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Tackling the Salon & Spa Staff Recruitment Challenge


For as long as I can remember, salon/spa owners have been saying, “I can’t find good people.”

Today, more than ever, we hear our coaching clients expressing their recruitment frustrations. Owners are saying:

  • Enrollments are down at cosmetology schools and schools are closing.

  • Chains are grabbing up the graduates and burn through them.

  • The lure of booth rental and suites is hard to compete against.

I decided to contact long-time coaching client and Team-Based Pay advocate, Shawn Trujillo, to get his take on school enrollments and recruitment. Shawn and his wife Angie own seven Lunatic Fringe salons and two Paul Mitchel Schools in Utah.

I figured Shawn could provide accurate insight into school enrollments at his schools. Shawn’s feedback:

  • School enrollment is been very consistent in recent years.

  • There are no indications that this trend is going to change.

  • Some Paul Mitchell Schools report a decline.

Paul DiGrigoli, owner of the DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology in West Springfield, MA, reports that enrollments are are down slightly. Through his very active speaking schedule, Paul adds that enrollments at most schools are down.

My little survey is far from scientific, but it’s safe to say that cosmetology school enrollments are flat or slightly down and not suffering from a major decline.

It is true that the changing dynamics of the industry have made staff recruitment more competitive and challenging than ever.

Proactive versus Reactive

FACT: The majority of salon/spa owners wait too long to recruit and do a generally weak job of it.

I agree with Shawn Trujillo’s assessment that employee-based salons/spas may lose a small percentage of staff to rental and suites — but the main issue is being reactive in terms of recruitment. “You can’t wait for a walk out to go on a recruitment tour.”

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership strategies to make your recruitment efforts proactive and effective in today’s competitive marketplace:

  • Ongoing and consistent: Shawn’s Lunatic Fringe has an ongoing, sustainable and consistent recruitment program. Shawn says, “Each location has a “Recruitment Team” that, in addition to their regular work, they’re responsible for seeking out and attracting new talent. It is so vital to our success that we fund the Recruitment Team in each location’s budget.” The team visits and presents at schools, actively posts on social media and talks up why Lunatic Fringe is a great place to work. KEY: Recruitment consistency will not occur without formalized duties, timelines and expectations.

“Consistency eliminates being reactive. It creates an urgency and awareness with existing staff that if they leave, someone is going to take their place. We never turn away good prospects. We will create space on our team for good people.”

— Shawn Trujillo

  • It’s about the complete opportunity: Salons and spas need to examine the complete opportunity offered to new employees both fresh out of school as well as experienced prospects. It’s not just about the income potential. Career paths must be defined. Scheduled company funded education. Benefit packages that include paid time off, flexible schedules and health insurance contributions. (Yes, health insurance is a reality if you learn how to manage cash flow.) KEY: Working for a salon/spa is so much more than a paycheck. The days of “here’s your chair/treatment room and a commission” are long gone.

  • Your school presence: As a school owner, Shawn says, “It’s sad how few salons actually visit my schools. It’s the classic out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” If you’re one of the many owners that say, “I can’t find good people,” you must put your company’s career opportunities front and center at schools. Offer to do cutting demos, a class on “how to interview at your salon/spa,” or a class featuring a senior staff member and a young team member to discuss “succeeding in the real world.” KEY: The more you make the career opportunities known to schools through engagement, the more candidates you get.

  • Culture attracts: The best salons and spas have the most dynamic cultures that stand out from crowd. If your employees love working for your company, they’ll tell other service providers. Fiercely loyal clients will tell others how great your company is. If you’re culture doesn’t stand out from the crowd, it won’t attract the best candidates. By design, rental and suite locations cannot create anything that even comes close to a team-based culture. KEY: In order for you culture to be your best recruitment tool, it must be highly defined and protected.

  • Social media stories: Your company’s Facebook and Instagram accounts are vehicles to tell a story about your salon/spa. They should also be telling stories that spotlight what it’s like to work in your company. Tell your stories of teamwork, team member successes, showcase advanced training, team celebrations, awards and press coverage. KEY: Use social media to show potential candidates what it’s like to be part of your company’s team.

Here’s my challenge for you: If you’re struggling and frustrated with your recruitment efforts, pointing the finger of blame on schools, rental, suites or anything else won’t fix the problem.

To compete for new talent and good potential employees means just that — compete and compete aggressively.

More importantly, compete ethically. Going after key people at other salons and spas is not the way to grow a great company and pristine culture.

Different times demand different recruitment strategies. Make sure your recruitment strategy has the horsepower it needs to get results.



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