Uniformity does not mean limited creativity.
When your CEO asks you to develop a retail branch front-line uniform program, you think “that’s easy, consider it done!”
I was wrong. Not easy at all. But definitely worth the challenge.
The financial services industry is a highly competitive business, especially in the San Diego market. In addition to offering competitive products and pricing, convenience, cutting edge technology, seamless accessibility, and world-class service, you also have to stand out with a polished and appealing brand identity. The credit union movement traces all the way back to 1852, so you can imagine that each credit union has a story to tell, a purpose to fulfill, and a uniqueness to live up to.
As I started to work with my team to develop this uniform program, the first elements that came to mind were garment options, cost, sizes, and durability. So, I started browsing the web for vendors, putting together different palettes of colors and styles, consuming myself with the concern that if I don’t give our employees multiple choices to select from, I would get pushback and resistance.
I was making this process way too complicated, which is why it took seven months to implement.
Ultimately, I learned that there are three important factors to consider when building a retail branch uniform program:
1) Your Uniform Must Be On-Brand
Branding is everything. Your visual brand identity communicates the image and personality you want to reveal to the world. So, if you’re putting your member-facing workforce into uniforms, it is crucial that your colors, logo, style, and ambience are in line with your brand.
2) Comfort and Versatility
Let’s face it — telling people what to wear and how to wear it is no easy feat. It’s important that you source a uniform style that is flattering to all body shapes and sizes, is comfortable enough to wear eight hours a day, and is easily maintained/cleaned. Our Cabrillo Team selected white button-down shirts with an embroidered logo — with a style and fit that looks polished and professional on every single person that puts it on. Pair that with dark blue jeans and a gray blazer — WIN!
3) Effective Planning for Program Management
You’ve finalized your niche and you’ve deployed the program. Now what? Implementing a uniform program goes beyond distributing the shirts and closing the chapter. It’s imperative to plan for continuity and an efficient process to manage your program:
A) Designate at least two program managers. These individuals must be highly organized and capable of enduring the ongoing minutiae of maintaining your uniform program.
B) Develop and distribute a clear dress code policy and inspect what you expect regularly (trust me, employees will stray from dress code if not monitored).
C) AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE! Most uniform vendors offer a company-branded online uniform system. Your staff will get credentials to log into the website, place their order (with their predetermined uniform allowance from the organization), and their uniforms get shipped directly to their branch location. If that isn’t feasible for your company, you can create an internal “uniform ticketing system” (perhaps on your intranet portal), which is managed by your program manager(s). The more you automate this process, the better and easier it is for program continuity.
Our takeaway: when you begin the uniform research process with your team, be prepared for changes in ideas, as well as varying suggestions in styles and colors. To counter this, KEEP IT SIMPLE! Find a color that will mesh well with your branch design and aesthetics, then create a “uniform look” with two (three max) shirt options that will highlight your brand identity.
Now, sit back and watch your branch teams shine!
At Cabrillo Credit Union, we saw a profound change in the overall look of our front-line teams. Our employees look polished, professional, and on-brand. Confidence was boosted, team synergy was created, image was improved.