Your company requires all customer-facing employees to wear specific uniforms. Those uniforms are undoubtedly intended to present a positive public image that simultaneously speaks to the professionalism of the organization and the brand that represents your core values. That is all well and good. But how do your employees feel about their uniforms?

It is easy to look at new uniforms without any regard to employee input. After all, workers should be on board with whatever their employers do, right? Well, that’s not how the world works. Employees unhappy with their uniforms allow that unhappiness to impact their performance. It’s human nature. As such, it is important to listen to employee feedback. Especially if that feedback is offered largely in the form of complaints.

New Uniforms for Alitalia

It wasn’t but two years ago that Alitalia, Italy’s flagship airline, put on a glamorous fashion show in Rome to highlight new uniforms for in-flight crew members. The uniforms were intended to hearken back to the glory days of aviation when flying was more about the experience than actually getting to one’s destination. Alitalia promised that the uniforms would be “timeless and enduring.”

Two years later, the airline just introduced new uniforms featuring a military-style cut and more modest colors. Why the change after just two years? Because team members were unhappy with the previous uniforms. Both flight crew and cabin attendants let it be known that the 2016 uniforms were inhibiting their ability to do their jobs regardless of how stylish they might be.

Fortunately, Alitalia paid attention to what employees were saying. The company’s new uniforms are almost entirely functional. With the exception of neckties for men and the scarves worn by women, everything else about the new uniforms has a specific purpose other than looking good. From appropriately placed pockets to dresses and skirts designed to allow for freedom of movement, the new Alitalia uniforms demonstrate the airline’s commitment to meeting employee needs.

Employees Have to Wear Them

Choosing new uniforms is often the result of management working with the marketing department and a uniform provider like Utah-based Alsco. But as Alsco explains, decision-makers are rarely the same people who have to wear uniforms day in and day out. It can be hard for them to envision what it might be like to wear the uniforms they are actually proposing.

The principle of listening to what employees have to say is true across all industries. But nowhere is it as easily observed as the airline industry. Take the typical cabin crew for example. Cabin crew team members are tasked with making passengers comfortable while in flight. They work in close quarters for eight hours a day.

The last thing cabin crew need are uniforms that restrict their movement. The uniforms adopted by Alitalia in 2016 did exactly that. For example, female cabin crew members wore bulky skirts and tops that prevented them from moving through a tight cabin quickly. The cut of the uniforms prevented them from moving with cabin crew personnel, so there was this constant fight with one’s clothing just to get through a shift.

At the end of the day, employees are the ones who have to wear the uniforms management settles on. Their thoughts should not be ignored. Indeed, employees should be part of the decision-making process from the very start. Waiting until after new uniforms are issued to start getting employee feedback is waiting too long. A company might end up having to replace those uniforms as soon as they are distributed. Alitalia can tell you all about it.