IAN FERGUSON: Grooming a workforce for corporate success


Ian Ferguson

A grooming policy should reflect the needs of the employer while not unnecessarily restricting an employee’s individual expression. The more formal or professional the culture, and the more employees interact with individuals outside the workplace, the greater the need for employers to have a policy governing employee grooming and hygiene.

Our focus for this week’s column is to place some emphasis on the need for employee grooming guidelines that reflect the image and brand of the company.

  1. Be inclusive and thorough

If your dress code policy reflects grooming standards that could have been written in 1985, it is definitely time to revisit it. Do not assume your employees ought to “just know” what they should and should not do. For instance, be sure to discuss if and when any tattoos or body piercings should NOT be displayed.

If the nature of your business dictates that employees with body art should cover it up when meeting with clients, then say so. But allow for exceptions. For example, those that are faith-based.

  1. Be as specific as possible

What is the best way to avoid vague references to dress and grooming standards, and give employees clear-cut guidance for what is expected of them? Provide specific examples in your policies to give workers a solid understanding of acceptable and unacceptable grooming and dress behaviours. Pictures might also help to clear up ambiguities.

  1. Stay gender neutral

Make sure your grooming policy is gender neutral. This is critical to helping you avoid discrimination issues, such as one rule for men and another for women. And in an era when gender lines are becoming increasingly blurred, it is even more prudent.

  1. Spell everything out in your employee handbook

Your complete dress code policy, including any grooming standards, should be documented in your employee handbook. This makes it easy for your employees to reference guidelines any time they have questions or concerns, and it provides an effective medium for formally communicating your expectations.

  1. Make it part of new employee onboarding

Employee orientation training offers an ideal forum for setting expectations and giving new hires the tools they need to succeed. One of the most critical tools for their success is your employee handbook, and your company dress code and grooming standards should be included in it.

Talk about your employee handbook and its recommended uses as part of the onboarding process. Direct new employees to where they can find critical information, such as dress code and grooming standards. Literally walk them through it.

  1. Keep up with evolving laws and trends

Employment laws at the global level are constantly evolving. By the same token, so are social norms and practices. As such, it is critical for your business to stay current on changes and updates to applicable employment laws and trends. When it comes to government-related human resources issues, even unintentional non-compliance can cost you big.

  1. Review and update annually

On an annual basis, make sure all employees review your employment policies and guidelines. Legal changes, including court decisions and new legislation, may require you to update your dress code and grooming policies among other employment standards. A company manager should take the initiative by incorporating any related developments and considerations into your best practices.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.


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