Employee ManagementLeadership

Taking Our Training Online

The development and launch in early 2017 of a Ratner in-house app gave us the perfect vehicle to roll out online education to the devices on which the majority of our associates were most active – their smartphones. It became clear to the organization some years ago that Millennials and their little brothers and sisters, GenZ, were becoming more comfortable researching and learning via technology than in a classroom scenario. So we met them on their own terms, developing a program that would complement and enrich (but not replace) in-salon and district-wide practical education sessions. Putting our education on our app, rather than social media or YouTube, also made it easier to keep it private and to monitor and reflect on engagement.

But rather than just churn out online videos focusing on new techniques or new products, our focus has been on living out our Passion, Purpose and Values with exciting on-going education that ensures our associates check in a few times a week to pick up tips, insights and education. The education section of the app, which is private and accessible only to our associates, is called Prosperity on Demand. It is our version of a Learning Management System. The truism of the title is simple; if they access the app regularly it will make them more prosperous.

Within Prosperity on Demand, there are several categories that make it easy for associates to scan. ‘Being in the Know’ brings updates on trends; ‘Grow your Strength’ focuses on technical skills and innovations; ‘Grow your Business’ concentrates on improving rebooking, referrals and retail, anything and everything that will help them become more financially successful. Finally, there is ‘Product Knowledge’ which is self-explanatory.

Led by our Artistic Director, New York-based fashion icon Rodney Cutler, our education is all filmed at the new video suite set up in our Resource Center just outside Washington DC. We also create step-by-steps and other resources here.

We release new content weekly – most of it from within a planned cycle, but thanks to our own video suite we can also be reactive – so we don’t drown our associates with content they don’t have time to consume. We might do a session looking at a technique Rodney used for his latest collection for Ratner, drilling down into the details that make it so perfect. Or we might revisit the color he created for an editorial shoot. All this content is then stored in a library on the app for associates to revisit when they want. It isn’t always video and it isn’t always about hair services. We’ll run content on health and safety or even harassment or bullying in the workplace.

Location and district leaders can access the films and collateral when delivering practical education or suggest it as follow up research to reinforce a training session. It helps create layers of education so everyone can benefit regardless of learning type or experience.
The app is not a replacement for in-person education – hairdressing is too hands-on to leave up to technology. But it has allowed us to deliver more education, more frequently to more people with lower costs. Our associates are even better trained than before, immersed in our culture and highly engaged with the company and the brand.

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Darren Mangus is Senior Vice President of People, Heart and Culture for Ratner Companies, the largest family owned and operated chain of hair salons in the country. In this newly created role Darren leads the company’s efforts to infuse Passion, Purpose and Values into everything it does, and ensure the unique culture lives and thrives far into the future.

Darren has over 23 years of experience as a Retail executive. Most recently he was the Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Leadership Development at ULTA Beauty. Prior to this role, he was a Regional Vice President for ULTA, overseeing the Midwest. Before joining ULTA Beauty, he was a District Manager, Flagship District Manager, and Regional Manager at Bath and Body Works.

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