How millennials have changed the salon hiring process

Having been in the beauty industry for 30 years, I remember the days when employing staff was, well, fairly simple. You would advertise a role, receive a pile of CVs and compile a shortlist for the first interview, then applicants turned up eager to impress and keen to learn. 

Nowadays, the therapists that turn up are generally unprepared and seem to feel that they have come to interview us, the employer. The current generation of millennial therapists see nine months as a long stint in a role and can get their heads turned easily by another job just around the corner.  

Why has the recruitment process changed?

Our industry has grown dramatically. The number of salons has mushroomed, as has the number of other outlets including hotel spas, nail and brow bars, and skin clinics. However, the number of therapists coming through the education system has not kept pace with the industry’s expansion, nor are colleges making much headway in producing employer-ready professionals

Some gaps are being filled by a proliferation of new academies offering short courses and online modules, but this is mostly specialists working from home offering a single treatment. 

The new dynamic is now clear – it is a buyer’s market. Even mediocre therapists have their pick and once in the door they have a very different outlook on the commitments involved in a beauty career.  

How can salon owners navigate these challenges?

The rate of staff turnover can be expensive and disruptive. When a member of staff leaves it can be unsettling for the rest of the team, especially if that person works their notice and is talking to your other therapists about their great new position and the benefits that come with it.

Continually changing staff also means that you have not got therapists who are building up a steady clientele for your salon, and you’re not getting the return on investment you have put into that person’s training either. When they leave you’re back to wasting precious time on recruiting, so the circle continues. 

Of course, this has a huge impact on business sales and profitability. If you’re spending too much time recruiting it’s hard to devote time to driving other areas of the salon forward. Although there’s nothing we can do at our level to bring more high-quality candidates into the industry, salons can adapt their recruitment and retention process to the reality of the market. 

5 ways to hire and retain good therapists in your salon:

  1. Have a work culture that is sympathetic to the lifestyles and aspirations of the contemporary workforce. This means having a business model that can cope with a new style of employee in terms of training needs and longevity. 
  1. At Zen Lifestyle, our therapists can specialise in treatments so they get really good at a particular service. This improves the return on training investment and means new recruits don’t have to be trained in everything from the start.  
  1. Have employment contracts that protect your business from short-stay employees who soak up a lot of initial training costs and then decide to move on – in ours this includes withholding of wages to cover any losses. 
  1. I’ve also moved much of our training online and encourage therapists to do the reading and video modules in advance of internal treatment workshops to save on time and cost. 
  1. Incentivise longevity among your therapists. For example, give loyal employees more specialist training opportunities, better shifts and additional days of annual leave as a reward. 

Fiona FowleyFiona Fowley is director of salon group Zen Lifestyle, which won both the Large Beauty Salon and Boutique Beauty Salon of the Year awards at the 2018 Professional Beauty Awards. 

Watch her video on how to create therapist career paths that will boost your retention rates