How does any salon, company or team establish and foster its culture? Many elements factor into the formula: structure, boundaries, a healthy dose of pride, camaraderie and, of course, the mission, values and goals of the group. At Ulta Beauty, Director of Artistic Development and Training Jen McGann says culture starts with communication.
As the two previous editions of insideLOOK series have showcased, Ulta Beauty takes education seriously, with hands-on, customized education for all of the associates of the Salon at Ulta Beauty happening monthly, facilitated by Services District Educators throughout all 109 districts for 1,200+ locations in the country. Those same districts have regular visits from their own Services District Leaders who coach and support the salon and store teams on business, strategy and operations.
To ensure the education and support is effective and helps build a positive culture for everyone involved, the company invests above and beyond its comprehensive, multi-tier education curriculum in services, trends and business. Ulta Beauty also trains its trainers—all of the district and regional field educators and operations specialists—in the art of communication, presence and facilitation (the successful exchange of information).
The effort to hone these leadership and personal development skills pays off, not only for all of the educators and operations leaders who undergo the extensive training, but for the associates they serve, and the beautiful results those professionals achieve in their own careers.
“We’re talking about the difference between telling and engaging,” McGann says.
Field educators and leaders learn to deliver the “how” to stylists and other associates, to teach and be sure the information is understood and can be acted on successfully, in a way that reflects true partnership.
“If I’m in the field and a stylist raises a concern or we’re having a one-on-one coaching conversation about your business, we’ll understand how to have meaningful conversations so everyone can grow together,” McGann explains. “Our team practices and prioritizes how we communicate with each other, how to get to a space of ‘let’s figure out and do this together,’ through collaborating.”
McGann says anyone who has any role at Ulta Beauty that involves leading other people goes through the two-week training on facilitation and leadership at least once a year, and everyone gets involved.
“Our VP of Service and Trend Nick Stenson and Chief Artistic Director Ammon Carver spend time with them; our Pro Team and Design Team participate,” she says. “Leadership and Business Development Manager Jessica Burford works with our team to curate the skills practice and teach-back exercises. It all adds up to our field teams being really aligned in how we are delivering our message and living our Ulta Beauty values, which are present in everything we teach.”
And the feedback from the salon professionals and the teams that support them has been incredibly positive.
“My favorite part of the culture at Ulta Beauty is watching others grow through our core values, Ulta Beauty Design Team Member Justin Toves-Vincilione says. “I have learned to give wow experiences to my guests and associates, but my personal wow comes from the sense of community I feel connecting and learning with other Ulta educators and stylists. We work on so many things beyond hair, like building confidence and learning to love and respect ourselves as artists. Nobody gets left behind.” (Read more of Justin’s story here.)
McGann says the feedback and strong culture are gratifying, but that she really knows the education and training commitments Ulta Beauty has invested in are working because of the results.
“We’re executing services faster, we have improved guest experiences and we have really motivated and excited associates,” she says. “Stylists, skin therapists, brow experts and makeup artists are building tangible skills and growing lucrative careers. We’re winning together.”
Check out the Salon at Ulta Beauty near you. Ask the salon manager for more info on local—and free!—Ulta Academy education and events. Apply at careers.ulta.com