Last year I am released my first book. I had been working for about 18 months on it through surveys and gathering information. It is entitled, “From Hopeless to Hero: Finding, Training and Motivating Super Employees”
I am very passionate about the process have having the best possible employees represent you in your business and the process starts very early on; In fact back to the way you design and publish your employee application.
I have taken as this month’s article an excerpt from one of the chapters on Employee Uniforms and the great effect it can have on your customers and your business in general. I hope you find it beneficial and a look into the process of the book.
Now I am going through throw disclaimer in here. You may be already doing some of the “do’s” so to speak, and if so then congratulations. You also might be participating in some of the “don’t” behavior. Don’t take umbrage at your humble correspondent for picking your concept to death. You need to make the decisions as to what the uniform policy will be in your store and stick by your guns. I think you will find though, deep down in your heart of hearts, that I am probably right. Just sayin!
Take a cue from the national brands. You may not want to have 100 locations. You may not even want 10, you may be happy with the singular location that is doing well for you. Regardless, you have to admit that the national and regional brands in your business sphere have probably spent millions of dollars in research and development of what their customers respond to in relation to the look of the crew. What they execute so far as their employee uniforms are concerned probably make good business sense.
Think that the national brands really don’t have anything to do with your humble business and the clientele you are seeking. Truth of the matter is that most consumers would rather support local than the national chains (even though in most markets it is a “local” business man that is operating the concept). If you can provide a quality product, the value that goes along with it and a great looking and engaging crew, then you are steps ahead of the competition.
Some research as to what level and length of clothing is acceptable in your market. Generally, the conservative business casual is the norm and well accepted across all spectrum’s of customer bases.
Settle for jeans. I know I know – I going to have a lot of haters here but “Haters gonna Hate”. You don’t see national brands allowing their employees to wear jeans. The reason is that there is no uniformity to the term “jeans”; Blue, dark blue, stone wash, acid wash, skinny, mom and butt hangers just to name a few. I know it’s easy, convenient and everybody owns a pair, but once we allow convenience to dictate how our employees look, you open the door to booty shorts, wife beaters, shoulder pads, leg warmers and a slew of other types of apparel that you yourself wouldn’t probably be caught dead in.
Provide the crew with the amount of uniform items that they need. Regular crew members that work once or twice a week may be issued one uniform shirt, one cap and an apron. Crew members such as managers or full time employees should receive more to assist them in looking fresh and clean for every shift.
Assume that just because you have provided a newly designed and clean uniform that they will wear it as you intended. You must give instructions as to how the uniform should be worn. E.g. Caps must not be worn backwards or to the side. No long-sleeved privately owned T shirt should be worn under the uniform shirt – that kind of thing. These guys will always find a way to take what you have given them and tweak it to the so-called fashion of the day.
Have spare uniform items in case of emergency. In our line of work, a chocolate shake explosion will instantly render a clean uniform shirt unwearable for the rest of the shift. Having spares will avoid your crew spending a couple of wet and sticky hours behind the counter.
Give these items out willy nilly. Depending where you get your kit from, I would imagine that there will be some cost to the process. Giving the crew the impression that they can just go and grab another shirt or cap from the back without being accountable or signing for it opens the door for your unscrupulous employees to select a couple of rad outfits for the party they are going to this weekend.
Use your uniform to build your brand. The design of your uniform doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. You may have a simple printed T shirt or a plain colored polo shirt under a contrasting colored apron with your logo on it. Regardless of the combination, this is a chance to put your name, and logo in front of your customers so take the opportunity to do it well. A lot of small businesses actually sell their uniform shirt or branded apparel with great success. Nana’s Frozen Custard in Hixson Tennessee came up with the tagline “Who’s Your Nana” and emblazoned it over the back of a brightly colored tie dyed shirt. Retail sales went through the roof and a community’s new catch cry was “Who’s your Nana”
Let your employees use this “brand building” opportunity to wear their uniforms outside of work hours. Any negative behavior or incidents that happen while your employees are wearing their uniform out of hours can have a direct correlation back to your business. Our employees are told they can wear their uniform to work and back again and that’s it. McDonalds in Australia follow this principle so closely that they used to require all employees to cover up their uniform before leaving the premises at the end of their shift.
Send a Clear Message
In closing, these are principles that your employees must have a core knowledge of. When they wear your uniforms they are an extension of your business and become your personal representative. Any press or publicity, even if it is just in the mind or impression of the consumer can make or break your brand equity.
Let me give you a couple of memorable examples.
Our urban rapper loved to tweak his uniform to fit with the swag he had collected to much expense over the years. The baseball cap found its way on a 35 degree angle and the white trousers started to slip lower and lower down his backside. I guess I can understand some of the crazy fashion trends over the years, but this whole saggy trousers hanging down the backside and held in place at the top of the thighs with a tight belt makes no sense to me.
In any case, we instituted a special policy for him. “Low Pants No Chance” If the belt line was any lower than his waist he would have no chance of working in our business. I even caught him a couple of times sauntering from the parking lot to the front door, and I would mouth the words “Low Pant No Chance” through the front window which would result in an immediate vertical lift reaction.
Another memorable instance of an employee getting on the wrong end of the uniform policy got the young man sent home. Alex was a great employee with an engaging personality and very reliable. He didn’t show the same passion for ironing. I had dropped the “4 Iron” line on him a couple of times but this only instituted short term change. One afternoon he came into work and was about to sign into the register when I stopped him.
“Hey Alex – You can’t show up to work looking like that”
“Looking like what?”
“I don’t understand how you can get a shirt that wrinkled. It looks like you washed it, wrung it into a tight ball when it was still wet, put it on the bottom of a pillowcase and swung it around your head till it dried like that”
He smiled and went to type his employee number into the register.
“I’m serious – you’ve got to go home and iron that shirt”
“But I am just about to start my shift”
“Well you’d better be quick”
He slowly walked to the front door and gave one me one more look to see if I was just joking around. I motioned him with my hand “Go on”
He returned back to the store about 15 minutes later.
“Now that’s what I am talking about”
He fake-smiled and proceeded to log in for the shift. Now I am sure that word spread around the crew that I had lost my marbles, but no doubt that the message was also sent loud and clear. You cannot show up to work looking substandard and expect to work at your peak performance or earn your customers respect.
If you want to have super employees, you have to give them a super hero outfit and expect it to be fitting of their super hero customer service powers.