There’s no denying the amount of free education that has been made available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the salon shutdown, artists and educators have risen to the challenge of staying connected with the hair community from coast to coast.
While provinces have reopened, there continues to be so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic for the fall and winter seasons. We spoke with four leading brands to learn how they are proceeding (with caution) and tailoring their education curriculums to meet the new needs of hairstylists.
“Once upon a time, we only had in-person options of being able to deliver education. Now, with the different formats and opportunities available, we’re not restricted to just one
way of delivering education,” says Kelly Cook, national education manager for Joico and Zotos Professional. “We now have the opportunity to create a portfolio of ways to deliver education and be able to massage a curriculum to work across all platforms.”
From livestreams to webinars, brands have tapped into different platforms to be able to engage the hair community. For Joico, this meant ramping up their livestreams and takeovers, which were hosted up to twice per week on Instagram and Facebook during the shutdown, and are now held four to five times per month.
While Cook says technique-driven education has been their most successful initiative, it’s been important for the brand to change it up—even hosting one that focused on creating a photo shoot with multiple Contessa award-winning hairstylist, Melissa Duguay. “When you’re stuck at home, you can feel uninspired,” says Cook. “We’ve kept it fun and interactive, with relevant topics for hairstylists.”
Despite the convenience and variety of livestreams on Instagram and Facebook,it hasn’t come without its challenges. “It’s been great to see so many artists make themselves so available to the industry, but it can be a little bit spastic; you might catch 15 minutes of it and go back to it, or you might integrate it into your routine but you may not. It can be one-directional,” says Fay Linksman, studio & capability manager for Wella. “On Instagram you can ask questions and have a certain level of interactivity, but during COVID, if you lived alone or were a one-person show, it’s difficult trying to answer questions and interact during a demo.
LIVESTREAMING HAS BEEN AN INCREDIBLE TOOL TO SHOWCASE WHO YOU ARE AS A BRAND, WITH VARIOUS TALENTS, SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE THAT CAN BENEFIT HAIRSTYLISTS, SALON OWNERS, COLOURISTS AND EVERYONE WORKING IN A SALON. WE NEED TO MAXIMIZE THAT A LOT MORE IN THE YEARS TO COME.” – ALAIN LAROCHE, DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, L’ORÉAL PROFESSIONNEL AND PUREOLOGY
Digital by Design
While some stylists may be most familiar with livestreams on social media, webinars have become increasingly popular on platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
“Webinars have been great to prove that you don’t have to wait to go into a salon to teach or share your knowledge,” says Alain Laroche, director of professional development for L’Oréal Professionnel and Pureology. “They are easy, efficient and interactive. They allow you to have the capability and quality of learning as if they were there in person.” He says that he and his team plan on exploring the additional capabilities of webinars, including hosting larger events that can include up to 1,000 participants.
Going above and beyond the capabilities of social media livestreams and webinars, Joico Canada has recently launched their virtual education curriculum, which is designed to recreate the experience of attending in-person training at a salon or academy with live, interactive seminars.
“They have more of an intimate setting. The concept was to create a virtual classroom rather than having more of the open-house feel of an Instagram Live, where people are popping in and out,” says Cook. “Since we can’t be together in- person, we wanted to create something more reminiscent of an in-person classroom— the way most hairstylists are used to learning.”
Classes are limited to one-hour sessions, keeping the educator’s time in mind along with the attention span of many hairstylists. “In a virtual format, you can lose people’s attention after about an hour,” says Cook. “We feel like an hour holds their attention and allows us for engagement, without overtaxing their time.”
For those interested in more in-depth, hands-on learning, Wella is working on creating a range of real-time classes. “We’re exploring the option of doing three-hour real-time sessions, focusing more on technique and that are craftsmanship-driven rather than brand trends to reach a broader audience,” says Linksman. “That’s not to say that we won’t continue to have some options for free education, but we want the focus to be on the colour application, haircut or styling technique, and what demos will look like with a little more production value.”
The Future of Live Education
For those who prefer in- person education, the Kao Salon Academy Toronto has recently reopened its doors, offering a limited schedule of live education.
“We realized we could still open at a very limited capacity, rework our entire schedule that we had planned and start from scratch—offering more one-day programs rather than longer duration programs,” says Kathy Reilly, associate director of education for Kao Canada. “For us, it wasn’t about maximizing the number of attendees so we could generate more revenue. We looked very closely at the schedule to figure out what we could host and cover our costs with, but we’re certainly not making any money with the academy this year and it’s not about that. It’s about offering our community of stylists some great education, and finding a way to do it without sinking ourselves.”
In order to adhere to social distancing regulations, the academy is allowing nine participants per class and has a designated academy assistant to handle all handling of products, such as colour cans, bowls, etc. Participants are required to pre-register online and complete a COVID questionnaire. Once they arrive at the academy, the participants will have their temperature taken. “We’ve really gone through all the steps to make sure everybody is safe,” adds Reilly.
For those who cannot travel to the Toronto academy (or who are not yet comfortable with attending an in-person class), there are many benefits to reap from tuning into the virtual sessions streamed live.“We certainly know there’s a very small amount of people who are not going to be comfortable, or who cannot financially afford to come back to the academy, so we wanted to give back to stylists and offer these complimentary sessions for the rest of the year,” says Reilly. “It’s about keeping our academy community alive.”
It may be too soon to tell what the long-term future looks like for live education. For some brands, including L’Oréal Professionnel, they cannot yet confirm when they’ll be able to reopen their academy. Depending on the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, they’re hoping it will happen sometime in October or November.
For Wella, they surveyed local hairstylists who previously attended classes at their Toronto studio. Surprisingly, nearly 60 per cent say COVID-19 hasn’t changed their opinion of wanting to attend an in- person seminar.
“We’re slowly seeing more of a demand for in-person education,” says Linksman. “I think our hairdressing community in Canada is passionate and really thrives on education. I do feel that virtual education will have a huge place in the future of education—it creates a higher level of accessibility— but I don’t necessarily believe anything replaces face-to- face education. In certain disciplines, especially cutting, you do need somebody standing extremely close to you and checking your work really carefully. Plus, people miss the camaraderie when you attend a course and meet hairstylists who aren’t necessarily from the same salon as you. It’s cool to see other people’s thought processes.”