MHR Blog

Are schools the masters of micro-engagement? Why embracing #waistcoatwednesday in the workplace is a good thing...


In workplaces with a casual dress code or none at all, England fans up and down the country have been able to show solidarity and support for one of our most successful football teams in years.

Now, those working in professional workplaces which require smart attire can show their support too – and it’s all thanks to Gareth Southgate.

Marks and Spencer have reported a 35% increase in waistcoat sales as England have progressed through their World Cup matches. This has now reached a fever pitch, as the country waits for tonight’s semi-final, with #waistcoatwednesday trending on Twitter, or as some people have been sharing - #waistcoastwednesday… in a brilliant display of our country’s literary greatness. #facepalm.  

Why is this important? Well, even non-football fans were getting swept up in the momentum. Allowing your employees to embrace an event they’re passionate about will give your organisation the opportunity to shine and be inclusive.

Of course, our World Cup dream has sadly come to an end as England crashed out to Croatia. But this year has renewed some faith in the England team, who defied expectations to make it into the final four. Southgate fever may not be over as fans have discovered a new found appreciation for the waistcoated manager who oversaw what can still be seen as a victory… even if it’s not quite coming home (some colleagues may need some extra support in the coming days to accept this).

Using dress codes to engage with your employees

Like Christmas Jumper Day in December, these one off, or annual, cultural events can become a quick and easy way to engage employees, even if it is only in the short term. It shows your organisation is proactive, and highlights that your company remembers people are more than simply employees, with other things on their minds other than work. Rather than criticising people for being distracted by the World Cup, this simple action embraces it, putting a smile on your employees’ faces and boosting engagement.  

More and more of these ‘dressing’ up events are appearing as ‘viral’ trends become unavoidable in the digital world, and this leaks into workplaces. Children in Need encourages you to look daft in Pudsey ears to raise money for charity, Jeans for Genes day has been around for years to raise money and awareness for genetic disorders. Even onesie’s are being encouraged to raise money for children’s charities. The list goes on.

Are schools the experts in micro-engagement strategies?

Most of these charity days are embraced by schools, as a way to raise money and give their children something to look forward to – who didn’t enjoy casting that school uniform aside to wear whatever they wanted for the grand total of £1?

Perhaps it’s time more businesses embraced this idea as a way to get their employees more involved. Not only can this get your people more engaged, creating a more inclusive workplace culture, but it can tick two boxes by becoming part of your corporate social responsibility too.

Dressing up can form the basis of a Corporate Social Responsibility plan

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one of those ideas organisations reach for to try and make themselves look more charitable and caring in order to encourage their customers to invest in them for being such a friendly, ethical company. Unfortunately, this usually falls somewhere between Marketing and HR teams, with both sides avoiding the task in the hope the other will take over – we’re all busy people after all. This joint venture usually ends in a last minute Christmas raffle at the end of the year with a random charity picked out the hat to cover the year’s aims.

Of course, this isn’t true of all organisations. Some do a brilliant job, clearly advertising their aims and policies with a list of carefully chosen charities to donate to and large, well planned events spaced out throughout the year. But for many, it’s a last priority because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

So why not embrace a more simple strategy, and set up ‘dress up’ days throughout the year to support the vast amount of charities who advertise these types of events? It’s cheap for your organisation, and lets your people join in with national events, so they can update their own social profiles, and feel good about donating.

As we tend to grow more cynical with age, is it time to look back to a simpler time and embrace the small things? We may not be kids anymore but I think we’ve all still got a £1 to spare.

Let your people embrace Southgate fever, improve your employee engagement, and create a new strategy for your CSR. It’s a win-win.

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