It’s no industry secret that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the need for more intentional employee engagement. In an unprecedented time of uncertainty and ever-evolving safety guidelines, employees requested more communication and transparency than ever before. Implementing a comprehensive employee engagement strategy, for a few stylists or a few thousand, is the key ingredient to surviving crises and positioning the business for a successful future.
Employee engagement refers to the level of commitment and discretionary participation, passion for the company mission and values, as well as a sense of belonging. Employee engagement is just a means to achieve employee satisfaction or job retention.
I’ve seen firsthand that the more engaged our Associates are, the more likely they are to bring their whole selves to work and genuinely try their best. When you put the people before the work, the people produce high-quality work.
At Hair Cuttery Family of Brands (HCFB), we invited our Associates to be involved from the very beginning. To meet our objectives, the Company began with a thorough assessment consisting of a company-wide survey and digital conversation analysis focused on Associate concerns. This information was critical in understanding where current Associates would already be open to change and where the team would need to think strategically about how to bring Associates along on the transition.
Our assessment found that 80% of Associates reported they still felt the culture in action and 89% continued to believe in the purpose behind the brand. Our Associates wanted to get back to work and were ready to return immediately so they could get back to their Guests and continue earning money to support their families. However, Associates were rightfully concerned for their safety when they returned to work and wanted more communications from new ownership on both COVID-19 responses and a forward-looking strategy for success.
This all pointed to the need for a structured engagement strategy that went beyond operational communication to offer a compelling vision and win heads, hearts, and hands.
To strengthen trust, early Associate communications included town halls with our new CEO and videos featuring new and continuing leadership. The virtual town halls emphasized the individuals’ personalities, initial strategy, and new safety precautions for COVID-19. Every change was communicated in a concise but clear manner, including the information that each level needed, a strong “why” behind the change and a link to the larger, compelling vision for the future.
With several new systems rollouts, the team created entertaining videos to keep people engaged while also receiving critical training information. For the new tip system, Wisely, our Associates were encouraged to “Get Wise on Wisely.” For the POS rollout, Zenoti, the unique name inspired a man-on-the-street video asking Associates to pronounce the new system name with a buzzer when they got it wrong.
Continuing to bolster communications channels and accountability, HCFB launched the Associate-appointed Salon Professional Advisory Board, to create a conversation between the front-line and executives, and the HC Learning Lab, a modern, interactive training platform that gives the team ownership of their development.
Arguably one of the most important components of our employee engagement strategy was the establishment of our Mission, Vision, and Values (MVP). For instance, our new Associate Promise is to provide limitless opportunities for our Associates to live their best lives. Our values- Respect, Responsibility, and Real–summarized our dedication to addressing short-term challenges and making our company stronger over the long term.
Shortly after introducing the MVP initiative, we encouraged Associates to nominate peers who truly exemplified the values to receive company-wide recognition which boosted the number of early adopters.
No employee engagement strategy is complete without measurement and evaluation. A second company-wide survey six weeks after reopening stores and returning to work showed:
- A 12% increase in employee confidence in the business, and a 17% increase in confidence among Salon Leaders.
- 75% of Associates had confidence that new ownership would maintain the positive work environment, values, and culture.
- 83% of Associates trusted the new ownership team to put the business on track for a successful future.
In March 2021, HCFB became a winner at the 22nd annual PRWeek Awards for Employee Engagement. If the pandemic taught me anything about the salon business, it’s that investing in employee engagement is worth every penny.