Do you need a uniform policy?

Uniform policies for me fall somewhere in-between the policies I really think you need and the completely useless fear driven policies. I started in the working world within a quick service giant and worked my way through to becoming a Store Manager, so I feel I know first hand the pain and agony implementing this policy. Working with Team Members who are in their teens, constantly telling them to do their top button up, tuck their hair up, wear the right shoes, taking out their piercings was a daily part of the job as was the passive aggression they exuded after you told them no.

At the end of the day, I didn’t really mind if they had multiple ear piercings or blue hair. If they were excellent team players friendly to customers and looked showered and tidy, I was just like, yeah cool – I’ve got better things to do. Then my Operations Manager would come for a site inspection and I would see on my action list “address blah’s appearance, has a visible tattoo”. ehhhhhhhhhh.

I think in the grand scheme of business issues uniform adherence is not something I rate highly, as in it’s not a conversation I have much time for. It’s a simple a conversation I want to exit quickly. I don’t want to sit there discussing how you feel about a specific part of company uniform – just do it, you accepted the job, it’s not exactly a surprise that we have dress standards. If you genuinely have no idea what I mean when I say professional dress I am more than happy to go to google and show you pictures. Every minute we discuss uniforms is a minute I can’t spend on developing tools and systems to help you develop your career or have access to great benefits.

Are you creating a policy because you are too awkward to talk to that one person in that one site….

…..so you have declared WE NEED A POLICY (so you can hand it to them and they will subtly get the hint), that’s what is comes down to. I am struggling to have a human to human conversation so allow me to get my A4 paper to navigate these tough waters. Maybe that the purpose of a policy is to help you have those discussions, but too often we throw down the policy in place of the conversation….

Is it enough to just say “employees are expected to dress professionally and managers may provide feedback on your appearance in line with brand standards”. Should you just have a couple of pictures of role model employees in uniform with a blurb in the handbook.

The more prescriptive you make the policy the more you have to police it. When drafting a policy I would think about your brand and your customers. Who are your customers? Are you high-end or down to earth? Are they going to be offended by an arm tattoo? Would you benefit from company issued compete uniforms? Is blue hair the end of the world? Most of the time people will do the right thing, we spend a lot of time policing the 1% hmmm……..

 

 

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Policy snooze stack

I am currently reviewing an induction guide at the moment and I want to ensure that it is the simplest document possible. Only what they need to know, then everything else we can give them along the way. It’s often the simple stuff we actually overlook when someone starts. I have heard stories of new starters not being shown where to store their lunch, where the bathrooms are, how they can access additional uniforms or where they can access their shifts. You know what they got instead – a pile of policies to review and sign.

Snnnnnnnoooooooooozzzzzzzzeeeeeee

So you are telling me that they went through a recruitment process where let me guess, you told them the company was progressive, or exciting, or something else you feel strongly about; then on their first day you sat them down and told them to read a stack of policies. No. No you did not.

There is a better way, but you are going to need to think a little bit harder, stretch yourself and be a bit creative. I know plenty of HR people that tell me that they aren’t creative. Which is crap, because creativity is about taking a concept and changing it up a little bit. We can all do that, we all have something to offer. Use your voice and put it out there.

Build a training plan, try your hand at e-learning development, make a video, create a user friendly checklist, coach your managers. Time allocated to reading documents should not be your new starters introduction to your community.

Let’s make this practice a thing of the past and move towards integrating what needs to be done, in a simple and user friendly way!

Can we fix it, YES WE CAN!

Why policy and conversation should be bff’s

So I found myself a few weeks ago in a discussion on LinkedIn about the use of uniform policies and this guy wrote something along the lines of ..

We work with adults, treat them like adults we don’t need a uniform policy!

Then plenty of others went on to put in their thoughts cheering him on saying “yeah you just need to have a conversation”. Then I came along and rained on everyone’s parade, then the policy police were brought up and then I decided to step away before I said something foolish on social media.

I feel we look at policy the wrong way because we have built this HR rule book feel as a profession. It’s the brand of like HR walking around looking for what people have done wrong and citing the policy. That’s not what I do for a living, no way! But there was a period of time where this was the perceived image of HR – they were the policy police, smacking people for being naughty. So as we emerge from the dark ages and into the dawn of the conversation and HR being more than a compliance team, let’s not be ignorant and let’s think about what policy implementation has taught us.

3 things that we have learned about policy include:

  1. if all you are good for is reciting policy then your career has an expiry date;
  2. if you smack people with policy they really wont like you, their manager or the business; and
  3. policy is kind of essential to keep you out of court and ensure messages are clear.

Businesses are communities, and like any community there are rules you are expected to follow to be part of it.

Think of the communities you belong to whether it be your family, a sport team or a volunteer group. There are expected standards of behaviour of how you will treat each other.

Sometimes we mess up, someone has a conversation with us to see what the hell we were thinking. Sometimes we really make a mess of things, get a talking to and face the consequences. Same goes for at work.

However work has the high stakes of finance, health and safety and legal obligations, so it makes sense to have some kind of documentation to ensure we are on the same page.

So, what does this mean for you as a HR practitioner or line manager? It means we need to respect the policy and treat it like insurance. It’s purpose is a communication tool to share what is expected from people. It serves as a point of reference when an employee claims “they were never told” or “I don’t understand what you mean”.

Have the conversation using the policy to get your facts right, and really, if it escalates then we can start having the tough conversations, that might include, yes a policy reference.