Finding (and keeping) hard-working qualified nail technicians is one of the most pressing issues facing the beauty industry today. When the nail business is at an all-time high, we find ourselves asking what factors are contributing to this industry dilemma. It is time for us to stop asking, “Why?” and start asking, “What can we do to solve this problem?”
Another way to solve the problem of “subsidizing” new techs is to establish a team-based pay program. Kitty Victor, a business consultant and co-founder of the Masters audiotape subscription service, recommends offering established technicians an incentive for helping new employees get more clients. She notes that the incentive can be money or some other significant reward. This way everyone gets a payoff, and there is a business increase for the salon overall.
For some techs, the amount of money they make can be less important than other benefits you’re able to offer. Such things as medical insurance, flexible schedules, and paid vacations all weigh in favor for a salon. While many salons cannot afford to offer health care programs and other benefits that major corporations do, it is one way that you will be able to put your salon above the rest when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.
“We operate the salon like we would any other company,” says Wolper. “We offer health care benefits, flextime scheduling, commission with a guarantee, profit-sharing, vacation, and continuous training. We want to make it desirable to work at Hands On.”
Trackman notes, “As a salon owner, I known the importance of a good benefits package. If employees are working on a commission basis, offer an incentive program. If they earn more than a certain amount, then they will get a certain percentage. And salon owners need to offer a retail incentive.”
“When salons offer benefits, it definitely helps,” says Taricco. “Many nail techs are single parents and they have to have health care for their children.” Some smaller salon owners, such as Finger, do not offer health insurance but help set their employees up with an insurance professional who may be able to help them take advantage of group rates.
But the key here is that even if you cannot afford to offer health insurance, you can offer many other benefits at little to no expense to you. Flextime scheduling is a great example of this. Likewise for paid time off. Sometimes, even little things like time off for family events or monthly staff outings help keep people motivated. But the key thing to remember is all of these things are extra benefits, and every extra thing you do for your employees helps to keep their loyalty.
8 Things You Can Do to Cultivate Future Nail Technicians of America
So what are you going to do about the dwindling number of nail technicians in the industry? Are you going to stand there and hope that more people suddenly become interested in the nail industry? Are you going to hope that schools suddenly begin to take more interest in educating students on real-world views of what to expect in a salon? The people we talked to had many great ideas, and some we just came up with on our own. Here, we offer you some ideas on how we can solve this industry problem together.
1. Work with your local schools. Do not simply rely on new techs to know who you are and come to you. Offer to talk to students at cosmetology schools, as well as high schools, about the field of nail technology. Go to career days at the high school. Present the career of nail technology at PTA meetings and to guidance counselors. This will help increase interest in your salon and give them a better idea of the industry in general.
2. Offer mentoring or apprenticeship programs. If your state allows it, consider offering an apprentice program in your salon and teaching your future technicians yourself. Offer to teach classes in cosmetology schools on subjects that aren’t necessarily mandatory for a nail tech license, such as the low-down facts of what to expect when you are a newbie.
3. Act like a corporation; attract like a corporation. Big companies like Microsoft and Arthur Andersen devote entire departments to recruiting new staff. You don’t have to have the resources of Microsoft; you just have to act like you do. Take a booth at a job fair and meet young people starting out in their careers. By advertising constantly, you keep a constant stream of applications coming in so you have a well-supplied pool of people to draw from if someone leaves unexpectedly. Advertise at local schools, in papers, on the Internet, and in-house. Sponsor event that will put your salon name in front of the public eye as a community supporter. Use cosmetology lists from state boards and do your own mailings.
4. Don’t forget benefits. If you are acting like a corporation, don’t forget that one of the major reasons potential employees are attracted to corporations is because they offer benefits. If you have the ability, add one or more of the following to your benefits package: health insurance, flexible schedules, paid time off, profit-sharing or other incentive programs, and child care options. Offering benefits will help attract and kept loyal employees. Offer you employees a referral bonus if they bring a new tech into the salon who stays for a set period of time.
5. Share the wealth … of knowledge. Both work-related and real-life education are added benefits for your employees. Pay for them to attend manufacturer and distributor classes so that they will be able to offer their (and your) clients the latest products and techniques. Bring instructors into the salon that offer life-improvement classes that go beyond work-related training, such as fitness and nutrition, finance, or any other topic that would be of interest of them.
6. Get corny. It works. Make working at your salon fun and cool. Crate an atmosphere where the employees want to come to work every day. Plan functions outside of work to help build relationships and, in turn, loyalty. Let the team decide on a dress code (maybe they’ll come up with a wacky idea, but it will be consistent). Do special events for staff birthday, give them their anniversary off, and give them discounts on salon services for their families.
7. Set a good example. Be realistic. Don’t let discount salons intimidate you. If you constantly worry about it, so will your employees. Picture yourself in a different league altogether than the discount salons. You are not competing for the same clients if you offer quality services from quality technicians.
8. Educate yourself. If you become a better interviewer by asking better open-ended questions and by knowing the qualities that you are actually looking for, you will be in a better position to hire more qualified employees. Remember, hiring decisions are till important, you don’t want to make the mistake of just hiring a warm body because this could create more problems in the long run. You want to hire the best possible people for the job and if you are doing everything else right, you will be able to choose who is best suited for the job.
5 New Places to Recruit
Think – and recruit – out of the box. We have 98% women in our industry, mostly between the ages of 25.45. That certainly leaves out lots of other people who might find this industry as rewarding as we do. One thing that you can do is to try recruiting people who don’t necessarily fit the “nail technician” stereotype.
1. Recruit men. While there are not many men in the industry, look at the ones who are. The Tom Holcombs, Tom Bachiks, and John Hauks of the world are the best our industry has to offer. Start looking for men who might be looking for a job where they can be more creative.
2. Recruit people who are looking for a second career. The nail industry has been a home to many former nurses, for example, who liked the flexibility of shift work and a hands-on atmosphere of caring for people. Likewise, there are many mothers (and some fathers even) who quit their first careers when they began having children, and now may be looking for a new career that is more flexible than their first.
3. Turn clients into staff. Talk to clients; some of them may think that your job is the coolest. By talking about all the great aspects of the job – the flexibility creativity, person-to-person contract – to your clients, you just might run across someone who is looking for a new career direction. It they are good clients, they might be the perfect addition to your team.
4. Hire the physically challenged. A nail salon environment is particularly well-suited to someone in a wheelchair, for example. Talk to your local chapter of the America Disability Association about job opportunities at your salon.
5. They’re not “old,” they’re “experienced.” A few years back Northwest Airlines, responding to a lull in job applicants for flight attendants, started to recruit older workers, which was a marked change from the “flying hostess” image of the ’60s and ’70s. However, the move as well received by passengers and the airline developed a new group of high-performing employees. The nail industry may be the next industry for the old workforce to join.