If you own a salon, there’s a good chance you’ve had that moment when you’ve noticed one of your staff is, to put it lightly, underperforming. 

Sometimes, it’s a momentary thing; personal dramas, a touch of fatigue or just a lapse in enthusiasm, are easily overcome by a quick, respectful chat.

But what if the lack of performance becomes more regular, to the point that the therapist in question is performing below par at every shift? Ignoring the problem and hoping it will improve isn’t ideal, given silence can be taken as acceptance. And letting the team member go forfeits the opportunity to help them overcome their shortcomings – not to mention the cost of replacing staff. That leaves you with little choice but to roll up your sleeves, work out the root of the problem and help your employee to become a high-performing team member. So, how do you do it?

Set goals
Once you’ve spoken with your employee and have highlighted your concerns, be clear on what your expectations are. “Frequent communication is critical. Ensure employees understand their objectives by asking them to explain them in their own words,” says business consultant Bridget Millar.

Recognise achievements
It can be an easy habit to fall into, to only highlight a staff member’s shortcomings, and not their achievements. It’s also tempting to only reward top performers, rather than those that show personal improvement. “When an employee does something worth recognizing, give him or her that recognition. If appropriate, consider giving a reward for employee service that exceeds expectations,” says Bridget.

Most businesses follow a model whereby management carries out an annual – or twice-yearly – employee performance review. The problem with this is that six months, or even a year, can pass without staff getting appropriate feedback, direction or encouragement. If you’re working with a staff member to improve their performance, agree on a regular catch-up; weekly is great, monthly should be the longest stretch between meetings.

Provide a sense of ownership
When you encourage staff to feel that they are instrumental in the success of your business, they will be more likely to work harder. You can do this by involving all team members in decision-making processes for certain elements of the salon. “Employees should know and have input into their goals and objectives, which will also give ownership—they should help to decide goals, deadlines, and more. Give them the resources they need, and hold them accountable without micromanaging. Encourage employees to find solutions to problems,” says Bridget.
Don’t fall into the trap of only asking your top performers for their input; asking under-performers can motivate them to see that they are an important part of the business.

Recognise their strengths
We can sometimes expect our staff to be outstanding performers in all areas of the salon. But that’s not always realistic. For example, a therapist may be an outstanding facialist, but not comfortable selling products. You need to be aware that the expectation that every staff member will be good at everything is unreasonable and sets them up to fail.

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