What’s the biggest challenge facing salon owners today? That’s a question with definite multiple answers. One of the most common responses to that question is keeping employees happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.

Without a doubt, salon owners have a lot on their plates. They act as marketers, business and financial managers, confidantes, and friends, to name a few roles.

But despite their hectic schedules, salon owners must always remember to keep employees pampered. We’re not talking about giving them manicures or pedicures (although we’re sure your employees wouldn’t think that was such a bad idea). We’re talking about keeping employees motivated and wanting to work for you.

In this industry, the importance of making a client happy is often stressed. But sometimes nail professionals get so caught up in keeping clients satisfied that they neglect the people on the other end of the table. Here are some tips to keep your employees motivated and eager to work.

Respect individuality

“It’s a common myth that one can actually motivate someone else,” says Kate Troc of Naperville, ill.-based 20/20 Foresight, an agency that helps salons and salon owners develop better business-building and customer service skills. “In fact, it’s not possible.” It is possible, however, to find out exactly what motivates each individual.

And just like each individual may be motivated by different factors, some people don’t like to be praised publicly. “Some people just want to crawl under a rock because they become so embarrassed, which can actually lead them to purposely not excel,” says Troc. “Those team members are better served by private praise, and by delegating new responsibilities.”

Make the salon inviting

You tidy up the salon for clients, don’t you? Now think about your employees. “Motivation is spearheaded by a great work environment,” says Diana Ahern, vice president of inSpa in Seattle. “All of the areas that make a salon inviting for clients are the same reasons staff members enjoy coming to work.”

Take a look at your salon. Is it clean and the paint fresh or does the salon look tired and outdated? Are the magazines crisp and not dog-eared? When maintaining your salon, think of what both your employees and clients would like to see.

Keep the lines of communication open

If you listen to and acknowledge the challenges that people see within the salon, you become more effective by validating that concern and showing you understand Troc suggests holding frequent meetings that focus on business development, company direction, success stories, and goals. “Lack of communication is the most common cause of low morale,” Troc says.

Offer more than a paycheck

Of course it’s great to get paid, but it also feels good when your employer thanks you by giving you something extra. Reward behaviours you want to see repeated because what gets rewarded gets repeated Performance rewards should be based on behaviours that help a salon move toward its goals, and not on the popularity of employees.

“Since I used to work long hours in the salon I understand how hard my specialists work for me and the clients,” says Erika Kirkland, president and CEO of Polish Nail Emporium in Brooklyn, N.Y “We go out to restaurants and eat in a family setting once a month.”

She’s even planning on bringing her manager along with her on a business trip to Paris. “I really love my staff and appreciate the efforts they put into working here. Their hard work shows in my bottom line,” she says.

Get employees reviewed

A formal performance review system is important to the growth and morale of a team. “People want to know how they’re doing and what they need to work on to be more successful,” says Troc. “This is really just another tool for better communication.” A review also gives you a chance to convey to your staff member how her results contribute to the salon’s results — and it gives her a chance to express her opinions about her role in the salon as well Employees often feel a strong sense of fulfilment from realizing they’re making a difference. If they know they’re contributing to the salon’s bottom line, then chances are they’ll be more than happy to do all they can — with a good attitude to boot.

Good Manager Material

Undoubtedly, good salon owners and managers have several traits in common. Here, Kate “Iroc of 20/20 Foresight gives us a rundown on what traits salon owners and managers should aim for.

Lead by example. That means having a sincere desire to lead the people you work with.

Don’t try to be perfect. Admit you don’t always know the answer to everything. “Trust erodes when a leader makes up an answer,” says Troc.

Maintain boundaries. No matter how comfortable you become with your team, you should never tell them everything about yourself. If you do, your team may become too comfortable and lose respect for you.

Be a good actor. Even if you’re having a bad day, never let your staff see it. ‘That frustration translates to the team,” says Troc. Always strive to keep things fresh and positive.

Salon Owner Self-Evaluation

Are you a good manager? Even if the answer is yes, there is always room for improvement. And a self-improved manager makes for a manager who can better motivate employees Ask yourself these questions:

What are my weak points as a manager? What part of my management job do I neglect because I am poor at it or just don’t like doing it? Do I spend enough time with my staff — coaching them, communicating with them, and giving feedback? How can I be a better manager?

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