From welcoming new staff to dealing with existing team members anxious about returning to work, Vitality Editor, Becci Vallis, looks at how to ensure your team stays happy, motivated and inspired.
While some staff will be chomping at the bit to get back into the salon and see their clients, others may still be feeling cautious after being on furlong. Whether this is down to a fear of Covid, nervousness over connecting with others after spending so long in a contained environment or because they’re reassessing their love for the industry, it’s important as a manager or salon owner that you recognise the signs and offer help and support. Even if they returned from furlough when salons reopened last year, it doesn’t mean to say this latest return will be rosy, with the mental health charity Mind reporting that 60% of adults believe their mental health to have worsened during lockdown.
It’s also crucial as a manager that you have the right toolkit to manage expectations, not find yourself strapped for cash when it comes to pay rises and promotions and feel confident navigating requests for more flexible working hours - something that’s expected to arise after people have experienced the joys of having multiple Saturdays off in a row. Below we list six scenarios and how to deal with them to ensure you and your staff come out on top.
SCENARIO 1: A SMOOTH RETURN TO WORK
By now, your salon or business will hopefully have re-opened and columns will no doubt be fully booked. Ideally you will have checked in with all staff members before the big return. “At GLOW salon we had individual, team and team leader meetings booked in the week before we re-opened and had leading, open and honest conversations with each team member,” says Sara Shoemark, founder of salon group, GLOW. “We offered training in anything that anyone felt they might like or need in the weeks leading up to the reopening and have discussed strengths, likes and dislikes too. I wanted to encourage them to share concerns, worries or wants before the focus turned to the clients.”
If you haven’t had one-to-one meetings with your staff, it’s not too late but get them booked in as soon as you can. “Do what you would do if someone has been off work ill and book in a ‘return to work’ meeting with everybody individually,” advises Cathy O’Donoghue, Managing Director of HR Champions. “Ask about their mental wellbeing, have they done any CPD (continuing professional development) while they’ve been away, is anything concerning them. Often if someone has low confidence during time off those demons can raise their ugly heads so you need to recognise that and work with them on tasks that can boost their confidence.”
You could also schedule in a team building event where you present your vision going forward to re-engage your staff. “Relaunching your values, getting clear about customer service and touching on good practices at work will make sure everyone understands what’s expected of them going forward,” continues Cathy.
SCENARIO 2: INTRODUCING NEW STAFF
A lot can happen in a year and if you had to make redundancies early on then it makes sense that you might have new staff members joining. Or maybe existing staff on furlough resigned. Or you simply need to grow the team. Whichever one it is, you need to make sure your team integrates with one another as long-standing team members could end up feeling vulnerable or are simply too focused on their clients and columns to interact with new colleagues. “Try something like a buddy system and get your team to work in pairs to complete a task. This also works if someone is lacking confidence if they’re paired with someone who is feeling positive and proactive,” explains Cathy.
Or if you need new staff but you haven’t filled the positions yet, don’t panic. “GLOW need to recruit but as a team we’ve decided to manage with existing staff for the reopening month whilst ensuring I don’t put unwanted pressures on anyone. Instead, we offered extra hours to part time staff and reemployed a couple of past team members on short term contracts to suit them - of which we had a good response,” says Sara. “They know the team and the way we work and I’ve learnt that sometimes if you have team members that are unprepared, that can be disruptive, timely and costly too.”
SCENARIO 3: SOME OF YOUR TEAM SEEM ANXIOUS
In our industry it’s normal to put on your ‘game face’ and deal with your client’s worries and concerns before dealing with your own but this past year hasn’t been like any other so be prepared for staff to feel anxious. It could be about health and safety, it could be about leaving their family after spending so much time together or relationships at home, it could be about money, but whatever it is communication is key. If you don’t address it, they will suffer, you will suffer and so will the business.
“Honesty from both parties is vital. Address their concerns and try not to judge. Someone’s problems may seem minor to you but if it’s causing anxiety it will become your problem if it’s not addressed. It isn’t always easy but react practically rather than emotionally,” recommends Sara.
Cathy suggests daily catch ups could help: “Ask them to reflect each day on what’s gone well and what they might do differently tomorrow. By working out steps they could take the next day to ensure things run smoothly or that they could try it will build their confidence. It’s also important to celebrate the success of being back in work as it’s true that some people will have been dreading it.”
You could also enrol on a mental health first aid course or ask one of your team to so that you feel equipped when dealing with your staff suffering from concerns and anxiety. HR Champions are also launching a Counselling Skills course this month to help therapists deal with the information that often gets unloaded onto them by clients as again, this can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.
SCENARIO 4: STAFF WANT TO WORK LESS HOURS
Late nights, early mornings and weekend work are a given in hair and beauty and since qualifying it’s what every pro knows but with Saturdays free for family time and extra hours in the evening, you might want to prepare yourself for staff asking for more flexible working. “In an ideal world you’ll already have a flexible working policy but if not, you need to ask them to put in writing how flexible working will work for the salon as well as solutions to any problems you foresee. This will give you an audit trail and you have 30 days to respond which will give you time to reflect back on it and give the request consideration,” advises Cathy.
“You need to stand back from it and rather than being emotive, look at it from a logical and commercial perspective about how it might work. Often when you work it through, you might find a solution. For example, look at your customer footfall and appointments during the times they want to work. Could it be an option to ask two part-timers to job share to make sure there’s no downtime? Could you trial it as an option and if so, put it in writing with a review date and confirm that if it doesn’t work, they’ll have to return to the hours they were working beforehand. If you know you need to turn it down, a good way is to explain that by them not being there, the salon couldn’t meet demand.”
You also need to consider how the rest of the team will react if some staff start working less hours. They might worry that they need to do more. And if you predict you’ll get several requests, decide how you want to deal with them - will it be on a first come, first served basis. You also need to consider what’s the consequences of turning down a request. “If I can give them what they want, I will, if it’s not possible, I can’t,” says Sara. “To a degree as long as a therapist is fully booked and working well, does it matter what day or time they’re in - usually not but you must think of the team, if it’s fair and the financial impact.”
SCENARIO 5: YOU WERE READY TO DISH OUT PROMOTIONS AND PAYRISES AND THEN…COVID
This is a tough one as you want to recognise your staff and reward them. Thinking long term, consider how they might react if you retract your offer but at the same time you must be mindful of your finances. “Have transparency and frank conversations about the situation you’re in,” continues Cathy. “Sit them down and say, ‘this is where we are, this is where you fit but I need to get back to this place before I can do X, Y and Z, how does that fit with you?’. It’s about communication, being open and honest and making sure they know that you’re not just fobbing them off and that you are invested in them and their career prospects.
SCENARIO 6: ONE OF YOUR TEAM HAS LOST THEIR PASSION
Maybe time out of the salon has led to one of your team questioning their career, their goals in the workplace or maybe they want to go in a different direction altogether? This calls for a one to one where you can again, assess the situation and see if there’s anything you can do to reignite that flame. Are they looking for development and you can enrol them on a course? Are their skills better suited to a different part of the salon? “Look for opportunities within their existing skill set or help them with extra training. Or if they do want to leave, discuss an exit strategy and work together. Maybe they could still work part time while doing other training,” advises Cathy. “There has been a definite shift from managers and staff cutting ties to keeping communication open, you never know after doing more training they might return or could still work with you on a part time basis while pursuing other interests.”
That said, if they do want to leave, accept it graciously. “There is only so much you can do and should do, and it isn’t healthy for the team or the business to keep someone who’s needs you have addressed but they’re still not happy,” says Sara. “But always ensure endings are amicable.”
For more HR tips and advice, BABTAC members can sign into the members lounge where you will find templates and handbooks provided by HR Champions on various issues including new starters, attendance and performance management as well disciplinary documents and a staff handbook.