Not surprisingly, the people who wear security uniforms want many more features and, while companies want to make their security staff more visible and provide uniforms that are even more durable, price constraints are preventing this from happening. According to the 2014 Sparks & Ellis Uniform Survey, price decides the kind of uniform security officers wear.
Sparks & Ellis conducted an online survey recently with the Security Association of South Africa to explore attitudes towards uniforms. Sparks & Ellis MD, Sue de Wet says that it is challenging to meet industry’s demands. “The technology is available to provide state-of-the-art uniforms but the industry isn’t budgeting for this to be introduced, let alone mainstream. In fact, we battle to contain costs on standard items because our running costs are increasing but the uniform buying budgets are not.”
Sparks & Ellis believes it will be important to conduct the Uniform Survey annually from now on. “These insights are invaluable to the industry. What it confirms is that a shift in perceptions is needed.”
Keeping it clean
Some survey respondents were concerned about the cleanliness and smell of uniforms – this is due to some staff not having easy access to a washing machine (57%) and perhaps this is why nearly 90% of the sample would like uniforms to include some kind of fabric treatment to deal with anti-bacterial and odour protection. The technology is available but it comes at a price, of course. Sparks & Ellis is keen to introduce new technology for such things as odour protection, insect repellent and stain repellent. Three-quarters of the sample say that uniforms should be replaced annually. Given that over 90% agree that more attention should be given to season changes in uniforms – i.e. to keep cool in summer or warm in winter, protect against sun damage, wind, rain and so on – Sparks & Ellis is proposing that companies invest in seasonal uniforms and help extend the life of a uniform in this way. However, as Sue explains: “Again, our difficulty comes in matching the current budget levels because usually there’s no provision for additional elements.”
Most respondents to the survey say they think their security staff should be more visible (95%) but with price being such a determinant, how can uniformed organisations ensure they provide more motivation to their staff by creating more visible, durable and feature-rich uniforms? Sparks & Ellis believes that education about these issues is going to be critical in the future. “It is almost essential to realise the motivational benefits a uniform can provide”, says Sue.
Branding is all
Another key finding is around branding with 100% of respondents believing that branding on uniforms is crucial. However, Sue says the situation in the market does not actually reflect this attitude. “When we visit our clients around the country, we see alarming levels of inconsistency. Uniformed organisations should have uniformity in their uniforms … or the uniform is failing in its task of uniting everyone under one brand. Also, not all staff are wearing the most recent or updated uniform so they look different to their colleagues. This does not give a good impression of the company, nor does it help with staff motivation levels.
“Most uniformed organisations believe their staff feels more authoritative if they are wearing a uniform. They agree that a uniform promotes pride and, therefore, one could assume an element of pride in what they are doing – this suggests that uniforms could be a contributory or even important job motivator. Most respondents believe that companies should have a standard uniform that represents the company’s corporate identity (94%) and nearly everyone (97%) said they believe that uniforms help to build brand equity. Not one respondent disagreed with the statement that staff should feel proud to wear their uniform.”