Is Your Organization Ready to Trade in Blazers for Sneakers?

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Dress code policies are an age-old topic within the business world. Should you continue to require your employees to wear suits or buy into the casual jeans-and-t-shirt look all the Millennials are craving? This really all depends on who you are as an organization and what your culture is. For some organizations, it seems as if you have to choose between buttoned-up or laid-back but those aren’t the only options.
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Beyond Flip-Flops: Dress Code Policies for All Seasons

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Beyond Flip-Flops: Dress Code Policies for All Seasons

With a long hard winter behind us and summer temperatures finally arriving in Northeast Ohio, now is an ideal time to take a good look at your dress code and perhaps provide your employees with a little refresher as well.

You’ll probably want to touch on the eternal flip-flops or no flip-flops in the workplace debate, but enforcing dress code goes far beyond weather related clothing choices to some much more serious considerations that could have legal and safety related implications for your organization and your employees.
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Workplace Dress Codes: Setting Expectations

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As temperatures rise and the office starts to feel sparse with employees out on summer vacations, you may notice another physical change around the office- in how employees are dressed. While many organizations are already operating with relatively casual dress codes, summertime clothing choices can sometimes push the limits of those policies.

Endless Variations

The EEOC guidelines suggest that when establishing dress code guidelines, the standards remain the same within each job category. There are several notable exceptions to this rule and include accommodation requests from employees based on disability, religion, or national origin. These exceptions apply, even in cases where uniforms are worn, unless it would cause “undue hardship” for the employer.
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The Ultimate Summer Workplace Checklist

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Sweet summertime is right around the corner. Bring on the company picnics, vacation schedules, and little league games!

The HR department is presented with plenty of opportunities and challenges when it comes to the summertime workplace. It can be hard at times to keep employees attention and focus when the sunshine is calling their name.

Here’s the ultimate summer workplace list for organizations working to make their workplace great:

1. Solidify Holiday Schedule

There are 3 national holidays U.S. employers recognize during the summer, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Make sure your employees know what days they will have off due to the holidays, especially the 4th of July. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, be sure to clarify and communicate to employees what day the office will be closed. Also be sure to communicate that to customers as well.

2. Manage Vacation Schedules

Summer is the ideal time for many people to take a vacation. Unfortunately for the HR department and management team, that means many employees wanting to schedule time off at the same time. This can lead to a shortage of workers or disappointed employees if not handled properly. Require employees to schedule time off in advance, receive approval for time off, coordinate with the their coworkers and implement a fair system specifying criteria of the process and spell out whatever limits your organization may have around taking vacation.

3. Implement a Summer Dress Code

With the weather being warmer, it may be beneficial to implement and communicate a summer dress code throughout the organization.

Be sure to effectively communicate the new summer dress code, preferably in writing. Clarify what summer attire is and what it isn’t. Determine what is allowed in terms of apparel and shoes while providing examples (i.e. sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, shorts, capris, etc.) It may also be beneficial to let employees know to be mindful of their daily agendas and not dress inappropriately when meeting with customers or pitching an idea to corporate, depending on policy.

Also apply your dress code uniformly to all employees, and not to a specific gender or demographic.

4. Plan a Company Outing

Summer is an ideal time to organize a company outing or picnic to show appreciation. Hosting a company outing not only shows appreciation for employees but recognizes their efforts and gives them a time to interact and bond with one another outside of the office.

Many organizations host outings at a local attraction, golf course or park.

If the budget is right, it may be nice to include spouses, significant others, or children too.

5. Wellness Program

The summertime weather also allows for more creative outdoor activities and programs to support and promote wellness throughout the organization. Try setting up a bike-to-work program, walking program, fitness activity, or pick-up game.

In addition, the summer is a great time to emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits with the increased availability of fruits and vegetables. Several organizations have begun to provide fresh produce whenever possible to their workforce.

6. Flexible Scheduling

Many families tend to need more flexibility in the summer. Kids are out of school with little league games and sick babysitters.

Great workplaces tend to provide a bit more flexibility, such as opportunities to leave early on Fridays, revised or shorter work schedules, compressed work weeks, and longer holiday weekends.

Flexibility options allow employees extra time with their families and help them achieve better work/life balance over the summer.

7. Address Attendance Issues

Having a more flexible schedule may lead to a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Attendance can become more of an issue in the summertime when employees may call off, take unapproved time off, or be tardy/leave work early more often.

Make sure to have an attendance policy that is clearly communicated to employees and enforce the policy consistently.

Being flexible to employees’ needs to keep attendance issues to a minimum and keep in mind that results are what counts the most at work.

8. Take Advantage of Slow-Time Opportunities

Depending on the industry, summer time can be less busy and employees have a more relaxed workload. This is the perfect time to implement development initiatives that may have been pushed to the side the rest of the year in preference of other obligations.

Training, development, programs, and other HR projects are perfect opportunities to take advantage of in the summer months.

9. Have More Fun

The summer is a great time to have more fun at work, relax, build relationships between team members, and focus on collaboration and team-building.

Team-building activities, contests, socials, and philanthropic events help employees build camaraderie and foster open communication.

Consider setting up a volunteering day in which employees spend the morning or afternoon, as a team, helping out at a local nonprofit organization.

Planting and tending to a garden throughout the summer is another fun (and delicious) activity for the workplace.

10. Mid-Year Meeting

Encourage management to have a mid-year meeting with each of their employees to talk about their progress towards their goals and their performance thus far into the year.

Employees should not be surprised by the feedback they receive or the results of their end of year performance review.

Take steps to change performance now with employees who are not performing up to standard. Conversely, with great performers, let them know they are doing a great job and encourage them to keep up the good work.

It may also be beneficial to hold a company-wide mid-year staff meeting to bring everyone up-to-date on the year’s progress, where things are thriving, where things are falling short, and to boost morale.

HR Guide to Summer in the Workplace

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It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day signals the return of warm weather, summer activities, and plenty of HR and workplace issues from enforcing dress code and attendance policies to planning a company outing or event. This is your guide to managing summer in the workplace.

Spell out specifics in your dress code policy.

Dress code tends to become more open to interpretation during the summer (sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, capris, skirts, etc.), so be sure to specify exactly what you mean by “business casual” attire instead of leaving it to the employee’s discretion.  Spell out acceptable and unacceptable types of clothing and shoes (and examples), colors and styles (depending on your industry or type of organization), and specific days or situations that require different attire (such as formal or casual) that the usual. Also, be sure that you apply the dress code policy uniformly and consistently.

Provide flexible scheduling.

Now is an ideal time to remind employees of your attendance policy as issues of consistently coming into work early or late or “calling off” tend to become more of a problem during the summer months. Another way to address this issue is by introducing flexible scheduling options to allow employees to better self-manage their work/life throughout the summer. In the summer, employees are typically faced with greater work/life constraints such as more activities, family obligations, and children home from school. Seasonal perks like flex-time, shorter hours on Fridays, compressed work weeks, and revised work schedules are all offered by some employers during the summer to help employees achieve better balance.

Hire an intern or new graduate.

Another useful way organizations provide relief to their employees during the summer months is by hiring an intern or new graduate. Interns offer a variety of workforce support and assistance with special projects at an affordable cost. They also bring fresh ideas and perspectives, technical knowledge, and a desire to learn. New graduates offer similar capabilities. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of hiring and compensating an intern or new graduate, check out our Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey for detailed information about recruiting, hiring, training, engaging, and paying interns and new graduates.

Offer time off from work.

Time off is a common request during the summer with three major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Be sure to communicate the paid time off your organization intends to provide for these holidays. Consult our Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey for information about which paid holidays employers plan to offer this year.
Additionally, scheduling and coordinating summer vacations requires an efficient and fair process to ensure that employees are able to take time off when desired, but also that the business is able to meet its demands. Here are some common ways organizations effectively coordinate vacations and paid time off:

  • Use a vacation planner or vacation planning system.
  • Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates of vacation – such as a vacation request form. Build in supervisory approval.
  • Require employees to schedule time off in advance, but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule.
  • Have employees coordinate vacation time with their coworkers and/or self-manage vacation time.  This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
  • Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve vacations (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
  • Specify the limits of taking vacation (i.e. people with the same skill set can’t be out at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
  • Monitor and take into account other leaves (FMLA, maternity/paternity, sick, disability, etc.).
  • Remind employees that the business’ needs need to come first when scheduling vacations. As an employer, you do have the right to require an employee to postpone a vacation or require advanced notice. If you do promise vacation, however, you may be legally bound to it, according to Ohio law.

Start (or re-energize) your wellness program.

There’s no better time to start or re-energize a wellness program than at the beginning of summer. Summer is an ideal time for employees to get into shape and improve their well-being and the workplace can help them do that. Employees also tend to be more interested in wellness at this time of the year given the nice weather, outdoor activities, and greater availability of fresh and healthy foods. This can boost participation rates which help you keep your workforce healthier and manage the sting of rising health insurance costs. Here are some ideas for your summer wellness program:

  • Introduce a walking program
  • Hold company-wide wellness/fitness competitions, challenges, or team-building functions
  • Coordinate informal pick-up sports at lunch-time or after work
  • Provide fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Hold seminars on nutrition-related topics
  • Encourage employees to go outside during their lunch break, or even hold meetings outside

Plan a company outing or event.

The summer is a great time to plan a company outing or event and many businesses take advantage of the nice weather to spend time informally socializing with their employees.  Outings and events are great opportunities to get to know your staff, show appreciation, and do some team-building. Here are some tips for planning a summer event, provided by ERC’s own event experts:

  • Form a committee. Don’t plan your event alone. Get other employees involved in planning the outing and event and delegate responsibilities.
  • Define the event or outing’s purpose. Is the outing intended to be a social or networking event? Or is it an event that celebrates or recognizes something?
  • Determine the location. Outdoor locations are ideal for summer events, but make sure that the venue fits your audience and the type of event you are creating. A formal event will need a formal setting.
  • Set a date. Identify a couple potential dates and confirm the availability of the location as well as those that need to attend the event. Provide confirmations.
  • Create an agenda or timeline for the event. Lay out the entire event in terms of breaks, activities, meals, etc. and the times that they should take place. Assign roles to people on your committee and have them “own” certain tasks.
  • Communicate details. Be sure that your guests have all the information they need about the event or outing (i.e. location, directions, timing, attire, meals provided, response directions, and contact information).
  • Select food and activities. Make sure these are relevant to the type of event and the people attending, and also consider any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For example, if children will be attending the event, activities and food selections should be fitting.
  • Test-drive the event. Test equipment, walk through the venue, and get familiar with the things you’ll need during the outing. Pretend like you’re the guest.
  • Make it unique. Traditions are great, but try to build an element of surprise into your outing or event to make each year exciting. This could be a new location or venue, different entertainment, or a new giveaway.

Continue to train and guide performance.

Engagement can often become stale in the summer months. That’s why performance management, training, and development should not wane during the summer months. It’s important to keep investing in these practices so employees stay engaged and productive. For example, the summer signals mid-year, which is an ideal time for employees to meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and progress towards goals and objectives set at the beginning of the year. This discussion can help refocus employees on their goals, help establish new projects and objectives, and identify what additional support is needed. Additionally, while many employers refrain from scheduling training during the summer due to vacations, this actually can be an ideal time for training and development – especially if business is slower than normal during this season. 

Have a contingency plan for severe weather.

More severe weather is being predicted for this summer. Be sure that your organization has contingency and disaster recovery plans in place to deal with unexpected power outages, damages, and other issues that severe weather (such as thunderstorms, tornados, flooding, etc.) could cause for your business and its employees.

Prepare for budgeting. 

The summer passes quickly and budgeting will be just around the corner. With most employers planning to provide salary increases this year, it may be worthwhile for your organization to benchmark your employees’ compensation so that you are prepared to make good decisions about market adjustments and compensation increases when budgeting time approaches. Keep a compensation project on your agenda this summer and use our recently published 2011 compensation surveys as resources. Similar to compensation, use the slower summer months to catch up on major HR projects that have been on your to-do list.

The key to managing summer in the workplace is to acknowledge employees’ work/life needs, balance work with fun, and continue to engage.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here

Emerging Leaders
This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. It is an ideal course for younger professionals, such as new graduates. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. Click here.

Compensation Surveys
Get a jump-start on budgeting this summer by benchmarking compensation with our Salary Surveys which provide pay information on nearly 300 jobs that are relevant to all organizations and industries. Click here