Some hoteliers have adapted uniform styles to make employees feel more comfortable on the job, appeal to guests and employees of all generations, and match the vibe of the hotel’s environment.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—With the number of millennials in the workforce growing, some hotel companies are updating their uniforms to boost employee morale, increase employee retention, and attract younger, casual and creative guests, according to sources.
Leaders at the Hilton West Palm Beach in Florida looked to millennials for uniform inspiration because of the hotel’s younger staff and millennial guest market. GM John Parkinson said the hotel gave employees different uniform options to allow them to express their unique styles.
“Oftentimes, you go to hotels and the employees are wearing uniforms that aren’t representative of their personal style,” Parkinson said. “So instead of just giving them one type of tie and one type of shirt, we gave them multiple color ties, multiple color shirts, so that way, it’s all uniform, but it also allows them to express themselves personally.”
Likewise, the JW Marriott Grand Rapids in Michigan is known for its younger staff and approachable luxury style, according to GM Brian Behler.
Uniforms at the hotel changed from dark suits with ties to more fashionable suits with colored pocket squares to give employees a more humble look, Behler said.
“We (looked) at a variety of things,” Behler said. “And looking at our culture, as well as the younger generation with some of the millennials and a large portion of our staff being part of the younger mindset, we thought we would change the way we dress to be a little more approachable, so to speak.”
Uniforms weren’t updated for the entire staff, but Behler said managers’ suite styles were changed and statement necklaces were added to front-desk associates’ wardrobe options.
Millennial style translates to other generations
Many millennials inhabit the Hilton West Palm Beach hotel in terms of staff and guests, but Parkinson said the property employs other generations as well, and that was top of mind when deciding on an appropriate uniform style for everyone.
“Not everyone who works here is a millennial, and we took that into consideration when we were coming up with the uniforms,” he said. “But I think what we found is that fashion is typical. Like the shoes I wore when I was their age are the same shoes that are back in style now.”
Before the hotel opened, Parkinson said executives traveled to Manhattan to study the style of local bartenders at chic bars in the city. Once the fashion research was completed, valets at the Hilton West Palm Beach were given black shell-top shoes; bartenders received leather vests; and baristas were given flat caps to wear as part of their uniforms.
Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York opened its doors to the creative people of New York City at the beginning of December with doormen dressed in orange military coats and front-desk associates dressed in block orange and gray dresses.
The goal was to design unique uniforms that would complement the property’s artsy, graffiti-covered New York neighborhood, according to GM Tania Getzova.
“Usually, (Hotel Indigo) is a hotel brand with a more classic, traditional uniform style,” Getzova said. “We thought that for this hotel, because of the way that the hotel is built and designed, it’s all about art and graffiti art, so it was important that we do something out of the box that would reflect the style of the hotel and also reflect the downtown neighborhood kind of fashion.”
Getzova said the “professional yet casual look” was chosen because of the younger creative demographic of people in New York.
“Uniforms play the same part as trendy guests who stay at the hotel,” she said. “No one in the Lower East Side is walking around in a suit and tie.”
Better uniforms improve employee morale
Based on employee feedback, sources agreed that employees felt better in their uniforms, which led to better customer service for guests.
Parkinson said the uniforms benefit employees and guests.
“I think (the uniforms) are a benefit for our guests because the customers come in, they see it and it feels fresh; it feels good,” Parkinson said. “The team members are comfortable in what they wear.
“When I was in college playing sports, we always said, ‘You look good; you play good; you feel good.’”
When asked if changing the uniforms helped attract, retain or boost morale for employees, Behler said, “yes to all.”
“(Employees) definitely have appreciated having different styles to work with,” Behler said. “We made the change, literally, just to give some flexibility and some different options because we’re always looking to be a little different at our property.
“Take care of the associates, and they will take care of your guests.”
Getzova said Hotel Indigo’s trendy uniforms have helped boost employee self-confidence.
“I started at the front desk. I had an ugly uniform, and I couldn’t wait for the shift to be over so that I could change into regular clothes,” Getzova said. “Here, it’s exactly the opposite. Employees can literally go about the rest of their day in their uniforms because it looks good.”