training salon staff

NSW is open for business and Victoria is not far behind. As salons open for business, owners are recruiting like mad. The problem is, staff, or the right staff, are a scarcity.

Wendy Michetti knows the beauty industry – and she knows it’s staff. sitting on the Board of Directors of HABA, she is an accomplished aesthetician and business owner. She has recruited, trained and managed beauty therapists and hairstylists at her salon Museo for over 20 years. So, she’s in a prime position to comment on the industries’ staffing challenge.

We spoke to Wendy about the talent shortage, and how beauty business owners can take charge of their recruitment processes. Read on for more.

First, is there a problem with recruitment in the beauty industry?

“Yes, everyone is screaming out for staff at the moment. I see it almost every day across beauty business socials and we have been experiencing it here in the West for some time.”

What are some of the contributing factors?

“In regards to finding beauty staff, you have a small pool to choose from when recruiting. Depending on the role most businesses are reluctant to hire straight after college, due to the wage rate for a Diploma, and inexperience.”

“In Perth, over the last few decades, we’ve had a lot of English and Irish therapists working on Visas. They were great to employ due to good experience and great work ethic. Due to the pandemic and border closures there’s a scarcity of available therapists.”

“We’re also specialising more in the beauty industry. Your salon may be full service but the therapists answering job positions are wanting to specialise only in brows and lashes, or skin so the pool of applicants is dramatically reduced.”

salons staff are specialising
As beauty therapists specialise candidate pools become narrower.

“This starts to impact what your business offerings can be, and you do need to follow the market to an extent. If you can’t get the right staff that is an issue.”

What is an acceptable level of turnover?

“When you’ve been in business with a large team for two-plus decades you see it all. It’s a percentage game – you can’t expect to have a team of 10-20 therapists all working for you forever. With a great work environment, appropriate pay, good incentives, fabulous training and a positive team culture you should be able to retain the bulk – but a percentage will always be moving in and out.”

“During a therapists career friendships align, babies happen and passions can wane. The beauty industry is reliant on human connection, and that means it is in the best interests of your business and the life that you and your employees share that you offer them the best life, and a workplace where you all want to stay.”

How can employers hope to increase staff retention?

“I think one of the major factors needed to create strong working relationships with longevity is to have flexibility in the workplace. If you have a job that you are happy to go to, get paid well and feel respected that is great. You should be happy walking in the door. But you also want to be there for your child’s once a year assembly performance, or have the odd weekend off to enjoy time with family. That is how you keep happy staff. You need to know what’s important to the people who keep your business alive.”

“Regular conversations are key to establishing what’s important to your staff. Meetings will help you know where their head and heart are at. Aspects of their lives change. Someone may have been happy working Saturdays for three years, but their child wants to start weekend sport next year. Accommodate this if you want to keep them around!”

“Of course, there must always be appropriate notice and a designated way for the business to move forward to the next stage with the employee. Life happens, and clients can change their days, or you pick up different clients. That’s business. Work towards what the next year will look like so your staff know you’re organised and can commit to your plans.”

salon staff working together
Team work makes dreamwork: keep communication lines open.

Wendy’s retention tips:

  • “Ensure your staff are moving upwards. Training is key! Spend time on them and keep committing to them. With some further education, your best therapist could become your in-house trainer. Your masseur may be getting older – a Cert 3 in beauty therapy will allow her to stop solely massaging, and will give her the ability to look after her body. Create plans to help staff with their dreams, and their dreams will happen in your business.”
  • Sponsor: “In the last 7-10 years I have actively pursued sponsoring staff in our business. This has worked well for us, in the last decade my four key full-time employees were all sponsored. It ensures longevity of employment and works well for both parties. You do have to always ensure that sponsored staff are going through the process and know when their official time to stay employed had expired. That way you know they are not just staying out of loyalty but because they want to and love their workplace.”
  • Support specialisation: “Employing specialists is key these days. There is no point having someone do massage here and there in between skin clients if they hate it. Employ Massage Therapists to massage and Skin Therapists to do skin treatments, if they’re doing what they love your business will be better for it.”
  • Apprenticeships: “Embarking on apprenticeships and traineeships can also be great for business. I highly recommend this pathway as we’re currently receiving the highest state and federal rebates I’ve seen in 25 years. If you can’t find your people, employ them green and you will enjoy seeing them flourish and become a part of your team for many years!”
  • Sharpen your interview process: “I think aiming for a harmonious workplace is important. Anything negative or weak disrupts other staff, so your interviewing techniques and screening needs to be strong. If you don’t know how to go about it – check out forums. Do training, you need to snuff out the wrong people.”
  • Talk it out: “You won’t always get it right. If you see something not great, ask yourself if it’s a lack of training. If so, address it. If it’s an attitude problem, address it!”
  • Final word: “Love your people! If you receive a lot of turnover, ask yourself why? What can you do differently to employ the right people and keep them? Be the best leader you can be as people will stay and continue to perform if this is the case.”

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