Every day more than 32 million people go to work wearing uniforms, not to mention the millions of students who wear polo shirts to class too. From the boardroom to the machine shop, countless businesses of all sizes order custom corporate apparel for their employees.
Why are corporate polo shirts so popular? Is it because everyone loves a man in uniform? Of course, it’s not that simple; there are a number of reasons employers decide to introduce uniforms in the workplace.
We all know that a company’s uniforms can say a lot about its employees, but how about what employees say about their uniforms?
Most companies choose uniforms to reflect their brand—perhaps understated formal suits for a luxury hotel or casual and colorful outfits for a family-friendly park. Uniforms reveal a tremendous amount about an organization and communicate to customers an image of professionalism and reliability. Though uniforms play an important role in influencing customer expectations, one element often forgotten is how uniforms heavily influence employees as well.
Research in the hospitality and service industries show that employees who enjoy wearing their uniforms had higher self-perceptions of job performance, better attitudes about their work, and higher levels of job satisfaction. Likewise, employees who disliked their uniforms had lower levels of job satisfaction. Levels of employee satisfaction directly correlate with customer satisfaction.
So what are the elements that go into creating uniforms that employees will be proud to wear? There are two main considerations, appearance, and function.
Appearance: Employees care about how they look. An attractive uniform can greatly enhance self-esteem, which in turn improves attitude. One extremely important detail is the fit. Baggy or tight garments can make employees feel self-conscious and less confident about interacting with customers. Other important details include color, fabric, and style, which should reflect the company brand.
Function: Uniforms should be sturdy enough to handle daily wear and tear. They also should not inhibit job performance—imagine a waiter’s pockets not being able to fit a notepad, or a bellboy’s jacket being so overdesigned with buttons that they pop off every time he is lifting luggage. Impractical uniforms can increase stress and make job performance difficult.
In short, well-designed uniforms can build employee self-confidence and morale. In particular, studies show that employees believe that their credibility increases while wearing a formal style uniform, making them far more confident and professional while interacting with customers. This translates to better service, and in turn, positively affects a company’s long-term profitability. It’s what researchers call the “Apple Store Effect.” When managers and employees feel connected to the company, they exhibit higher levels of loyalty and commitment to the job, which translates to better customer connections.