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People • Best Practice

Creating Culture Through Connection: How to Bring Out the Best in Your Staff

Learn from the experts at Boulevard about how to lead with clarity, compassion, and confidence

The wants and needs of the modern beauty employee are evolving rapidly. As self-care businesses of all sizes struggle to retain talent, the relationship these businesses foster between management and their team is more critical than ever.

Boulevard’s resident education experts Shanalie Wijesinghe and Jozlyn Miller spoke at the 2023 Data-Driven Salon Summit to discuss how salon owners can develop stronger connections with their teams through effective communication. The following are key takeaways from their presentation, which can help your salon reframe the relationship between management and staff, giving stylists the tools they need to meet their goals, improve their skills, and reach their fullest potential.

What effective staff communication looks like in 2023

The most successful salons develop meaningful relationships with their team members by creating a culture through connection. To do this, you must look at how you interact with staff and ensure you effectively communicate goals, manage workloads, and resolve conflicts.

But what is effective communication? 

It’s more than simply telling employees what to do or setting their goals. It means being selective in the words you use and actively listening to what your staff says to discover any emotions hidden between the lines. It means watching your tone and body language, knowing when saying less achieves more, and knowing when to stop talking and give others a chance to communicate. 

Effective communication should remain a top priority in all of your daily interactions, such as scheduled reviews, delivering feedback, staff meetings, training sessions, and day-to-day operations. Connecting with your staff in this way will make it far easier to convey your goals and expectations and have your team internalize them. 

If your team is in a good place, their attitude will positively impact your clients’ experiences, which will lift the overall success of your business. So when your staff leaves any interaction with you — whether it's a one-on-one sync or a team training, they should feel uplifted and have a clear game plan for their next steps. Lead with clarity, compassion, and confidence — not lectures. 

Why it’s time to reimagine what it means to be a supportive manager

A leader's style has a significant influence on a business's culture. Decisions and attitudes formed at the top filter down into all aspects of your business — including your stylists.

The most successful leaders are supportive of their staff. They foster a culture of open communication, encourage collaboration, lead with transparency and trust, and give everyone a chance to provide input. If you’re not adequately supporting your team in ways that help them do their job successfully, reaching your goals will be vastly more difficult. 

There are a few ways to support your team effectively:

  • Share stories: If your team members are struggling, there’s a good chance you’ve been in their shoes. Open up about your weaknesses and mistakes, and share how navigating challenges and succeeding allowed you to grow. 

  • Empower your team to be vocal: Encourage your team to ask questions, talk about pain points, and discuss new ideas or make suggestions. Some ideas may be excellent; you may need to decline others politely. But fostering a collaborative culture will let your staff know that their ideas are being heard.

  • Discover, support, and plan your team’s goal journey together: Your staff may have desires beyond what you already know about them. Let them open up and tell you what they want! Whether it’s to grow within the company or even if they feel like they’re no longer a good fit — help them find out what they want out of their job and support them in discovering what makes them genuinely happy.

How to act more like a mentor and less like a boss

The best leaders know it’s not enough to tell employees what they need to do. They understand that their work will not end with them — as a leader, they will leave behind a legacy.  The stylists these leaders mentor will eventually become leaders themselves and continue the mentorship cycle in their own work.

To effectively mentor our stylists, we must look at individuals holistically to understand the true value they provide within any business. We must ask ourselves questions about each employee — How do they communicate? What motivates them? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What aspects of the job do they gravitate towards? — and paint a picture of the whole individual. 

Then, we must forge connections with them in ways that cater to their personalities. Knowing teammates at a surface level is a thing of the past — crafting long-term relationships requires building deeper connections that will ultimately drive the productivity and retention our businesses require.

As you get to know each member of your staff on a deeper level, you will discover that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mentorship — each individual responds to different kinds of feedback and works better in different environments. The following are a few approaches you can take to develop your staff beyond their initial capabilities using currently-available resources.

  • Mentor and protege: Pair less experienced employees with senior stylists for long periods of time with a focus on high-level development. 

  • Cross-functional: Place employees across different departments or divisions into groups to promote community and knowledge-sharing. 

  • Reverse mentorship: Here, your junior employees are actually mentoring your more experienced staff members on topics like technology, social media, or diversity and inclusion. This is a great way to utilize your whole team without exhausting your senior staff members.

  • Group mentoring: More experienced employees lead groups of junior employees through a structured program.

If you cannot grow an individual’s book of business at a healthy rate through mentorship, goal building, and other coaching tactics, they will leave you. Putting the responsibility of growth entirely on the individual is not enough; you must develop a culture that enables growth, understanding, and development. You won’t just create future leaders in the self-care industry — you’ll create an environment that stylists seek out and want to be part of.

How to identify the value your business brings to a modern professional

Recruitment is an ongoing concern for all self-care businesses, and knowing the skill set and temperament you are looking for facilitates that process. It is equally as important to understand that today’s candidates are looking for a position that aligns with who they are. Simply finding employment is no longer enough, and the days of candidates desperately complying with our long list of demands are over. 

Today, many approach their job search by researching the company they want to join. Stylists scan reviews on Yelp and other sources to see how the salon treats its clients. Your job listings, website, social media feeds, and even branding are all sources you can use to market yourself to prospective employees as much as you do to clients. 

To consistently entice the best candidates, it’s crucial to learn how to market your business in a way that mirrors the benefits and traits stylists are looking for in their employer. Here are just a few examples of what stylists want to see reflected in your employment messaging: 

  • Help in developing a lucrative book of business.

  • Ongoing education on their craft.

  • Mentorship for professional and personal growth.

  • Successful peers they can look up to.

  • A healthy culture that harbors trust, development, and teamwork.

  • Modern tools that support their day-to-day work.

Your job postings should list the requirements, along with all the fantastic perks that come with employment — it should sound like an opportunity no one can pass up.

How to engage staff on a deeper level

Engaging staff starts with strong leadership. At Boulevard, we advocate for consistent one-on-ones with your team members. Your stylists and estheticians spend the most time with your clients, which makes regular syncs an excellent chance to understand what’s going on in the day-to-day work that keeps your salon running.

This is also a great place to get to know your team members and discover if there are any areas where they need support. The privacy provided by a one-to-one setting allows you to be honest when providing advice and delivering feedback.

A conversation isn’t enough to develop someone toward their fullest potential. You’ll also need a plan of action to guide them toward their goals, whether they’re seeking more money, looking to build their skills, or wanting to grow within your business.

Fostering true connections

Self-care business owners have to continuously work on being modern, supportive leaders, now more than ever. In order for your business to grow and flourish, your team needs an environment where they feel they are heard and appreciated. Improve your overall staff experience and create meaningful relationships with your stylists through authentic, genuine connections. Continue to lead with clarity, compassion, and confidence, and you will bring out the best in your staff.

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