The team from Spa Bleu work with Qnity's Tom Kuhn on the corporate culture.
The team from Spa Bleu work with Qnity's Tom Kuhn on the corporate culture.

Two years ago, the team at Spa Bleu, with two locations in Barrington and West Dundee, Illinois, came up with 10 shared values to help define their culture.

“First, the leadership team narrowed down the values,” says Heather Hazlett, director of operations. “Then we put out a survey to the team to see which values were shared by them and management.”

Once the values were established, all employees and leaders talked about them together in a team meeting. Each small group had a value and came up with a deeper meaning for it.

The Ambassadors

A few years ago, Spa Bleu owner Tammy Coakley took a large group of team members to Serious Business in New Orleans. Inspired by the event, five of those team members approached her wanting to make a difference in the salon to help it find a greater purpose.

As a result, Coakley formed the Spa Bleu culture ambassadors, who present and organize ideas for team-building, such as beach clean-ups, wellness events and birthday celebrations. Each ambassador leads a different committee based on their personal passions, such as happiness, community service and environment. Together they hold information sessions—speed-dating style—to explain to the team what each committee is about. Team members can sign up for the committees they are passionate about and help execute the committee’s vision.

The ambassadors communicate with each other via a closed Facebook group to nail down details, and they address the rest of the group during the salon’s daily huddle. Now, not only do the ambassadors bring new ideas to the salon’s leadership team, but managers also bounce ideas off them.

Hazlett feels these are the people who really drive the salon’s culture. “They’re a group of people who are here to do more than just a haircut,” she says. “They also spearhead events like getting a float ready for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and act as the go-to person for new employees.”

Evaluating for Attitude

Open communication between salon leaders and employees is key in Spa Bleu’s culture. The conversation between the individual stylist and manager happens regularly at monthly coaching sessions.

“These conversations are coaching opportunities for us to bring challenges back to our values,” Hazlett says. “For example, let’s say a team member isn’t doing everything they can to enroll in classes or is not participating in education. That’s a coaching opportunity for us to remind them learning is a value of ours and ask how they are following this value if they aren’t engaging in education.”

The 30-45 minutes of time stylists get with Hazlett and the salon owner are valuable to everyone involved. “It’s not just about that one haircut where they could do better. It’s a two-way street that we’re going to have a conversation about,” Hazlett says. “It’s not a report card—they give feedback, too.”

For the annual review, which Hazlett says is the wrap-up piece to the monthly coaching sessions, employees assess themselves in different areas, including culture and teamwork, and the leadership team does the same.

“We average the scores together, and usually the employees are much harder on themselves than we are,” Hazlett says. “But allowing them to dig deep and rate themselves lets us know where there is opportunity.”

Employees also receive a pay evaluation twice a year, which is based on their critical numbers as well as their attitude and teamwork, which is particularly key since the salon uses the team-based pay system.

The strong culture at Spa Bleu was evident last year when they completed a total renovation of their original location, which closed the salon for 14 weeks.

“We did not lose any employees at this time,” Hazlett says. “They all banded together, switching to the other location, taking vacation time, helping out in other roles, etc. We are very proud of how smoothly that transition went for us. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing team.”

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