Starbucks recently responded to a petition signed by 14,000 employees/partners and others asking for a change to the dress code allowing colorful hair, tattoos and piercings. In response the company updated their dress code to allow 150,000 partners around the globe to have any hair color they choose; wear fedoras and other hats; wear dark wash jeans and shirts in colors other than the traditional Starbucks black and white; and have visible tattoos and piercings. Progressive – yes. Does the company understand their brand – ABSOLUTELY!

In my time working at Starbucks, we had a stringent a dress code but always allowed for diversity. One morning a store manager frantically called me and stated that a male employee had come to work that day dressed as a female who happened to be “somewhat” of a celebrity in the city. I asked if the partner was in dress code and the manager responded she looked lovely and followed the code perfectly. The issue seemed to be that the store was jam packed with customers who wanted to catch a glimpse of this celebrity employee/partner and that they were very busy. I responded “Your problem is?” In this progressive and compassionate company transgender or employees who cross dressed were celebrated openly, as long as they were in dress code. Starbucks knows the truth of the product and understands that their employees/partners and the relationships they build with the customers are the brand.

Consider the brand in your organization. If you have a more traditional company this type of change may not be appropriate. If employees rarely interact with customers on a face-to-face basis, i.e. call center this type of change may enhance engagement and expand your recruiting pool. If your organization is creative and non-traditional this may be the right time to make this type of change.