Do workplace uniforms help engagement?

‘A lazy outfit leads to lazy output and poor customer perception’

Do workplace uniforms help engagement?

All business leaders want their staff to be passionate, committed and happy, according to Pamela Jabbour is the CEO of Total Image Group.

Jabbour cited Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, which found nearly nine in 10 executives rated staff engagement as an important or very important priority for their organisations. Yet one in five reported that their companies do not formally measure employee engagement.

Moreover, a Cornell University study that examined the effect of uniforms on employee satisfaction in the hospitality industry revealed that uniform design affected not only employees’ attitudes, but their ability to do their jobs well.

Employees had strong feelings about the uniforms they were made to wear, whether or not they performed customer-facing roles.

Nearly every aspect of our jobs – from the daily commute to our physical work environment, the tools we use and the clothes we wear – has an impact on our level of engagement, according to Jabbour.  

“Uniforms are a key piece of the engagement puzzle and play a major role in determining each employee’s sense of pride and satisfaction in their work,” said Jabbour.

“Engaged employees show greater levels of commitment to the organisation and its ideals, leading to greater outputs and positive results.”

However, achieving and maintaining engagement is an ongoing challenge as employees increasingly expect workplaces that are flexible, inclusive, creative and empowering. So how does a workplace uniform tie into engagement?

For Jabbour, a lazy outfit leads to lazy output and poor customer perception.

Conversely, staff who take pride in their appearance take pride in their work, which positively impacts the customer experience.

But it’s not just about perception. Jabbour said employers should consider the positive psychological and behavioural impacts that a well-designed uniform can have on all employees – not just those on the front line.

“Businesses need to thoroughly understand the who, why, when and where of their uniform design,” she said.

Who is wearing the uniform, why are they wearing it, when and where? What are the needs of the staff member wearing the uniform and the customer who will be interacting with them? How can the uniform best support that interaction for a successful result?

“Companies should brief a professional uniform designer who can design something fit-for-purpose that also meets the company’s branding requirements,” she said.

“A uniform designer understands what works when it comes to colour, fabric and fit and will be able to select fabrics that are tried and tested in the relevant industry.

“Rather than focusing on what works around the board room table, leaders should engage with their staff and customers to find out what’s important to them.”

Staff are the face of the brand and their uniforms are often the first thing customers see, so it is important staff identify with that the uniform is trying to achieve, added Jabbour.

READ MORE: Mutual benefits of employee engagement

Uniforms can add to an employee’s sense of purpose and belonging, help them connect with key brand messages and lead to a great first impression.

“A well-designed uniform is one whose wearer starts to feel good the minute they get dressed,” said Jabbour.

“It is comfortable, practical and fashion-forward. In other words, it looks great and does its job well.

“Ill-fitting, outdated uniforms inevitably disempower staff and turn off potential customers.”

Leaders perpetually ask themselves how they can achieve better staff engagement, and a well-designed uniform may be a step in the right direction.

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