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How to retain a loyal staff in a competitive market.

A key to running a successful spa lies in hiring great employees, but just as important is retaining those stellar staffers. As clients grow to appreciate your employees as much as you do, and book follow-up appointments accordingly, it’s imperative that your staff knows their value both individually and as a unit. Want to figure out how to give your massage therapists and estheticians some extra motivation to stay on board? Here are some easily applied tips and tricks.

 1) Mind Your Manners 

Fundamental niceties should be given, but sometimes remembering to say “please” and “thank you” can slip through the cracks, especially on hectic, fully booked days. It’s important not just for management, but for the entire staff to extend the same courtesy to each other. Mia A. Mackman, a spa and wellness business consultant and founder and president of the Arizona Spa & Wellness Association, reminds spa pros that feeling appreciated increases function, flow and follow-through. “Never underestimate the impact of making someone feel good about what they do,” she enthuses. “Small gestures spark mindfulness, self- value and mutual respect.” Mackman also suggests keeping little gifts of gratitude on hand—inspirational notecards, candles, notebooks or jewelry—to give to employees after long days filled with back-to-back appointments, or after you’ve received warm feedback regarding their services. This makes for a small, but heartfelt, gesture.

2) Set Clear Goals 

To streamline her staff’s compensation, Joan Higdon, spa director at The Spa at Cedarbrook in SeaTac, Washington, began using a straightforward commission and pay scale. “We follow a sliding scale based on every additional 250 service hours performed. Providers stay engaged tracking their progress and celebrate with one another when they reach their next benchmark,” she shares, adding that several of the therapists she hired upon the spa’s opening are still members of her team. “As a younger spa, we’ve had the flexibility to grow and change our policies alongside the capabilities of our more experienced staff,” explains Higdon.

3) Offer Incentives

At Spa Gregorie’s in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, spa manager Jamie Paolucci has successfully built up employee excitement surrounding pre-booking appointments, and selling enhancements and add-ons. “As a team, we establish monthly goals,” she explains. “For every appointment an employee pre-books and for every enhancement they add to a treatment, they’re entered into a drawing for free spa services. It’s a win-win situation for our staff and for our top line.”

4) Encourage Altruistic Gestures 

Paolucci also created a “Gee That Was Nice” program to inspire her staff to recognize and acknowledge each other for going above and beyond the call of duty. “The acts of kindness can be a small favor, a thoughtful gesture or a task performed for another staff member or a guest,” says the spa manager. “At the end of each year, we collect all nominations and draw from the pool to give out prizes and awards.” As a result, her staff feels both appreciated and recognized for their good deeds, and are then encouraged to continue to pay it forward to—and for—one another.

5) Embolden Communication and Creativity 

Fostering an environment where your staff can express themselves is another way to increase employee retention. Spa Gregorie’s created a “360 Reviews” program, where staff has the opportunity to evaluate the management team. “This helps us improve our performance—it shows us how and where we need to grow as individuals as well as a team,” says Paolucci. “It also shows our staff that we care about and value their input.” Higdon notes that creating a space where questions can be asked is key to being an exemplary manager. “It’s more important than ever to offer your service providers a supportive forum where they can ask for help without feeling inferior,” she says. “Similarly, sharing tips and setting up treatment training sessions feels empowering for your employees.” It’s also imperative to encourage your staff to express ideas about new ways to enhance or perform services—after all, they’re the ones in the treatment room all day. In some cases, it can lead to dynamic menu modifications. “Our massage therapist Stephanie Linscott came up with the idea to use petrified wood in a massage, instead of traditional heated stones,” explains Higdon. “That option was so well received by clients it’s now an official menu offering!”

– by Laura Carson Miller

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