As we start planning our on-site activities after remote auditing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to refresh on the customs and practice for the clothes to wear as an Auditor or consultant.
In our daily business and personal life, we see a wide range of clothing styles ranging from formal business to casual & all shades in-between and beyond.
So, what should you wear to your next audit.
This article looks at the type of clothes that you should consider wearing to your next audit.
This article is, unashamedly, designed for male Auditors or consultants. If you are a female Auditor or consultant, some of the principles from this episode will apply but leave a comment below, if you would value a specific episode on female Auditor clothing styles.
Finally, I am not a dress code expert or safety professional. The content of this episode is presented based on my personal experiences and are given to help promote understanding and consideration of the issues rather than specific solutions to specific audit environments.
That said – Let’s look at the six main Auditor clothing styles:
Formal Business style
The first style is the formal Business suit with either, matching trousers and jacket, or maybe a non-matching jacket with trousers.
Many Certification Bodies, who employ a large number of in-house and sub-contract Auditors, mandate this business style. Often, in the believe, that it presents the best impression of the professionalism of the Certification Body and its Auditors.
Additionally, some cultures, such as in Germany and Japan, hold special meaning for formal Business wear and. In these situations, a formal Business style is the only viable option as any other style will diminish the status of the Auditor and the auditing process.
Two factors may be contrary to this perceived viewpoint.
Firstly, it can distance the Auditor from the personnel (or Auditees) within the client receiving the audit. This formal business style may be off-putting to the Auditees and make the Auditor less approachable. So, cultures, such as in the United States and Canada or in specific business sectors, such as IT, would not normally expect a formal business style.
Secondly, a formal Business suit can have an unintended meaning. I remember a audit in an engineering company in the United States, where the Environmental Manager turned to me and said that the employees were concerned that I was a consultant employed to downsize the company and fire employees.
So, if you are looking to wear a formal Business style consider the advantages of a professional appearance against the loss pf approachability and negative connotations. Care should be taken to ensure that the formal Business style fits with the country, regional or company-specific culture.
Casual Business – Option 1
Our second style dispenses with the business jacket to leave a less formal shirt and tie style. This style still retains the business style of a formal tie but without the business jacket, it can make the Auditor appear more approachable and make the Auditee, more at ease during the Audit.
So, Casual Business deals with the main essences of a professional look without negative connotations, whilst making the Auditor, more approachable to the Auditee. The additional advantages are that this style will work with most, country, regional or company-specific cultures.
Casual Business – Option 2
The final option for Casual Business is to dispense with the tie, which can be seen as a distinction between Management and the Workforce in many organisations. Removing the tie removes this distinction.
Again, I am reminded from an audit, this time in Japan. Here, in a hot Summer, the Prime Minister suggested that companies relax their formal business style by allowing employees to remove their jackets and ties, which would reduce the energy need for air conditioning and would make employees feel more comfortable. At our Opening Meeting, the senior management restated their commitment to the Prime Minister’s suggestion by removing their jacket and ties but, very much in the Japanese style, put on a lanyard saying that they were not wearing a jacket and tie to follow the Prime Minister’s suggestion. A somewhat surreal situation for myself coming from the United Kingdom, where we would think nothing of removing our jackets in hot weather.
Our second casual Business style can have positive advantages of further approachability and remove most negative connotations but may be unacceptable in society’s where a formal Business style fits with the country, regional or company-specific culture.
Casual Attire – Option 1
The first option for a more casual clothing style is to have a Polo shirt and casual chino trousers. Some Certifications Body’s provide their Auditors with Polo shirts with their logo to help to promote their brand.
This combination gives a more, relaxed feel for the Auditor rather than feeling that they have to be in formal Business dress. It, also, works for many corporate situations, especially in the countries, such as the United States and Canada.
This Casual Attire with Polo shirt and chino trousers is a good combination for a more, relaxed type of audit or one where formal Business dress can be off-putting to the employees. With a logo, it works for the Certification Body by kitting out their Auditor as a brand ambassador without the need for a formal business suit.
Casual Attire – Option 2
A further variation of Casual Attire is a dressed down approach using jeans in combination with a Polo shirt or T-shirt. I have not experienced many Auditors’ using this dress style as it has too many negatives with lacking in professionalism and too much towards non-working clothing.
Don’t take causal to the extreme as a former colleague did once in their audit by turning up in shorts and a cropped vest. It didn’t go well with the client and he was told in no uncertain terms, not to wear that combination again otherwise his services would not be required.
However, it could work well in very relaxed cultures, such as within the IT sector or, in cases, where the audit, where hot temperatures are likely to be experienced. But, it is unlikely to be acceptable in societies where a formal Business style fits with the country, regional or company-specific culture.
The final dress category is one that can be used in combination with any of the earlier dress styles or on its own. This style relates to specific safety requirements, which may be for a hard hat, high-visibility clothing or safety shoes.
Most Auditors will make sure that they pack safety shoes for, all but the most office-based audit, and consider the other safety clothing items on an audit-by-audit basis.
Here, any choice of safety clothing should be determined in conjunction with the client organisation and their risk assessment process for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) within their organisation and that of the Auditor, who may have specific requirements, to ensure that the appropriate safety clothing is available for the duration of the audit, so as to secure the safety of the Auditor.
So, to summarise:
The clothing options for an Auditor, much of the requirements will be determined through a combination of the requirements of the organisation, such as a Certification Body employing the Auditor, the Auditor themselves and the organisation receiving the audit.
Sometimes the dress code will be determined by the organisation employing the Auditor and their culture. These options, often, revolve around formal Business suit for professionalism or the Casual Attire option of a branded Polo shirt and chino trousers.
However, the main determination should be made to suit the client organisation receiving the audit as certain dress codes may not fit their culture. A good Auditor will find out what is the appropriate clothing for their interaction with the client to fit in with their culture and not to alienate employees that they may meet during their audit.
Special consideration should be given to safety and Personal Protective Equipment requirements as these will, additionally, have an impact on the choices of clothing that the Auditor can wear.
If this article has helped to advance your understanding of the opportunities for meeting the appropriate dress code for your next audit or you are looking for any further advice, please leave a comment in the box below, if this article has help you.
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