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Sustaining Your Staff

By Frederic Holzberger
Posted: April 21, 2008, from the October 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
When it comes to building and sustaining your team or expanding your business, many owners typically don’t think about staffing until they face a crisis. Often this occurs because a person has resigned, creating a role that needs to be filled in the spa.
       People leave their jobs for a variety of reasons: they experience an unexpected crisis; to care for a sick loved one; to raise their family; or to move to what they perceive as a better job offer. However, usually the primary reason employees vacate their positions is because they are unhappy with the people they work with each and every day. In the spa industry, employees often leave to open their own facility down the road from where they were formerly employed, potentially putting that business in jeopardy in more ways than one. At that point, feeling under the gun, many owners scramble to find replacements and sometimes don’t hire the best people for the job. 

Important assets
       Your team is one of the most important assets on your balance sheet. The spa industry has the luxury of being a service business that can’t be shipped overseas or sold on the Internet. The talented women and men who work in your facility should be your raving fans and, in order to create and keep them this way, there are a number of things you can, and should, be doing on a constant basis, including providing benefits and education, marketing your business and recruiting on an ongoing basis.

Benefits
       When corporations recruit executives, they put together comprehensive compensation packages that often include moving allowances. In broadening the search for potential new hires, spas should consider this because the expense can be recouped over time. The employee would sign a contract or legal note that would outline the payment plan. The package could also include paying off a student loan. Don’t provide all the money up front, but pay on a monthly basis over a period of time. This way, if employees leave, they would have to resume that payment. This benefit is a good selling (or hiring) point because the payment could use pre-tax dollars and offer the student a savings, as well. Please consult with your accountant and attorney in order to see what you can offer and how to structure your program.
       Benefits are not only an important recruitment tool, but also are essential for sustaining your existing team members. One of the best ways to find out which benefits are most important to them is simply to ask. Let them be a part of creating your company’s benefits package. Make a list of their priorities and, with the team’s input, decide which options make the most sense. If you can afford it, health care is high on the list of many employees today, followed closely by retirement plans, including a 401(k).
       An additional benefit many spas have provided to their team members is annual company-wide retreats or symposiums. These types of events provide great opportunities to share information about the business’s history, where it is today and where the owner would like to take it in the future. At company retreats, you can openly share financial information so that your team understands how the company’s money is spent. Never divulge anyone’s individual salary, but tell your employees what you have invested in total payroll wages and benefits.
        Also, share information about all other expenses, including rent, common area maintenance, utilities and more, so that your team can better understand and appreciate what it costs to run a business. Besides offering company insight and educational opportunities, retreats provide a wonderful opportunity for management to share its vision for the future and for the various teams within the company to network with each other—something they may not have time to do during a normal business day.

Education 
       Education is another wonderful perk for existing team members that can also be used as a recruitment tool. It is vital in order to keep your brand at the top of its game. Many spas have created apprenticeship programs that teach new hires not only the skills of their trade, but also how to book appointments, work the front desk, sell retail and keep track of inventory. If you are recruiting year round, your apprentice team members can step in and help in a variety of positions until the one for which they were hired becomes available.
       Your seasoned staff members should also have opportunities on- and off-site for their continuing education. Consider sending them to one of the major trade shows or to a special class that features an industry leader who they admire and respect. In addition, a hands-on workshop with a model or mannequin will provide an immediate return on your investment.

Marketing 
       When it comes to networking, owners and managers have not always viewed school career fairs as places to network. What they can do is provide an excellent place to meet colleagues and an opportunity to market your business in a different light.
       One way to get the most out of attending a career fair is by being there with the thought that you are going to sell as well as buy for your spa. Part of your purpose there is to find new team members, but there are additional ways of spreading your spa’s message. Come prepared with colorful copies of a timeline about your business—including who you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going and the milestones you have achieved along the way. A timeline is like a résumé that also provides a great way to market your major achievements and show that you are a growing, thriving business entity.
       A handbook stating your company’s policies and procedures is also an important piece to have at career fairs. It outlines your expectations for any potential employees and also covers your benefits package. The handbook sends the message that you care about your business, and anyone who works for you has to be on that same page.
       Another excellent marketing and recruitment tool to not only have on your Web site, but to leave with both the school and potential staff, is a multimedia picture story DVD about your spa.

Recruitment 
       In terms of recruitment, do what the pros do. Have you ever noticed how professional sports teams continually draft athletes during the year? They seek the best of the best from high schools and colleges throughout the nation. Athletes get injured, they retire, they move to other teams, so managers and owners always need players who are ready to step into the shoes of those who left.
       This is a strategy the spa industry needs to adopt. Stop waiting for people to come to you. Instead, canvas the area for new, talented potential employees on a regular basis throughout the year. Like a sports scout, owners should visit the best schools and search for the brightest stars. An informative recruitment package should be created to send out to these schools in order to keep your spa’s name in the forefront of students’ minds.
       Consider having a link on your Web site to the best local esthetic/massage/cosmetology school’s Web site in order to generate additional interest in the industry. Let it be known that there are career opportunities available for students when they graduate, pass their state board examinations and receive their licenses. Think of it as a new way of marketing your business.
       In addition to seeking out team members, consider ways that they can find you. Careerbuilder.com is one of the most popular job sources for the younger generation. According to a recent Aveda Institute student poll, 75–80% use the Internet as their main information source. Because of this growing interest, your Web site should be continually updated and maintained so that the most current information, services and job postings are ready to view.
        Don’t forget to speak to your clients, too. They are already fans of your business and may know people to refer for employment opportunities. Sometimes your clients can also be your best employees. Remember to use signage in the spa that advertises the opportunity to apply for open positions. You might want to consider a rewards program for any referrals from your staff that stay for at least two years.

Turn around turnover 
       As in every business, there will always be attrition of staff. Van Council, owner of Van Michael Salons in Atlanta,  Miami and Tokyo, is a great example of an owner who knows how to recruit and sustain his team members, similar to the aforementioned professional sports teams. His top associates consistently attend career fairs with the intent to seek out the best talent. Van Michael Salon has multiple locations, most of which employ incredible team members who have been with the company for many years. Let’s face it—there will always be turnover in the spa industry. Ongoing training and apprenticeship programs are vital to your current and future business so that you are never desperate for staff. Instead of people leaving, potentially taking your team with them and leaving you in crisis mode, you will continually have someone on deck waiting to be put in the game.
      It is important when you are recruiting to be fairly certain that your applicants are open-minded, understand your business philosophy and future direction, and are willing to do whatever it takes. Those are the types of people you want in your spa because they are the best personnel to sustain for your future success.