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Communication Across a Huge Group

The challenge of winning the hearts and minds of thousands of employees over multiple locations can often seem insurmountable, even with the aid of technology and social media. But, with everyone carrying their own portable communication device in their pocket, it has become a little easier in recent years to talk directly to our teams and build a culture around what is the largest family-owned and operated chain in the US.

Only a little easier, though. The platforms used to communicate can limit success. Facebook groups can be too public while Whatsapp can get too congested unless all the traffic is one-way, and that’s not really communicating. Nor can a company compel its teams to engage.
With tens of thousands of associates over nearly 1,000 locations, we were determined to find a way to communicate to all our associates and build a sense of unity. We recently became, if not the first, at least one of the first companies in the beauty industry to launch an internal communication app, developed by us to talk directly to our associates. Private and with a rich content library, it offers our associates a way to access company information privately at a time that suits them.

It hasn’t replaced the top-down communications that we all administer, merely added an additional layer that enriches and extends our communications strategy.

Of course, our having the platform doesn’t mean it will succeed. You can’t force service providers to keep an eye on the app. But you can encourage and reward engagement. Our salon leaders use the system for their monthly ‘touch base’ meetings, identifying opportunities available on the app for each of their individual service providers. They’ll use it to develop an action plan over the next 30 days and reference back to that plan at the next meeting. The app also allows leaders and senior leaders to track engagement.

To create and encourage a sense of community, we link our messages and our broadcasts to our Passion, Purpose and Values – the very culture at the heart of Ratner. These are enshrined in the company, embedded in the very language we use. So we will talk about what we have or can ‘achieve together’ (one of our core values) or how we can ‘learn and grow’ (another value). We appeal for integrity by referencing ‘do what’s right’ and we constantly reiterate our shared desire to ‘serve with passion’. And every day we ‘take responsibility’ for the work that we must get done.

Our app also gives us, the senior leaders based in our resource center just outside Washington DC, a vehicle to talk directly to every associate within the company. That has immeasurable value. But again, we are systematic about the language and tone used. Artistic director Rodney Cutler leads on education so we will adopt his voice for certain education content. Something around our people, culture or values might come from co-founders Dennis or Ann Ratner. Something around our strategies or major programs/initiatives may come from president and COO Phil Horvath.

We are convinced that creating a strong culture of happy associates with a mindset of positivity, backed with constant opportunities to grow technical and business skills, is the key to driving engagement on and beyond the Ratner app. Our associates like being part of a dynamic company that they identify with, and which works with them to drive their own business and put more money in their pocket. It builds long-term loyalty in our associates, who in turn deliver such a good and considerate service, they guarantee guest loyalty.

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