this is our time, these are concrete suggestions and I for one will be evaluating ways to implement some of theme in my processes and methodologies.