Taking a customer-centric approach to how your people dress is a great place to start when it comes to creating a company wardrobe, writes Jackie O’Fee.
Defining your brand. By Jackie O’Fee.
I’VE RECENTLY been working with a couple of organisations on their staff uniform. If I'm honest, this work is hugely challenging and fun in equal measure. Making sure your team all look (and feel) good in their work clothing is an important aspect of who you are as a business.
I totally understand the frustration of one business owner who once told me “we've spent literally millions on this business, certainly hundreds of thousands on the branding and marketing and I look over at the people on our sales desk and I think ‘Oh no, what the hell is she wearing?'.”
And I also love the inclusiveness of other organisations that have realised not only is it time for change from a branding perspective but also that many of their people really dislike their current uniform.
Organisations want to do better by their people and better in terms of their own brand message. That's a great way to think, and certainly a great way to get staff buy-in and engagement.
The way your people dress is something that often gets overlooked by many businesses. They may have the slickest logo, house their teams in the fanciest buildings, spend big on awesome advertising, have great branding etc. but people do business with people.
If your people don't measure up to the standards you've set in the eyes of your customer, they're undermining all of that hard-won credibility, leaving the customer with a sense of disquiet.
I think taking a customer- centric approach to how your people dress is a great place to start when it comes to creating a company wardrobe. Although the organisations I'm currently working with are quite different in that one sells services and the other sells product, both sell at a price point that would be perceived to be a significant investment for their clientele. With that in mind, we need to formulate a wardrobe that sends the right messages to the people they deal with.
Another key reason to start with your customer when making these decisions is that research suggests the way your people dress impacts how they personally are perceived and, in turn, how your business is perceived.
Even the most seemingly disinterested client is actually judging your people (and your business) by their appearance.
A recent study by the National Research Council of Canada's Caroline Dunn and Lucette Charette found that, “People are affected by your appearance, whether or not they realise it, and whether or not they think appearance is important.” In short, the visual presentation of your people has consequences.
So, as a starting point I encourage all of my business clients to look at how they want to be perceived by the people who they do business with.
The list usually includes words like ‘expert', ‘approachable', ‘professional', ‘efficient' and ‘capable'. When developing a uniform or wardrobe concept for a team we use that as a baseline, and we then build on what that “looks like” for their organisation.
We also pay regard to the specific clothing requirements for the job ( like long-sleeves or higher necklines for example). Using all of this data, we can start to create a wardrobe that not only works for the business but also for those who are wearing it.
As a side note: This is also a great exercise to undertake on a personal level. Are you presenting the best you when it comes to the expectations of those you do business with?