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Staff Uniform Policy: Where to Start...

You may be responsible for developing and maintaining HR processes, hiring new staff or are in a role where understanding employee needs at a high-level are essential. If you work in HR or personnel, you may need to develop a staff uniform policy for your organisation at some point - but where to start?

While understanding what a uniform policy contains and how to build it out is one thing (and quite a challenge) - understanding what comes before that is ultimately key.

This article outlines the key milestones you should address as you start your uniform policy journey.

They are:

Identify the issues and set your goals

The first step towards creating a staff uniform policy is to clearly identify and outline any issues that you expect the implementation of the policy to resolve. You may have specific and regularly reported incidents of inappropriate or non-compliant uniform being worn.

Or you noticed the warehouse staff have been wearing the same polo shirts and trousers for the past 5 years and an update is overdue. 

Whatever the issues you discover, outlining them and having this agreed at a senior level ensures that you, as the individual responsible for delivering this change, is clear on the main areas to focus on.

We'd suggest picking around 3 issues. These can be very closely interlinked, or a group that follow from one larger issue. Safety concerns, Team issues, brand perception etc. Having more than one issue to attack will make you better equipped to communicate the need for change.

Setting SMART goals

We suggest making your goals SMART so that they are clear to everyone and are reachable within a realistic time frame. Anyone in business should know what a SMART goal is, but here's a quick refresher.

SMART is an objective setting model first written about by George T. Doran in 1981 in an article in Management Review.

ASIDE: Maybe give it a quick read (PDF) - it will change your life!

It is a mnemonic that stands for: 

  • Specific - you should have a smart goal for each individual issue. It should be detailed enough to remove any ambiguity.
  • Measurable - identifying the metrics you can track, such as accidents or complaints.
  • Assignable - define who is responsible for or affected by this goal.
  • Relevant - does this goal specifically assist YOUR organisation or is it just a general goal? Make sure your goals are customised to your business, it's culture and people.
  • Time-Based - by giving yourself a specific time frame (eg. 6 months) you'll draw a line in the sand to work towards. Without this, excuses can be given and you'll never get the policy off the ground.

Here's an example of a what a SMART goal could look like:

Reduce the number of PPE uniform violations in the off-site team by 80% in 12 months

Reduce the number of warehouse staff uniform complaints by 30% in the next 6 months

Get senior management buy-in

The next step in creating a policy for your staff's uniform is to discuss the idea with the management team. This is the second step as taking the above planned goals to your senior team shows commitment and will clearly explain what you are trying to achieve.

Present your issues list and SMART goals and get these agreed. Once everyone agrees there are issues and that the intended goals are something they want to happen - any budget requirements or resulting plans should be signed off much quicker.

If the ideas and rules appear to come from senior management, you are less likely to see backlash from staff. Your new staff uniform policy would have a bigger impact and you'll look organised and professional.

Create a scope of work/project plan

Next up, you should outline the outcomes and objectives of your new uniform policy project. This is a development of the SMART goals you set earlier, but taking a more practical view on exactly what will and will not be done.

Top of the outcome list is a revised uniform policy document, but you may look to bring in new processes such as uniform reviews, a potential increase in budget and the implementation of new technologies. 

You should now clearly outline what this policy project will and will not be doing. Some of these outcomes will not be made apparent until after project completion, but like any business document, it is a working document and subject to review.

Project Planning Tip: create a shared spreadsheet timeline and break it down into weekly blocks. Give the management team access and assign names next to tasks, meetings and feedback where it's required. Update and share regularly so everyone is up to date on what has been done and can see that you are following through on the agreed plan.

Initiate informal communications

You've now outlined the issues and communicated the scope of the project and what you aim to achieve with your leadership. Now is a great time to begin discussing uniforms with those that matter the most - your staff.

Start by creating an open forum to get a feel for your team's current opinion on uniform. This may be an informal chat at lunch, a quick email or suggestion box - whatever works for you. It shouldn't impact your SMART goals or intended outcomes, but it may inform your approach or highlight particular aspects to pay closer attention to.

This shows that staff are involved in the process, are being listened to and their opinions are valued. Take notes and add this to your project plan on a separate tab. They'll be handy to reference when you begin the formal consultation process.

Decide how the policy will be enforced

Before you begin drawing up any actual documents, it's worthwhile deciding how your policy will be managed. What will the decisions made by policy enforcement achieve?

If your issue is staff violation of safety regulations, policy may be used in a disciplinary procedure (and rightly so). If you have an image problem or a rebrand - the policy may be used as a guideline or tool for employees to reference rather than a 'hard stick' to be governed by.

Either way, agreeing how uniform policy violations are addressed is a logical next step. The decisions made here should be written into the uniform policy and work to address the issues you are trying to resolve. 

Begin consultation formal process

You're now well place to start making some real policy decisions by front-loading your preparations and discussions. It's time to announce to the organisation what changes are to be made and why.

At this stage, management is on board and agree with your intentions, goals and scope. The wider team should have been primed to at least begin thinking about staff uniform.

You should have also included some of their concerns/ideas in the delivery of your project plan, increasing buy-in from those traditionally disconnected from 'bigger picture' changes.

Next Step

Now you know how to effectively begin the uniform policy process, read our article on how to deploy a uniform policy in your business here