The next few years are predicted by some to be a bumpy ride. The explosion of the freelance economy along with the challenges facing cosmetology schools will mean an ever-shrinking pool of qualified, experienced people for salons to fight over. We are facing nothing less than a war for talent that some may remember from the previous century.
It’s a notion that dates back nearly two decades, to when Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod published their book The War for Talent, which is resurfacing now with increasing urgency. How do owners attract and retain the best people? Good remuneration is almost always top of the list, but so, too, are harder-to-measure metrics such as job satisfaction, autonomy, significance and happiness. It can’t be all about the money any more, especially if we want to sustain profitability. Businesses must also offer a positive experience – something we are all thinking about at ISBN – along with financial reward as a way to earn an individual’s productivity.
It was an idea that gained traction in those early days before the war for talent was first declared and was summed up in one of those classic HR expressions: employee value proposition, or EVP. Quintessentially, EVP was all about creating a proposition that ensured the talented wanted to work for you and not the competition (or themselves). It might sound like jargon, but it can provide a blueprint for improving employee engagement way beyond the occasional and often meaningless employee survey.
The strength of EVP as opposed to the bland ‘employee engagement’ is that it is based on a tried and tested formula that top salon, spa or barbershop groups have perfected already – the client value proposition. The rigor that goes into understanding the client and creating a proposition that ensures the client chooses it’s brand over the competition can, and should be, utilized when thinking about people management.
EVP puts the onus for good employee relations on the company, not the individual. It starts from a very simple premise: why would the most talented, experienced people want to be part of this company? If the company wants to attract and retain the best people then it must provide a complex and challenging environment where the employee can find satisfaction, inspiration, variety and friendship.
But it’s all very well reading the latest business books and regurgitating the terminology; the problem is how do you deliver EVP in a multi-site organization, or, even more complicated, a franchise operation? How do we transform the theory into reality for all employees, ensuring every stylist, every therapist and every manager and beyond thinks about her achievements, her team, her manager in the most positive light?
The upper echelons of any business can begin by designing the ideal proposition: ongoing education, variety, job security, an element of autonomy, a full column, opportunity for advancement, rewards and a good work/life balance. But to deliver on it, the business needs an education program that can be personalized, excellent leadership, transparent communications, successful marketing campaigns, in-salon support, processes to recognize and comment on work well done and good remuneration for those who are committed and dedicated. They must also protect and promote the brand so it is seen as cool place to work for.
Technology can also help. A good online reputation can go a long way to attracting the right sort of person to the company and make existing employees proud to be part of the brand. Technology can also deliver on the micro elements of management: monitoring take-up of education opportunities, triggering alerts if sales, attendance or rebooking drops. It can automate communications with individuals so they get information on a channel they engage with when it suits.
Well-trained managers and supported franchisees are essential to monitor activity and know when to reach out to an employee. They’ll also recognize when they can surrender elements of autonomy to an individual and offer greater responsibility to another. He or she will understand when intervention might be necessary and when it’s time to reward.
In a world where there are many temptations to move on to pastures greener, be it another employer or into self-employment, it has become crucial to offer more. The best might not be desperate to work for you; it might be the other way around. Taking a parallel approach between client and employee propositions could give an edge many companies will soon need.