Research has demonstrated that happy employees are more productive, by a margin of 12 percent.(1) All an employer has to do is make employees happy, and productivity growth should follow, right? It sounds simple, but of course, the trick is to find new and effective ways to keep building employee morale over time. Here are ways that uniforms can help to build employee morale and achieve important company objectives:
1. Self-esteem and Job Satisfaction
On a very personal level, all employees care about their appearance to some degree, and what they wear can have a powerful bearing on self-esteem. According to studies done specifically for hospitality and service sectors, higher self-esteem is found among employees who experience positive feelings while wearing their work uniforms. Correlated with that is an increase in levels of job satisfaction.(2)
2. Self-esteem and Customer Perception
Carry the implications one step further and you find the very direct connection between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. Employers accomplish multiple goals when they supply uniforms appropriate to the type of work they perform. Employees who feel good about their self-image when wearing uniforms convey that sense of pride and confidence to customers, who will then perceive the company brand more positively.
3. Make Employees a Part of the Company Brand
Color branding is a key part of identifying your company among its competitors and within the marketplace at large. Company shirts and other work clothes can extend that color brand and reinforce the organization’s reputation. At the same time, uniforms identify each person as a member of the team in order to build employee cohesion. When everyone is wearing some version of the company image, they are themselves branded as an asset to the company.
4. Position Uniforms as an Employee Benefit
Today’s workplace requires more commitment on the part of employees, in both time and productivity. Disposable income has dropped for many workers, so wardrobe expenditures are not the first priority. Providing or subsidizing work apparel can be presented to employees as a clear benefit that saves money and simplifies life, especially if cleaning services are included.
5. Engender a Sense of Pride Among Employees
A positive association with the company brand makes for more confident workers who, in turn, take ownership of their work and feel pride in seeing a positive outcome.
6. Equalize the Social Scene at Work
Employees may perform different functions, but when all are uniformly attired, there is less emphasis on the differences highlighted by wardrobe. Naturally, income levels vary widely with job functions or length of time on the job, but uniforms can lessen divisions or conflict based on income, and reinforce team bonds that exist independently of job roles or perceived status. Send employees the message that the company is invested in them.
7. Form Follows Function
Different job functions should be clearly identified when team members come into contact with the general public or directly interact with customers. A style that is specific to job function means employees can immediately establish a rapport and begin their interaction with greater credibility.
8. You Are What You Wear?
Identity comes from each person’s self-image, and that is greatly influenced by the clothes we wear. A uniform should enhance self-image and never detract from it with a poor fit or demeaning design. We all think of ourselves as unique individuals. One of the ways we express that sense of self is in the way we dress. Dressing alike naturally suppresses that outlet, so offering a choice of slightly different styles—long or short sleeves, button-down shirt or polo, alternate colors, accessories—allows people to be themselves and still maintain the company image.
Beyond identity, fit should support the employee’s function and be designed for comfort and durability—concerns that are very specific to the type of work each individual performs. Front desk personnel have different needs than warehouse staff, for example.(3)
9. Adapt to Change
The economy changes, the market changes, styles change— and the times change. Company culture, therefore, must be capable of adapting to change in order to maintain employee morale and productivity. Keep an eye on how job functions are redesigned over time, and remember to update choices accordingly. Nothing changes more frequently than clothing styles. Uniforms are usually neutral when it comes to fast-moving apparel trends, except in businesses that are involved in or directly influenced by fashion.
However, even a pair of khaki pants can be tailored to look more 21st Century than 1970s. Neglecting occasional updates may leave employees feeling more embarrassed than proud to wear the outfit, and that could easily telegraph the wrong kind of stale branding information to sensitive customers.
10. Recognize Achievement
Uniforms can be a positive way to reward achievement or recognize different positions with specific apparel items, such as a blazer for executives (male and female), or even a special badge to identify managers and supervisors.
By taking the time to understand how different types of uniforms can positively or negatively impact your working staff, you can make the best decision that will help your employees project an image of professionalism, as well as take pride in their position and their brand.
“Hotel employees’ uniform and their self-perceptions in Southern California,” Ronnie Yeh, Yi-Ting Tu, Ning-Kuang Chuang, Ming-Ji James Lin, Hsin-Jen Trust Lin. Tourism Management Perspectives, Volume 6, April 2013, Pages 79–81, Elsevier.