Do your trainers dress for success?

Which do customers value most: looks, smarts, or both? Schoun Regan calls it like he sees it.

Does your business have a dress code? Does it matter? Will the stock price of your company plummet if golf shirts are worn in the office? Does your company have a dress-down day every other Friday except when the moon is full and the general manager fails to express emotion by Wednesday? Let's examine the issue of dressing up your trainers.

Does attire matter?
I don't feel that it makes a difference whether the trainer wears jeans and a T-shirt or a suit as long as he or she knows the material and can convey it to the class. It's content, baby, not image. Now, in defense of the stuffed shirts that are already getting hot under their starched white collars or blouses, I do agree that image is important when selling the product. But this column is not about selling, per se. Calm down, and let me explain.

Image shock
The skill and experience of your trainers should determine your dress code. Here’s the rundown:
  • You have instructors who are oozing software knowledge. They ooze, really. These instructors are the pride of your business. Do they absolutely need to be in full dress regalia? No.
  • You have instructors who have sprouts of certain software knowledge. They are not yet fully oozing but are on their way. These instructors constitute the majority of your staff. Do they absolutely need to be in full dress regalia? Maybe.
  • You have instructors who have just joined your company. They don't yet ooze or sprout. You are optimistic about these instructors. Do they absolutely need to be in full dress regalia? Yes.

Smarts wear well
The smarter the instructor, the more students focus on material, knowledge, and experience rather than image. Some of your instructors have earned the right to wear jeans. Instructors who are working towards certifications or excellence in software knowledge need to be a bit more conservative in their dress. They may not have all the answers all the time. They need to be conscious of the fact that some students in class may know more that they do. Therefore students judge those trainers’ appearances more strictly than they judge the oozers.

Instructors with the least experience need to be dressed the best for the following reasons. They have the least amount of software knowledge and are likely to teach novice or beginning classes—and that is where you will find most of the first-time students and evaluation students. These students need to be "sold" on your business, hence the formal attire.

All in the family
One answer is for your business to purchase golf shirts with a company logo, ideally yours. Your boss can rest easy that your instructors are not too dressed down because they are promoting your company. Personally, I don't like wearing a shirt with my company's logo on it. I do, however, enjoy wearing shirts with the logo from other software companies and shirts from customers’ businesses. Wearing customers’ shirts adds credibility to your staff. They may even bring shirts in for you to wear.
Some guy I know had a problem with a Microsoft shirt. It arrived late, one sleeve wasn't finished correctly, and the other sleeve was taken from a competitor’s shirt. He told me that when he put it on, the logo stained his chest so that any shirt he wore after that had a blurry Microsoft logo stained on it. This guy went to the doctor to have the stain removed, but after the doctor examined the shirt, he read the license agreement below the washing instructions. Apparently, by agreeing to wear the shirt, he accepted the risks of a stain.
The bell-bottom line
If you feel it’s important—and you have a boss with some sense—inquire into altering the dress code. Instructors would love the chance to dress down, and comfortable trainers will enhance the learning process. If students complain that the instructor was poorly dressed—but they were very pleased with the class and they felt all material was covered—don't sweat it. If you know of a person or company who cancelled training because a top instructor was not dressed properly, please let me know. I will recommend that all stock in this person's company be dumped. Those employees are obviously more concerned with image than content. Chances are they’re spending too much time focusing on image and not content in their business too.

Schoun Regan is a consultant to training firms and travels across North America educating people for Complete Mac Seminars. If you’d like to comment on this article, write to Schoun.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox