Workplace revolution: What does dressed for success mean in 2013?
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Need a job? Wear a skirt or tie to the interview.
Have a job? Workplace attire just might mean something else.
Workplace attire is undergoing a revolution of sorts. In some workplaces, what was once “casual Friday” has become “business normal” throughout the work week. Shirts and ties for men and skirts and blazers for women are still in play, but not nearly to the degree they were in previous years.
Take Holladay-based CHG Healthcare Services, for example.
One of the largest health care staffing companies in the country, finding a tie or skirt among its 800-plus employees on any given day could be virtually impossible. Most men wear jeans, flip-flops. Some wear T-shirts and ball caps, golf shirts or a long-sleeve casual shirt. For the women, there are plenty of denim jeans or shorts; sandals and causal tops abound.
While casual attire is quite the norm at CHG, the culture of the business is to foster a comfortable, positive work environment that breeds motivated employees who excel at their jobs.
“We don’t put so much emphasis on dress codes,” said Chad Beals, director of Talent Acquisition for CHG Healthcare. “We put emphasis on helping our people be successful.”
He explained that people could express their individuality in their attire as long as their wardrobe was not offensive or too revealing.
In January, Fortune Magazine ranked CHG Healthcare Services No. 3 in its 2013 survey of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. The CHG family of companies employs 1,500 people nationwide, including 850 workers in Utah.
Among the reasons for that ranking was that the company takes seriously its mission to create an enjoyable and productive workplace for all of its employees, he said.
“Our focus is always on how is our culture going to be encouraging people to be their most successful,” said CHG Healthcare public relations and content manager Eric Ethington.
While CHG Healthcare employees may dress more casually once they are hired, Beals acknowledged that a more traditional approach is expected for the job interview.
He said prospective employees should be dressed in usual business attire such as a suit when going through the interview process.
“You only have one chance to make a first impression,” Beals said.
That sentiment was echoed in a recent survey from Office Team indicating that eight in 10 executives interviewed said clothing choices affect an employee's chances of earning a promotion.
For those who may be wardrobe-challenged the report stated that the good news was that proper attire might carry less weight than it did six years ago.
Ninety-three percent of executives surveyed in 2007 tied professional wear to advancement prospects. Among those respondents, a third said clothing significantly affected a person's chances of moving up the ladder, versus just 8 percent who feel this way today.
The survey was conducted based on interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.
Managers also were asked to recount the strangest outfits they have heard of or seen someone wearing to work, not including Halloween. Responses included a dinosaur costume, pajamas, a chicken suit, coveralls, a space suit and a wolf mask.
Among the more “inappropriate” workday wardrobes were "a see-through dress," fishnet stockings and stilettos, a bathing suit, a tube top, a muscle shirt, yoga pants and “very tight bike shorts."
"Employees may be tempted to dress down in today's workplace, especially during warmer months, but clothing that's too casual or revealing can be frowned upon," said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. "Although a polished appearance alone won't land you a promotion, it can help others envision you in a leadership role."
How employees are expected to dress can be dependent upon the industry. People in the banking, legal and accounting sectors tend to dress in a more traditionally professional manner. However, there are exceptions even in more conservative professions.
“It depends on whether you are in a position where you deal with clients or if you are in a backroom support area,” said LeeAnne Linderman, executive vice president of Retail Banking for Salt Lake City-based Zions Bank. Dress code guidelines are also based upon “client expectations,” she said.
Those expectations can differ based upon the market being served, she said.
In Salt Lake City, bankers are expected to wear business suits, but in rural areas, the dress code may change to fit the client base where jeans and a plaid shirt are the norm.
“In Park City or Sun Valley, bankers don’t wear ties in those communities,” Linderman said. “They look crisp (and) professional, but they don’t look “buttoned up” like they do in major metropolitan cities.”
She said as long as the Zions’ employee meets the client expectation, then their dress is considered appropriate.
As a younger generation begins to take over the corporate environment, traditions begin to evolve making what use to be accepted as professional attire less mandatory. Many global technology companies like Adobe and Google have taken a much more causal approach to workplace dress while still maintaining corporate and business success.
Some dress standards will continue to change, said Rick Westbrook, Salt Lake City branch manager for human resources firm Robert Half International.
“We’re seeing a trend where more casual clothing is accepted generally speaking,” Westbrook said. “But for a impression, it’s still very important to “dress your best.””
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