A Mind on Millennials, Part 2


Editor’s Note: Part 1 of A Mind on Millennials in the March 2017 issue of Skin Inc. discussed the attributes of millennials, what they are looking for in beauty and wellness and how spa owners can reach them.

Millennials are set to become the largest generational cohort. They will have a huge impact on the spa industry not only as guests but as employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor stated spas are the fastest growing sector in the hospitality industry,1 and the International Spa Association (ISPA) found an increase to 21,000 spa locations in the United States in 2015, with revenue reaching $16.3 billion.2 Despite the growth of the industry, spas have one of the highest employee turnover rates of any industry, at 60%.3 In today’s competitive spa market, being good enough is no longer sufficient. As such, effective leadership is an essential component in operating a successful location, but leadership in the 21st century has changed greatly due to the impact of millennials.

Manager or Leader

The spas and wellness centers of today require leaders to generate revenue and keep guests and employees engaged. Millennials are also seeking a work-life balance, involvement in decision making and the ability to have an impact on the world around them through the work that they do. These and other demands of millennials have mandated a shift from traditional management skillset to leadership know-how.

Are you a manager or a leader? You need to work on becoming a hybrid of both to remain competitive and successful in 2017 and beyond, and there are definitive differences between the two. Every person in a spa leadership role or those aspiring to one must invest in personal and professional growth. This means intentionally working to add value to themselves, their career and role to place themselves in a strong position to not only recognize but optimize future growth opportunities. Effective leadership incorporates the ability to seek employees with a good balance of hard and soft skills.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as typing, writing, math, reading and the ability to use software programs.4

Managers have typically lead the team with a focus on hard skills, demanding rules must be followed without much input from those on the frontline. According to Simon Sinek, a guru on modern day leadership, leaders of today are asked to invoke not only action but passion from the team. Managers typically concentrate on planning, budgeting, evaluating and facilitating. Leaders in the 21st century are required to focus on creating relationships, coaching and building trust—ultimately inspiring those around them. A successful business owner needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board and inspire them to follow their vision of success.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify, such as etiquette, getting along with others, listening and engaging in small talk.4 Leadership today necessitates an additional set of soft skills including self-awareness, passion/purpose, effective communication and empathy. It is the combination of these soft skills that creates a safe and supportive work environment that nurtures the creativity, constant growth and learning sought by millennials looking for autonomy.


Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. Self-awareness is a major catalyst for change. It is interesting to note, there is a direct correlation between the concept of self-awareness and integrity. Brene Brown, a sociologist studying fear and shame, defines integrity as choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. It is the mindset to consider values and benefits of the tribe over self-servicing agendas. It supports the ideas of leaders of centuries past that leaders are dealers in hope.


Once self-awareness is in place, development of purpose and passion becomes the next step in the leadership process. The ability to explain the why and the mission allows others to buy into the concept. Remember that people don’t follow what leaders do but instead why they do it. With millennials, the ability to do good while doing work is a driving force in why so many companies have begun to focus on the mission. It attracts employees that become brand ambassadors. They are there for more than a paycheck and driven by purpose and intention. The goal is to create a business that makes the world a better place and in doing so, inspiring everyone on the team to share in the unified vision.

Communicate EffectivelyCommunicate Effectively

Next, one must focus on the ability to lead with effective communication—a balance between listening to understand and answering the what, why, when and how in a complete manner. The spa industry is based on communication, with the goal being the free and easy flow of ideas, feedback and insight from staff to leaders and vice versa. Leadership is far from a dictatorship. An effective leader encourages feedback from everyone, especially the frontline staff who interact directly with clients. The input from their first-hand experiences can have the greatest impact on the ability to meet and exceed guest expectations. Hospitality expert Danny Myers from Shake Shack uses Apple products to keep employees abreast, enhance the guest experience and create an enjoyable workplace.

The Role of Empathy

Empathy is required in leadership. Empathy is about creating connections, through the ability to step out of oneself to see things from someone else’s perspective. It is through empathetic leadership that inspiration, motivation and empowerment is imparted on staff. The goal of leaders is to create other leaders. It means looking beyond oneself to set goals and moving towards those goals daily. It is the idea of inclusion and to always be looking for ways to learn more and share the information that has become the foundation of leadership.

Hire Right

With most individuals spending more hours at work than any place else, it is essential for leaders to hire team members with the right soft skills: self-awareness, passion/purpose, effective communication and empathy. It is important to remember “customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” It is our jobs as leaders to create a space the employees love to come to every day, and that feeling is shared with everyone they interact with daily.


  1. www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/skincare-therapists.htm
  2. www.experienceispa.com/includes/media/docs/2016-ISPA-Executive-Summary.pdf
  3. JB Tracey and TR Hinkin, Contextual factors and cost profiles associated with employee turnover, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly 49(1) 12-27 (2008)
  4. www.investopedia.com/terms/s/soft-skills.asp

Sherrie Tennessee is the director of education for SpaSOS. She has 15 years of experience in the spa industry including the role of a massage therapist, nail tech, spa owner, speaker, writer and professor.


 Maritza Rodriguez is the global vice president of marketing and communications for Pevonia International and its related brands. She has worked with some of the most renowned professional skin care brands on image and marketing.

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