Not Your Typical HR Guy

As an HR practitioner, you know, that guy in the trenches, I’m a rare one who gets the whole strategic HR thing. There’s a lot of buzz about how the HR industry is stuck in the “personnel” days and can’t or won’t move with the times and the speed of technology. Heck, we should all just go away. Since a majority of my peers are all policy beaters who occupy that “Office of No,” I’m here to show that there are a few of us out there who have taken the advice of the thought leaders and gurus and are blazing some trails in an otherwise doomed profession.

Here’s an example of how I’m doing my part to move our industry forward. One of my employees reached out to me on Twitter. (Yeah, I’m that cool progressive HR guy on social media. Expanding my personal brand and breaking down HR stereotypes. Yep, follow me up on Twitter, check out my story on the ‘grams and even drop me a Snap.) The tweet was asking for clarity about dress codes. So, I pushed back from my seat at the table, dropped all my strategic HR work, (luckily, my HRIS is chilling in the cloud, so I’m all good) and decided to take on this policy question. Sometimes you have to get back into that tactical stuff, right? Life in the HR trenches, man.

Now, to the question:

@johnphudson I have a great idea for a JHud blog post. “
(Notice the reference to me as “JHud.” Shows I’m the down-to-earth HR guy that employees feel comfortable talking to. It says, “cool and approachable” and not, ” Toby from The Office. Shoot, I may even have a friend or two in my office.)

It extends past 140 characters (social media savvy), so there’s more:

@johnphudson we couldn’t figure out the difference between business casual, business formal, formal, casual, etc. maybe you could help out?”

At first glance, I’m like, really? An employee is wasting my valuable strategic time and has the audacity to ask me a tactical policy question? Where’s that AI app when you need it? Why would I go the website, make five clicks to get to the HR page, then run a query to pull all references to dress code to send to her? But, then I remembered I can flex a bit in my role. (Plus, she asked me to blog about it so there’s a golden opportunity for me to build more on my personal brand, further showing my strategic HR awesomeness.)

But uh, back to the lecture at hand (dropping some old school rap lyrics. I got this.)

I studied those tweets for a few. What is the difference between all of the dress code definitions and how could I take this tactical request and make it a little more strategic and cool? I stepped back and took a look from a macro level, analyzed the correlation between companies with formal dress codes vs. those without and then determined the ROI using Big Data (to share with the C-suite later to show my worth.) Then, I threw up in my mouth a bit and figured I should just answer the question. Because sometimes people just want an answer to a question. They don’t need to have something broken down to a million pieces and then delivered to them in a way that doesn’t answer the question they originally asked.

So, to finally answer the dress code question, I’ll have to say, “it depends.” (Dammit, even the super cool HR dude can’t even answer the question straight up!)

Formal: Tuxes and evening gowns

Business Formal: Dudes: suits and ties; ladies: suits (skirts or pants).

Business Casual: Fellas: nice pants, collared shirts. Decent shoes, no sneakers, unless you can rock those trendy, snappy casual ones all the guys are wearing on SportsCenter with their suits. Nice jeans with a sport coat can work, too. Ladies: dark dress jeans or pants. Nice sweater or blouse. Maybe a hip jacket or blazer. For shoes, definitely a kitten heal or wedges.

Casual: (This is for both men and women) Nice jeans, collarless shirt. Or, a collar. Your choice. If you must hoodie, make it a nice one. You know, the one you can wear with a sport coat or leather jacket over it? Decent shoes. Here you have some stretch. Go trendy or go rugged depending on the season.

Regardless of the dress code, my advice, if you’re starting a new job, is to show up the first week dressed a little more conservative. Survey the land and get a sense of the environment and adapt from there. No matter the environment, look sharp. Don’t look like you just pulled your clothes out of the hamper. And, my final rule of thumb, if you look in the mirror and have to question whether it’s appropriate for the office, it’s probably not.

Oh, and don’t ask your HR guy to address the attire of Timmy in IT because his jeans are too casual or Susie in Accounting because her skirt is too short. You know the culture and the tone and image of your organization. If you don’t think it’s appropriate, use the opportunity to provide some constructive feedback and coach that employee.

Not everything you do in your job is going to be that cutting edge, strategic work. But people depend on you for various levels of information. Sometimes it drives you to dig deep and play at levels you have always dreamed of and, other times, you don’t even have to think of the answer because it’s right in front of you or in a policy manual. Most of the time, though, it matters to someone and you can always make a difference in someone’s day.

Now, enough of this tactical stuff, I’ve got to get back to that seat at the table! (And, I hope you all picked up on the “tongue in cheek” references, here. Stick with me a bit and you’ll get to know a lot more about me. I promise.)

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