Staff / Management

The Salon Owner’s Guide to Hiring & Staff Retention

12 min

The Salon Owner’s Guide to Hiring & Staff Retention

Staff hiring and retention is one of the most pressing issues facing businesses in the professional beauty industry today. In the aftermath of the pandemic, which saw the emergence of flexible, remote work and a booming shadow economy, many beauty professionals are leaving employment in the salon behind and opting instead to work for themselves or change career paths completely. 

While this can feel overwhelming for salon owners, it signals that a major change is needed in the way that your team is hired, trained, and retained. Despite the recruitment turmoil in the industry right now, there are still countless professionals looking for stable, in-salon jobs that they can stay in long-term. The difference now, though, is that there are so many job posts out there that professionals can afford to be choosy – it is a candidate market. This should be viewed as a good thing; if professionals have the opportunity to choose where they want to work, rather than settling for a job just because it’s available, it means that they genuinely care about your business when they accept a job offer from you.

A professional hair, beauty or spa business is only as strong as the team that holds it up. If you want to make your salon stand out for all the right reasons and hire a great team that lasts, offering a  professional, growth-focused, and rewarding place to work is an absolute must. Let’s discuss how you can achieve this, to create a team that will help your business to reach new heights.

Mindful Hiring Makes All The Difference

When you decide to hire a new staff member, do you spend some time thinking about exactly what your salon needs, or are you simply advertising the same listing as you did previously and hoping that the right person comes through the door? Many pro beauty and hair businesses, especially ones that have been open for many years, hire in a reactive way, i.e. they automatically advertise a role for replacement staff as soon as someone leaves. 

While this can work for some businesses, for others, hiring this way can make the workplace stagnant for staff and clients. Even more seriously, if your salon is having staff issues, this can exacerbate and repeat them. Sometimes, when a member of your team leaves, a total restructuring is required. Take, for example, a small hair salon with 2-5 staff; All staff work as hair stylists and colorists, but one juggles her job behind the chair with taking bookings and essentially working as a part-time receptionist. She has left her role in this salon because she feels overworked and wants to focus solely on the part of the role she loves the most – becoming a specialist colorist. Rather than hiring another stylist and repeating the same pattern, this business should consider restructuring. A restructure could look like hiring a full-time receptionist, training the rest of the team on reception duties and sharing out the workload while specializing their duties behind the chair, or hiring a new stylist but investing in salon scheduling software that will handle the administrative side of running a salon for you.

While it may be frustrating to spend additional time brainstorming what your salon needs before posting a job advertisement, especially in the midst of a staff shortage, considering exactly what your salon needs makes all the difference when it comes to the quality of the person you hire and the time they will stay in the salon. Hiring a new team member is a significant investment for your business, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The additional time spent thinking about what your salon truly needs will pay off in terms of staff retention and salon revenue generation down the line.  

Consider How You are Advertising Jobs 

After deciding exactly what role you need to hire for, it’s important to advertise the role honestly and be realistic about what is expected from a new hire. If, for example, you’re expecting a stylist or technician to manage the front desk one day a week, include this in the listing. That being said, however, if your job listing isn’t getting much traction, it may be worth considering whether your expectations for your team are unrealistic and may signal that you should rethink the job on offer (as detailed above).

What’s also important to consider is the fact that the way people are working is rapidly changing. In our post-pandemic work landscape, individuals are valuing flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance more than ever. To help your business stand out from the crowd and attract talent, think about whether you could offer additional benefits that make your business one that people genuinely want to work in. Advertise your benefits, which could include anything from generous product discounts to free services, maternity benefits, or health insurance. Offering additional benefits and additional perks cost money and may take some to get used to, but result in a happier salon team, more applications to the role(s) you’re advertising, and better staff retention down the line.

Another obvious but often overlooked tip is to advertise jobs somewhere relevant; the salon industry is one that is creative and personable, meaning that job openings should be advertised in the places where these people are; in-person and online. Advertising on highly corporate websites such as LinkedIn or Indeed may not work to attract the right professionals like advertising on Facebook, Instagram, or on the forum of a local college would. When writing job descriptions, list the requirements of the job, the skills that the candidate needs, and some information about the business in general, including the benefits and salary offered. Writing in an inclusive manner and avoiding gendered language is also a fantastic way to eliminate bias and ensure an equal recruitment process for all candidates. By being honest and focused when creating a job listing, you save your time and theirs. 

Be Patient With Newly Qualified Professionals & Trainees

When advertising jobs for newly qualified professionals and/or trainees, remember that many people who began their professional careers during the Covid pandemic may have never studied or worked in a salon environment, which could take some time to get used to. Make the recruitment process less daunting for these candidates by offering virtual tours of the salon before inviting them to an interview, or allowing them to visit the salon to get a feel of the general environment before starting work officially. Remember how scary it felt to start your career, and then add the experience of a whole pandemic on top of that. It’s important to remain empathetic. 

For those who trained during the pandemic, social skills that are often learned naturally in an educational salon or spa environment may not come as quickly or easily to them. Be gentle with these new team members, and be patient if it takes them some time to get used to communicating confidently with staff and clients. The anxiety and social isolation of the pandemic negatively impacted many people’s social skills, but this can be rectified with regular practice in a nurturing, open, and friendly environment.

In a practical sense, many of these new graduates and trainees were taught how to conduct services remotely, which isn’t an ideal training method in an industry as tactile as ours. If a new hire is struggling with certain techniques or protocols, be patient and take the time to train them properly. As a manager, it’s important to lead by example and carve out time for high-quality training.  Showing your team that you want to offer high-quality services that are done correctly leads by example and brings the standard up. Amidst all the stress and time it takes to hire a new team member, remember that kindness goes a long way, especially after the chaotic few years we’ve had, and will be rewarded with staff retention and a team of talented, qualified, and professional individuals that you can rely on. A well-planned induction process is critical.

Let’s Talk About Staff Retention

Retaining a team of motivated, professional staff is key to growing your business. In research conducted by Phorest, 92% of hair and beauty salon clients said that they would likely, or very likely, switch salons to follow their favorite service provider if they moved jobs. With this in mind, it’s absolutely vital to give your team reasons to stay loyal to your business. 

When it comes to retaining staff, many salons implement benefits to encourage their team to stay, ranging from higher salaries and promised career progression to shorter shifts and free products. While these are all helpful and will encourage retention to some extent, a more sustainable way of retaining staff is by combining benefits with an open, honest, and human-centered salon environment. Your team members have lives outside of work and are individuals with their own hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions. Meeting them on a personal, level encourages two-way respect and a happier work environment overall. When people feel listened to, respected, and recognized for doing a good job in their workplace, they are more likely to stay there long-term.  It can be difficult to know how to cultivate an environment like this while still retaining a feeling of professionalism, however. Here are some of our top tips. 

Set Reasonable Expectations for Your Team

Setting expectations is a must in any professional team, for staff and higher management. When your team understands exactly what is required of them, operations run smoother. This results in better day-to-day running of the salon and also leads to a fairer work environment where responsibilities are shared. 

Having clear expectations also helps when we need to address staff underperformance or any other staff intervention that may need to happen; for example; if a staff member is slacking on their responsibilities without reason, expectations allow you to take action in a clearer, more unbiased manner. By approaching difficult conversations with a set list of expectations in everyone’s mind, it’s easier to work together to bring your teammates back to the level of output/professionalism that is required and solve problems proactively, rather than approaching conflict in a way that could feel like a personal attack. 

Having the right numbers in front of you is a good way to kick off those meetings around expectations. Numbers take the opinions and feelings out of the conversation and can make these meetings more productive and objective. Looking at numbers like average appointments per staff member, average client spend  (among staff members at the same charge-out level), average retail upsell etc. will give you a benchmark that you can set as targets. Setting agreed and achievable targets, and celebrating or rewarding staff when those targets are met, can bring about a positive morale boost and feelings of accomplishment among staff. You can use this salon and spa benchmark performance tool to find averages in your region, or use your own salon reports to get more specific benchmarks for your business.

Determine Your Company Values and Get Your Team Onboard

Off the back of this, creating strong company values is one of the most effective ways to highlight the things you expect from your team. When you create company values, you show what’s most important for your business and set a certain standard of work for your staff members, linking back to the theme of staff expectations. When setting company values:

  • Share and highlight what’s important for your business; set 2-4 values rather than 5+. That way, they’re memorable, meaningful, and more likely to be adhered to.
  • Keep it simple. Company values should be clear, easy to understand, and attainable for everyone in the salon. That way, everyone is included and everyone understands your guiding principles.
  • Make it collaborative. Your team are the people showing up tirelessly every day and have a deep understanding of the inner workings of your salon. Allow them to chime in and give direction when setting company values.
  • Hold yourself and the team accountable. If, for example, one of your values is “Strong Communication”, make sure to encourage practices that embody this and trickle from the top down. Hold weekly meetings or monthly 1-1s where honesty is encouraged, and team members can speak honestly, without judgment. Similarly, gently confront staff who may not be communicating appropriately with clients or colleagues.
  • Accessibility is key. We’re not recommending you make your team recite your values each day like an army camp, but including clear training on your values during the onboarding process, or even designing a poster to stick in the staff area of the salon can work well to keep them to the front of everyone’s mind while at work. 

Company values don’t just help to set and retain expectations for your team, they also work as a guideline for recruitment, an ethos for your business, and can help streamline the process of approaching a staff member when expectations are not being met. Having a guideline for expectations off the back of values helps team members feel part of something bigger and ensures a fairer, easier, and more growth-focused place to work. And at the same time, it is also important to understand what the candidate’s values are so that you can align them with yours and use them as a greater motivator to retain them in your business. 

Communication is Key

How a salon team communicates can make or break your business. This goes for communication between staff, management, and clients. A successful salon is one where all members of the team feel valued and heard. Similar to setting expectations, encouraging open communication in a salon team can help retain staff as it creates a more transparent work environment where team members feel like they can be their authentic selves and voice their opinions without fear. To create an environment where open communication is the norm in your salon:

Build a genuine rapport with employees

It’s difficult to speak openly and honestly to someone with whom you don’t have a genuine relationship. As a salon owner, take time to genuinely get to know your team. Ask questions and listen attentively when your staff members are talking about their personal lives, and try to remember important events like birthdays or work anniversaries. You don’t have to be best friends with your staff members, but encouraging a baseline of friendliness, openness, and genuine, human-focused care goes a long way to encourage better professional communication streams. 

Hold regular team meetings and individual catch-ups

How often are you meeting with your team as a group and as individuals? Hosting regular, structured group meetings ensures that all members of your team are kept informed of the happenings of your business, and gives everyone in the team a chance to speak up if something in the salon requires attention but also empowers your employee to feel 100% part of your business. Similarly, hosting individual 1-1 meetings gives you and your team members the opportunity to privately discuss matters that may be affecting them professionally and helps to promote growth while stopping small issues at their source. Regular, structured, productive meetings are great for healthy communication in any business, including salons. 

Seek feedback from your team

As mentioned previously in this blog, your salon team members are the lifeblood of your business and understand the day-to-day intricacies of your business better than anyone. Respect this and gather regular feedback from your team related to all aspects of your salon; clients, recruitment, benefits, job progression, responsibility, communication, work/life balance… the options are endless. Whether you gather this feedback in an annual survey, take notes from within your salon booking system or during a dedicated quarterly team meeting, feedback helps you to see what it’s like to work in the heart of your business and shows what’s going well and what needs to be improved. By actively taking feedback; positive and negative, onboard, and making changes where possible, your team will feel heard and will be more likely to remain working in your business for years to come. 

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Similar to our point about how nurturing genuine relationships encourage communication in the workplace, establishing yourself as a leader rather than a traditional “boss” is so important if your team is to feel comfortable approaching you and talking honestly with you. Rather than acting authoritatively and micromanaging your team, be a leader who guides your team members’ professional growth and helps nurture their individual skills. Establishing yourself as an equal encourages autonomy for everyone in the salon and shows that you trust and respect your staff. It also makes it less intimidating for team members to approach you with issues and promotes staff retention. Be consistent as this is key. 

Create a salon culture to be proud of

You’ve probably spent time considering how your clients feel when they visit your salon, but have you considered the same thing for your employees? The culture of a workplace refers to the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs being lived day in, day out in the business.  While all companies will have a different culture, upholding behaviors and beliefs that value inclusivity, openness, growth, and, celebration are pretty good starting points for any salon business. Company culture goes far beyond work and can be present in other ways for you and your team when in the salon, for example;

-Uphold a culture of celebration by hosting in-salon food or drinks when a team member hits a life milestone

-Spend time and energy asking each team members’ and clients’ preferred pronouns to boost inclusivity

-Set aside time for staff each week to focus on education to create a culture of growth.

While these are only some minor examples, they show how smaller, daily practices all feed into the wider atmosphere of your business and, in time, create the company culture that defines your salon. 

Promote Ongoing Education for Everyone in the Team

Investing in ongoing education is good for individuals and for your salon business. In an industry that changes as much as ours, keeping your team informed of the most up-to-date protocols and best practices is key to the growth and success of your business. Alongside the professional growth benefits, nurturing your staff members’ unique interests and investing in their continued professional growth shows that you genuinely care about your team’s development and gives them a reason to stay loyal to your salon, bringing with them all the incredible educational takeaways they learn along the way. 

When we talk about education in this context, we don’t just mean enrolling your team members in educational masterclasses specific to the industry; i.e. classes about new technologies or techniques in the salon industry. While this is important, and should definitely be done, we also encourage creating a culture of learning and openness by allowing staff to explore their interests outside the industry. As a business, any new skills are valuable, which means that nurturing this learning with educational classes, talks, master classes, summits, conferences, video trainings, and more can really pay off down the line. 

To create a culture of learning and development in your salon, speak openly to team members about their genuine interests in their one-to-one meetings, and create learning pathways that allow them to explore and develop these interests. If these interests are not directly related to the salon industry, don’t worry, they can always be applied later. Say, for example, one of your nail technicians is interested in learning more about marketing, but never got the opportunity to explore this in college; allow her the time to nurture this skill while working in your business and, chances are, she will bring these skills to life for your salon in the future. Even if you were to hypothetically lose a nail technician, you could gain a passionate, qualified, and creative marketing professional who understands your business, brings in new clients and helps you retain existing ones. 

Even in a smaller way, ensuring your team is fully trained to provide your services, communicate with clients, and work your salon software is a fantastic way to create loyal, confident, and empowered employees who last longer in your business.

Staff Retention Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

While businesses across the world are struggling to hire and retain great teams, the reality of staff hiring and retention seems quite simple; create a safe, open, honest, inclusive, and growth-focused work environment for people, and they will (more than likely) want to stay. Workers want to go into a workplace where they feel valued and heard. They want to work somewhere their growth is encouraged, and where they are treated fairly. Communication, education, expectations, culture, and a mindful hiring process can help your salon business achieve this. 

The way that we work has changed forever in the aftermath of the pandemic, and employees are no longer staying put in workplaces that they’re not happy in. Give them something worth staying for, and you can build an incredible team and business, that is future-proof and set up for success.

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