Should you embrace an ex-employee back at your salon?

A member of our senior team, who is now in her early 40s, started with us as a 16-year-old doing work experience while still at school. She then became a Saturday girl, did an apprenticeship and has been an accomplished operator ever since, this year receiving her 25-year service award. 

That’s something to be extremely proud of, as we both are. However, when it comes to her experience of salon life, you could accuse her of being firmly encased in the Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa (RW) bubble. 

She only knows our workplace; she’s never worked anywhere else, like lots of our staff. In this people-focused business, this is a lucrative commodity. Our clients love the fact that in this fast-paced world, the salon is one environment where (to paraphrase the US sitcom Cheers) everybody knows their name. 

The importance of the work environment

I’d love to pontificate on our staff retention levels and take all the credit for being the reason people want to stay with us. But the facts speak for themselves – it’s not just about what type of employer you are or the money you offer; the work environment, colleagues and friends play a huge part in why people decide to stay or leave. 

Many people meet their partners through work, and our intricate staff family tree has seen three marriages and two babies, not to mention the relationships, siblings and cousins that form part of our extended family. Factor in these and there are several more RW happy endings to include. Of course, sometimes people leave, but often they later want to come back. 

Perhaps it’s a simple need to flee the nest to see what’s out there. They say if you love somebody, set them free. If they come back they’re yours for good, and if they don’t they were never yours in the first place. It’s very much like that with staff. 

What to do if a previous employee wants to return to your salon

We’ve recently taken back three team members who left but soon found that the grass wasn’t greener. That’s hugely satisfying for both the employee and the employer. It vindicates the benefits of staying put to anyone else thinking they might want to spread their wings, but also sends out a clear message: employment isn’t counted as continuous so all accrued benefits reset to zero if they do leave and come back. 

So, is that saying “better the devil you know” always true? Sometimes a team member leaves and it feels like a fresh, cleansing breeze is sweeping through the salon, healing and re-energising the team. Conversely, somebody’s absence can find you remembering only the positives; a clear indication that you’d both be happier to reconcile.

If you find yourself fishing around for information on whether they’re happy, it can be a sign that you both need to embrace the fact that nobody, no job and no salon is perfect, and maybe you’d both be happier to get back to where you were. 

The break can lead to some clarity on both sides. I’m never too proud to make the move and be the bigger person if I find that’s how I’m feeling, because we can all benefit from the experience as a team. 

Hellen WardHellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London, one of the most profitable independent salons in the UK. She is beauty ambassador for the National Beauty Federation (NBF). 

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