As a test pilot salon for Facebook's Workplace program,Birds Barbershops' Michael Portman and...
As a test pilot salon for Facebook's Workplace program,Birds Barbershops' Michael Portman and Jayson Rapaport are discovering a valuable new tool for communicating with team members across nine locations.

When salon owners sign up to beta-test a new product, sometimes it's a great opportunity to sample an upcoming technology for free. While the company gets some real-world feedback on product performance, the salon learns whether this is a product worth buying once the testing period is over.

With more than 180 employees spread out through nine locations in Austin and Houston, Texas, Birds Barbershops' Owners Jayson Rapaport and Michael Portman are always investigating new technologies that help them communicate quickly and easily with the entire team.

Recently, Rappaport heard about Facebook Workplace from the owners of Milk + Honey, a chain of five Austin-based salons and spas, who are part of a pilot program established to give the social media giant feedback on the new worksite-based communication system.

“I thought it sounded interesting, so I petitioned Facebook five times before finally getting invited to be part of the testing program,” Rapaport says.

Facebook Workplace is different than a closed Facebook group, because an owner invites his or her employees to become members using a unique login that has no link to their personal Facebook pages. The new mobile and web app is part social network, part messenger and part productivity tool for teams, and it is only visible to people in the company.

“You can easily add or remove people who are part of the hiring or departure process,” Rapaport says. “We didn’t know at first if our younger stylists, who trend toward Instagram and Snapchat, would embrace it, but they love it.”

Fine-Tuning Communications

Within Birds Barbershops’ Workplace, the owners can set up individual groups, for example there is one called “Office Talk” just for back office staff, another for leaders of different locations and one for receptionists.

“We’ve found some great uses for it,” Rapaport says. “For example, someone can demonstrate a technique on a model in one location, and employees in other locations can watch it live. Or a manager in one location can post, ‘We’re down a closer,’ and, employees from other locations can pick up a last-minute shift.”

Rappaport does admit that the technology is a bit “Big-Brother-ish” as he can send out a communication, then he can track who opened and read the post and who didn’t.

Through the site, the Birds’ team set up “InstaBirds” where staff showcase their work, comment on each other’s images and support one another.

“It’s really fantastic for corporate information, such as ‘We are closing early today,’ or ‘Here’s information on the summer party,’” Rapaport says. “We only have one location in Houston, and they have been an island by themselves, but this communication tool brings us all a lot closer.”

Next Steps

While Birds will eventually be asked to pay for the service, Rapaport believes they will sign on full-time.

“It’s been very valuable,” he says. “We used to have an internal blog and newsletter, but this replaces all of that and the communication is all in one place.”

While Workplace is a fabulous method for managers to talk to stylists, Rapaport loves that it also encourages employees to shout out to each other.

“As your operation grows larger, it becomes more and more burdensome to communicate to your team---this makes it easy.”

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