A salon's culture has the potential to influence the business's reputation, customer retention rates, hiring efforts, and employee turnover.
While the concept of a company culture may seem abstract, it certainly can be felt and seen in the way that employees interact with management, coworkers, and customers.
Do employees show up with a smile every day? Are they engaged with the people around them? Or are they simply there to get the job done?
Unfortunately, creating a positive team culture is easier said than done. Take a look at a few ways to help develop your company culture.
1. Define Your Vision and Values
When creating or changing your culture, begin by defining your mission statement as it will guide the decisions and actions that you and your team will make.
Finding the right balance is important. If they feel that the only thing that matters is to maximize profit, they may focus on speed (sacrificing quality to serve more customers) or push retail products too aggressively (thus alienating clients).
On the other extreme, if you operate with the idea that "the customer is always right" and rarely stand up for your team, stylists may become fearful of making a mistake and end up spending too much time with some clients and fall behind schedule.
Consider your key values as well. Go beyond the keywords (e.g. respect, accountability, teamwork, professionalism), and think of practical ways for your team to incorporate these traits.
For example, show respect by valuing clients' opinions (begin each appointment with a consultation) and time (make every effort to stay on schedule). Demonstrate professionalism by adhering to a dress code or by not over-sharing personal stories with clients.
2. Surround Yourself with the Right People
When you have a position to fill, hire competent stylists whose values and personality match the salon's. Consider who will fit in and be a positive influence to the rest of the team.
At the same time, you don’t want to hire people who are too similar. It’s beneficial for the team and the business to have a diverse range of skills, personalities, and experiences. Differing opinions and ideas will help the business to grow as long as employees are always respectful to one another and willing to work as a team.
Ultimately, consider if you would trust the candidate to act in the best interests of the salon, even when you are not present.
The salon culture should also serve as a recruitment tool. Stylists should want to become a part of the team because of the people. Team members should love their jobs and refer their friends whenever a position opens up.
3. Enforce Expectations
During the orientation and training period, new employees should be told how they are expected to deal with certain situations. How does the team work together? How are complaints or conflicts resolved?
Even though certain values and behaviors like customer service may seem obvious, some elements can often be taken for granted when there is little emphasis on them. Remind staff regularly during team meetings or one-on-one conversations.
When employees fall short of the expectations, it needs to be addressed in a timely manner. If the situation requires, don't hesitate to take disciplinary action. Otherwise, staff will expose and take advantage of these weaknesses.
For example, stylists who are late a few times without any consequences may not feel that punctuality is a major concern. Soon enough, a couple other stylists may start showing up late or spend too much time serving certain clients while other guests are waiting past their appointment time.
At the same time, don’t focus purely on the negative; reinforce positive behaviors as well. Show your appreciation to employees regularly. Reward the "Employee of the Month" with a Starbucks gift card. Recognize achievements (e.g. completion of a course) publicly through your social media channels.
It isn't necessarily about being the most technically skilled or achieving the highest sales. Rather, the greater emphasis is placed on demonstrating the values of the salon.
4. Embrace the Personal
Think back to the golden rule and treat your team as you would want to be treated. Understand that work is just one aspect of their lives and does not define who they are as a person. Consider how you can support, and even develop, your employees on a personal level.
Provide opportunities to grow within the salon. Schedule a team bonding event every few months to develop the relationships between team members.
Perhaps, you need to offer more work-life balance and be more flexible on the schedule so employees can attend family events or take care of personal matters. Flexibility can be difficult especially with an appointment-based business, so there are times when, as the manager, you need to say no to certain requests. But the key is to show your staff that you value them as people, and not just because of their contributions to your business.
After all, a team who feels valued and taken care of will experience higher morale and greater employee retention, opposed to a dissatisfied and disengaged team where employees will leave as soon as opportunities arise elsewhere.
Changing Your Culture
Attempting to change the culture overnight will not work and will likely create conflict and lower employee morale. However, you can initiate the conversation by explaining to your staff the direction you want to head in and provide the reasoning. Be sure to listen to feedback, engage your team, and show patience as change can be difficult. Most importantly, be sure to characterize these new behaviors and values yourself if you hope to have employees follow suit.