By Caroline Bartek, Cintas Corporation
Did you know it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression?1 And once that seven-second window closes, another one won’t open.
When a customer interacts with your employees there is only one chance to make a first impression, so you want it to be a memorable one. Because uniforms play an essential role in a business’s image and impact employee morale, it’s important to ensure each employee has the proper uniform that fits their job function. When a garment performs well, the wearer feels great. For this reason, it’s important to recognize the importance of designing a uniform program that has the wearer’s needs in mind, and looks and feels good.
Key elements of uniform design
Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy found that when people develop first impressions, they are primarily evaluating the trustworthiness and confidence of that individual. A well-defined uniform program will enhance your brand, making your customers feel more secure and confident about doing business with you. Key elements to consider when designing a uniform program include the following.
- Reflect your brand—A properly uniformed employee has the power to elevate his or her company’s brand by portraying a consistent, reliable and professional image to customers. On the other hand, an employee with an ill-fitted, wrinkled or otherwise weathered uniform can foreshadow poor customer service. Uniforms not only help promote the identity of employees; they provide security and help distinguish service contractors from trespassers, putting customers at ease.
- Consider all needs—Think about the different roles each of your employees play in the workplace, including design, installation and management of cabling and wireless systems for communications applications. Your uniform program should reflect the functional requirements of the wearers. For example, an installation technician may need added fabric stretch for bending and moving or larger pockets for a device and precisely placed loops for keys. Understanding the needs of the wearer and the operational duties they complete is an integral part of the uniform design process. A reputable uniform provider will be well-versed in translating the needs of these complex roles to meet the needs of each one of your employees.
- Think about the wearer’s point of view—When workers don’t feel good about what they’re wearing, it can have a substantial impact on employee morale and productivity. Gone are the days of stiff, uncomfortable uniforms. Today, garments are designed with features and details that contribute to the productivity and efficiency of wearers. Customized colors, silhouettes, and functional elements ensure the employee uniforms feel good throughout the day.
- Function = fashion—The balance of function and fashion should be top-of-mind when creating a uniform program. It’s not enough for a garment to look good. It must also perform well in the workplace. Advanced in apparel technology have also enabled manufacturers to create garments with fast-drying, soil-release and moisture-wicking capabilities—perfect for occupational athletes, such as technicians and maintenance personnel. In addition, large pockets with zippers and multiple compartments bring increased functionality to garments.
- Be open—There is often a tight budget when it comes to uniform apparel programs. The industry’s best providers are developing cutting-edge styles, textiles and functional designs that may not fit your traditional image of a uniform, but bring great value and purpose to your uniformed employees. It’s important to keep your eyes open to the infinite possibilities that a great uniform partner can provide.
Opportunity in image
The image of your business is another opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. To ensure the employees who represent your brand are putting their best image forward, many businesses work closely with their uniform provider to design a customized program that fits their needs.
Organizations speak volumes about their brand and its operations by investing in their image. This investment is likewise valued by employees who appreciate the investment in their image and comfort, resulting in increased employee engagement.
Caroline Bartek is creative director for Cintas Corporation.