Why we should take a holistic approach to HR

You'd have to have been living on another planet to miss the recent stories of sexual harassment in the US movie industry. The related #metoo Twitter hashtag has been all over our newspapers and TV screens. As an employer of many young people (as well as a mum to two teenagers, one of each sex) its relevance was not lost on me.

According to recent National Hairdressers’ Federation (NHF) statistics, 88% of people working in our industry are women. I’ve never been an ardent feminist, as most readers well know, but these recent events really did make me think about behaviour in the workplace.

I’m lucky enough to say I don’t think I’ve ever been discriminated against in my career but I know lots of women who work in high-profile media roles and earn less than their male counterparts. How can that be fair in 2018? It’s simply unjustifiable.

We’ve all experienced discrimination outside of work. When Dubai first became a holiday destination, I took clients for dinner at a swanky restaurant where the waiter wouldn’t accept my request for the bill, nor my credit card, without looking to my husband to check first. My female guest, a resident of the city, explained that was normal, but I was incensed. Needless to say, the waiter witnessed my wrath and I never bothered going there on holiday again.

Managing conflict

Thankfully, although it may not be a culture in the workplace I’ve created, recent events didn’t stop me having a strict word with the whole team, which interestingly is a 50/50 split of young men and women. But I can assure you it wasn’t solely directed at the men. The women have their part to play too. There are lots of in-salon romances here, and if they turn sour the knives can come out.

All of my team need to know that I don’t just expect good behaviour, I have a zero-tolerance policy on bad behaviour, harassment or bullying.Discrimination works both ways, and I won’t let anyone make accusations just because the object of their affections has moved on.

Positive steps

However, it can be a difficult line to draw. Personally, as a football-loving woman (Willian is my God, Stamford Bridge my happy place), you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m used to a bit of smutty banter. In fact, Viz is one of my favourite magazines. But harmless innuendo and schoolboy – or girl – humour is not what we’re talking about here.

Taking a holistic HR approach is important. As bosses, we have a duty of care to our teams. I always joke that I don’t have two children, I have 102. I will always be the matriarch. However tough I am on them at times, I care about every one of them – tough love, I believe, sums it up.

I’ve even started after-work yoga classes at the salon to improve their wellbeing and encourage mindfulness (as a yoga bunny I really do believe it’s the ultimate cure-all). So, maybe it’s worth taking some time this month to reiterate your policy and ensure your workplace is the nurturing and positive environment your team deserves.

Hellen WardHellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London’s Sloane Square and chair of Trailblazers for the hairdressing sector.

Read Ward's top advice on spotting treatment trends, reassessing your retail offering and recruiting good therapists