Dressing employees for success

Brand building provides a “visual voice” for a business. Businesses committed to offering a considered and complete journey for customers know that investing in a well-designed uniform sets them apart in the ever-competitive marketplace. This visual differentiation is paramount to propelling brands.

A quality, curated uniform speaks to professionalism that unites a team and provides brand cohesion regardless of staff roles, hierarchy, store locations or demographics.

Retailers can spend millions investing in their brand, advertising and store fitouts, yet they often forget about the presentation of their biggest asset, their staff. The cognitive psychology of a seamless customer experience was revealed in the latest research by YouGov Galaxy, stating that 94 per cent of consumers prefer staff in uniforms as it makes them easily recognisable.

Uniforms are a tangible tool to enhance brand equity while giving confidence to the customer that a staff member has been entrusted to deliver service and knowledge on behalf of the business. The research tells this story clearly – with the flip side of the coin indicating how frustrated customers must feel when they can’t find a staff member in-store. Not only does this impact on the business’s bottom line, but also its brand experience and reputation.

From the moment a customer steps into a venue or store, staff should be easily recognisable and visually connected within the space. A well-curated uniform will support this brand identifier and instil pride and confidence in your staff.

A uniform differentiates a brand from its competitors, provides visual recognition and, importantly, builds customer awareness and loyalty. The offline customer experience is invaluable to brands wanting to connect and establish meaningful face-to-face relationships with customers. And 93 per cent of the population believes it reflects well on a company if the staff wears smart uniforms, the YouGov Galaxy research reveals.

Having smart, well-presented staff members also reflects on the company, showing that it values its staff, which helps to develop a strong company culture. Consumers inherently expect that the brands they engage with and buy from will value their staff as much as they value their customers.

For a new team member starting with any business, expectations of their future with that company are set from the moment they choose what they’re going to wear to work on day one. And for most, the choice their business makes for them can set the standard of the culture and professionalism they bring to work every day.

Sometimes employees say that their current uniform is so ill-fitting they’re embarrassed to be seen wearing it in public. Some even insist on getting changed at work so they don’t have to wear the uniform for a second longer than is required. You can imagine the impact and flow-on effects this can have on a retailer.

A uniform also needs to support interest in the role when recruiting staff. Offering a choice of styles that form part of a uniform range is one way to encourage diversity of candidates while also supporting a modern approach to uniform outfitting.

To be able to offer a uniform that’s modern and comfortable and that employees are proud to wear is something that should be central to a brand’s success model, rather than an afterthought or simply seen as an expense. The halo on staff retention, respect and loyalty are just a couple of HR benefits with real impact on the bottom line.

A uniform program is so much more than the actual garments.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate staff and motivate the business to propel it forward during the uniform rollout. Fun style guides, welcome packs, video content and uniform-care guides can be provided.   

When a brand develops a strong language with their uniform, it becomes part of their culture and brand story. For example, Nando’s youthful brand personality is reflected in the modern design of its new uniforms. These hero the company’s South African heritage through the use of official peri-thread, which is hand-dyed using African bird’s eye chillies from Nando’s farms in Mozambique. This brand storytelling is so seamlessly interwoven that its uniform becomes just as much a part of Nando’s DNA as its staff.

Based on quarterly staff surveys, Nando’s Australia had learned that staff weren’t fans of their existing uniforms – in fact, it was the most complained-about item on the survey over all. Knowing that their customers’ experience was only as good as their staff’s experience, they sought to completely overhaul their restaurant uniform.

In the redesign of their uniform, every decision was a conscience interpretation of the Nando’s brand and its story, ensuring the uniform would be bursting with personality, while delivering quality designs that would give the brand longevity.

A uniform is really an extension of a business’s culture and brand, where people love to feel confident in what they wear. When teams are proud of their uniform, it flows through to the culture, staff retention and ultimately the customer experience. Every business should strive for that kind of culture.

Author Felicity Rodgers is the founder and creative director of Cargo Crew.

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