“We show them a path that they didn’t realize was open to them.”
Ulta Beauty has mapped out a clear career path for stylists in their salons, and the stops along the way include dedicated time (paid for!) spent on education at all levels. Mastery at each tier moves that stylist forward, personally and professionally. As they progress, hairdressers will find a team of enthusiastic, experienced coaches, passionate professionals that lead Ulta Beauty, directing them to their goals.
You’ve heard the sports expression, “you left it all on the field,” which means you performed to your utmost ability. Jen McGann, the director of artistic development and training at Ulta Beauty, and Sarah Dahl, senior manager services, field education at Ulta Beauty, oversee a full-time team of technical educators, both district and regional, who go out into the field and give it their all. The two are connected in everything they do: McGann and team create the curriculum, making sure its content is relevant, innovative and dynamic; while Dahl and team collaborate on the final product and the train-the-trainer events, to create an education program that has direct application to a stylist’s everyday life and career growth in the salon.
The classes offered at different tiers build on each other, so the stylist can grow in competencies, technical skill and confidence. The Essentials tier class lays the foundation for them to build a successful career at Ulta and includes product knowledge and learning time-saving techniques for a confident, efficient service.
In the Mastery tier classes, the content progresses and becomes more specific on color and cut techniques, trends, and includes business building instruction.
When they reach the Elite tier class, they will be introduced to inspiring, aspirational content created in partnership with the Ulta Beauty Pro Team, that they can then take back into the salon and make their own.
“We have customized education at each tier, and it’s required for their career growth and development to take a suite of classes at our Essentials tier and our Master tier before they can advance into Elite,” Dahl explains.
Recognizing that different areas of the country will have different client needs and preferences, Ulta Beauty often partners with members of the Design Team in select districts to deliver customized content that resonates with that area’s audience. A big focus for Ulta Beauty is ensuring every guest that enters their doors will find an expert waiting for them.
“In addition to our foundational education,” McGann says, “we’re excited to be offering an incremental series of education on texture that includes everything from the conversation and culture, all the way through to the technical skills necessary to serve each guest.”
There are four foundational texture classes along with a certification class being offered to stylists looking to become texture authorities. Ulta Beauty takes their texture education on tour for three months at a time to deliver the foundational texture education. Afterwards, there is a technical certification that supports the texture in-person education. Ultimately, education is always ongoing, with pockets of streamlined texture education throughout the country.
At Ulta Beauty, the goal is for every hairdresser to be equally balanced in their technical skills and their client care and interpersonal skills.
“We have something that is unique to us, which is Ulta Beauty, At Your Service,” says McGann. “It is a very intentional consultation and conversation with your guest, and when you’ve completed it, you have thoughtfully evaluated and come up with the best course of action for your guest’s hair.”
Included in this is Ulta Rituals, which are those things that create a unique and consistent experience—how stylists talk with a guest, how they shampoo, and how they transition from the shampoo bowl back to the salon chair.
“This is all wrapped back into our culture,” she continues. “We are working diligently to ensure that every stylist can deliver on all fronts, and that in addition to doing beautiful hair, we are speaking to our guests in the right way.”
While education in the salon industry involves lots of hands in hair, it is also energizing by inspiring and leading from the front. Ulta Beauty’s chief artistic director and member of the Ulta Beauty Pro Team, Ammon Carver, is the son of educators, who “grew up” as a hairdresser and discovered his passion for teaching along the way. “Years ago, a sales rep who came in regularly to my salon started to encourage me to look into education. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
He started teaching locally and soon realized the perks of becoming an educator—being the first to access new product launches, being trained on trends, and working alongside huge talents. “I started meeting these industry icons, even having the chance to assist them, while expanding my skills and my perceptions of beauty. I eventually learned to bring myself to everything I did, to put ‘me’ into the style. There’s no such thing as stealing a look; the foundational principles are all the same and it’s about how you mix and match and then put your own spin on it.”
Carver, who mentors and manages the Ulta Beauty Design Team, whose members collaborate with the Ulta Beauty Pro Team on campaigns for Ulta Beauty stores and educate at events around the country, saw his world come full circle when he recently directed a photo shoot in Palm Springs at the home and learning hub of one of these industry legends, Nicholas French.
French has been a trusted mentor to both Carver and to Ulta Beauty’s Nick Stenson, senior VP, services and trend. “I was able to show the Design Team stylists that there are generations of people who have shaped the beauty industry. They have created a large body of work that compiles a true history of hair that we can appreciate and learn from. We’re here because of the people who mentored us.”
By being so visible to the industry and supportive of the industry, Carver and the Pro Team helps stylists recognize Ulta Beauty as a community that is vibrant, exciting, and one they’d like to be a part of. He says he wish he’d had the opportunities Ulta Beauty affords when he was coming up in the salon world. “I think of all the training you need to work through those moments and those blocks that might cripple you,” he explains. “We are always in a state of learning. When education can remove those hurdles for a hairdresser, then you can soar.”