Casual dress code secret to winning staff loyalty

Companies looking for the secret to attracting and retaining talent should forget big salaries, share options and work-life balance and look to the company dress code.

This was the surprise finding of research by HR consultancy William M Mercer which discovered casual dress is what most attracts 20- to 30-year-olds to work for an organisation.

Being allowed to dress down was rated more important than flexible work arrangements, which came second, and access to technology, which was third. It was also the prime motivator to staying with a company, ahead of challenging work assignments and good quality leadership.

The findings follow a recent NOP poll that revealed soft benefits, like casual dress, fail to persuade staff to stick with companies (News, 26 September).

At an IRS conference on attracting and retaining staff last week Jim Matthewman, European partner at William M Mercer, told delegates that casual clothes represent more than freedom of dress.

It is about the attitude of the company, he said. Companies that allow some casualness in dress, even if it is just a dress-down day once a week, are perceived more positively by younger staff.

“It is about management style,” he said. “It is about approachability and managers accepting other things on to the agenda such as morale.”

Other retention devices include allowing staff to take on challenging projects even if they are relatively inexperienced and ensuring they have good leaders.

While a pay rise of 10 per cent reduces turnover by only 0.1 per cent quality of leadership can affect turnover by 7 per cent, Matthewman said.

He added that movement of more senior employees has an impact on junior staff.

“If an immediate supervisor leaves the company, that causes a massive collapse of morale because staff assume that the company is not managing that person’s career very well. If they are promoted internally that has a positive impact on retention – careers are being managed and opportunities are being created within the team.”

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