Almost everything in your salon business depends upon the competency of your employees; therefore, the people you hire and the way in which you train them is critical to your success. The idea is to find employees who are going to earn their wages, not just collect them.
Hiring individuals with good personalities and good work ethics truly can increase your sales. Customers feel more comfortable, secure and happy when someone who is friendly and capable is aiding them. The employee becomes even more important if you add retail merchandise to your salon.
The Application. Begin the hiring process by attracting the type of people you want to hire. Specify your job requirements and post announcements on job-search Web sites, in newspapers, in salon fliers, etc. Note that you are seeking inside sales employees with flexible business hours. By mentioning the word “business,” you indicate you require your staff to have a professional attitude. Specify that candidates must have the ability to multi-task under pressure, have good phone skills, a neat appearance and superior organizational skills.
Sort resumes by eliminating unqualified candidates and carefully evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of stronger candidates. Once you have your top picks, conduct phone interviews to determine if the applicants have the necessary job qualifications, if the pay is acceptable, and if the applicant seems likeable, honest and receptive to training. If the applicant shows promise as a solid employee, schedule a face-to-face interview in your salon or business office.
The Interview. The job interview can facilitate productive information-sharing and give real insight into a candidate’s personality, character and work experience—or be an awkward exercise of little or no value. Conducting a proper interview is a learned skill, yet many managers treat interviews as a social conversation.
Salon owners and operators can make better hiring decisions by honing their interview techniques to elicit valuable information from employee candidates. Interview questions should facilitate open and honest responses to gain an objective assessment of the candidate’s job skills, and to measure other important factors such as honesty, manageability, resourcefulness and judgment.
Interviews are potentially uncomfortable for the interviewer and nerve-wracking for the applicant. Set the tone of the interview by being courteous and professional. Meet the applicant at the door, extend a friendly handshake, make eye contact and act genuinely pleased to be interviewing the person. Of course, while the environment should be relaxed, informal and friendly, the approach should be well-prepared and calculated because the purpose of an interview is to objectively determine the applicant’s suitability for employment.
However, hiring decisions are sometimes based on likeability and interview performance rather than on how well a person is likely to perform. A good interviewer carefully will assess each candidate based on criteria, not allowing personal rapport to outweigh objectivity, and will focus on questions based on the candidate’s past experience, open-ended, nondiscriminatory, job-related and non-leading.
Silences during an interview can be useful and should not be avoided. Once a question has been asked, allow for silence if the person needs time to formulate a response. After the response is given, pause momentarily before asking the next question. Allow the candidate to fill in any lulls in conversation, as this signals you welcome additional input and may prompt them to give honest information.
Taboo Topics. It is against the law to approach certain topics when interviewing job candidates. Interviewers would be wise to stick with approved work-related subjects and know the federal and state laws relating to employment discrimination. Avoid questions regarding age, height/weight, pregnancy, religion, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, political beliefs, race, etc. If you are concerned about the legality of certain questions, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
After hiring, break the employee in slowly. Pushing too hard may cause a person with excellent work potential to become frustrated and discouraged.
Start out by giving employees a package of literature from the manufacturer or manufacturers of your tanning units. They also should be given copies of your ads, fliers, customer cards, daily record sheets and any other forms they will be expected to fill out. Review each form step by step and have them spend the day studying them, preferably in the salon so they can ask you questions at any time.
Allow them to listen, on an extension, to inquiries you handle on the phone, and explain everything immediately afterward. Remember, there is no better teacher than hands-on experience. Don’t expect them to get the hang of it the first few times—you probably didn’t even do that. Allow them to go through the phone procedure with you for the first few days as practice makes perfect and builds confidence.
Supply the new employee with a list of commonly asked questions and their answers, along with a detailed explanation of why they are answered that way. You may want to give them a quiz at the end of their training period, just to be sure they are capable of being left on their own in the salon.
Cleaning duties can be a touchy subject, so be sure to specify your expectations in the very beginning. Make it known that you expect all employees to clean equipment thoroughly after each use and emphasize that it needs to be done carefully and properly. Explain why it is necessary and what the possible consequences are if it is done improperly. Go through the procedure a few times for the tanning units, then have them demonstrate while you’re watching.
Be sure to stress to your employees the importance of enforcing the salon’s rules. Tell them they are never to extend tanning times or to allow clients to tan without protective eyewear. Make sure they understand why, and are able to explain the dangers of such practices to your clients.
If you find a good employee who you feel will stay with the salon for some time, consider taking the employee to one of the trade associations’ training programs. The depth of knowledge that is presented, as well as the opportunity to network with other salon owners and employees, is invaluable. Another, less expensive alternative is a correspondence training course offered by some of the associations.
Good employees sometimes seem hard to come by, and retaining your best staff members hinges on a few factors, not the least of which is competitive compensation. To employees, salaries and hourly wages play a big role in overall job contentment because they want—and deserve—to be compensated for their hard work. Many salons offer the federal minimum wage as their standard hourly rate (currently, that’s $6.55 per hour, but will rise to $7.25 per hour in July 2009), and supplement that pay with commissions or bonuses based on sales performance. Generally, these monetary incentives are a percentage of the value of products and services sold.
Raises are another component of competitive compensation, and in a salon, promotions and merit increases are most popular because they are based on performance. With a promotion, an employee will move into a higher position within the salon—such as from salesperson to manager—and as such, he or she will be deserving of a higher pay grade. A merit increase, on the other hand, does not require an employee to be given a new job title; rather, the employee is deemed deserving of a higher wage simply because of the time and effort he or she puts into the job.
Many salon owners also offer raises that are not based on performance. Some choose to implement a pay increase after an employee has worked past a probationary or training period. Others provide consistent pay increases at regular intervals (such as annually or biannually) to compensate for the rise in cost-of-living expenses.
Statistics indicate employees perform at average levels primarily because they are bored and unhappy at work. Translation: Employees need to feel motivated. One way to do so is to set a commission floor or implement a tiered commission system. With a commission floor, salons designate an amount they expect employees to sell. Employees tend to strive aggressively to meet—and will often exceed—the set standard. In a tiered system, the more an employee sells, the higher percentage of those sales their commission is. For example, someone who sells $500 in a month may take home 3 percent, while someone else who sells $1,000 gets 5 percent.
Salon owners have also found success with contests. These can be held on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, and winners can be rewarded with perks such as baseball tickets, concert tickets or gift cards. Though they may seem like small prizes, these types of rewards can have a more personal impact than commission and make employees feel appreciated, which increases their level of job satisfaction and encourages them to continue their efforts.
Dealing with Problems
Warnings/Firing. Employees who slack off are a problem, and a pretty common one at that, given today’s work ethic. But instead of immediately letting the person go, many salon owners give employees verbal and written warnings. This provides them with specific documentation of what they are doing wrong and how they can improve.
When giving warnings, it’s important to remember to save a copy in the employee’s file. (For verbal warnings, you should make note of when and what you discussed.) It’s also a good idea to have the employee sign and date any written warnings to ensure there is no gray area regarding whether he or she understood it. In addition, if you choose to provide multiple warnings prior to termination, make sure the additional warnings refer to previous ones, such as: “This is the third and final warning you will receive regarding this matter.”
Sometimes, situations just don’t work out, and you have to let an employee go. Unfortunately, the repercussions of firing a staff member can be extensive—think filing for unemployment and litigation—because laws have become increasingly protective of employees. Although the “at will” doctrine is still prevalent in many states (meaning that you can fire an employee at any time), there are exceptions. In addition, discrimination laws protect against firing someone because of race, sex, religion, disability, ethnic background and age.
So, before you fire someone, make sure you have a legitimate reason—preferably one that is documented. For example, if you have an employee that is chronically late or calls in sick regularly, you can use time sheets as documentation to substantiate your decision to terminate their employment. Or, for performance issues, you can utilize the written warnings described above. In fact, documentation for firing is one of the main reasons salon owners implement such a warning policy.
Quitting. Current statistics reveal that employees change jobs every 18 to 36 months, and in the salon setting, turnover rates are even more extreme due to the young age of average salon staffs. If a staff member gives advanced notice, you will have to decide if you want to allow him or her to continue working. Many salon owners don’t want anyone working in their salons who don’t want to be there and choose to take employees who give notice off their schedules immediately.
Another common problem is the tanning-for-vacation workers. You know: The employee who only wants the job to milk the free tanning sessions and lotion discounts in preparation for an upcoming beach vacation. Then, once that vacation time rolls around, they’re gone. Not only is this a huge hassle for the salon owner—who went to the trouble of interviewing, hiring and training this person—it can also be a big monetary loss for the salon to train the employee, supply the uniform, and provide discounted tanning and lotions. Avoid this in your salon by including a clause in your employee contract stating that if an employee quits within a certain number of days of being hired, he or she will be charged for all tanning sessions, uniforms and any other employment-related costs.
Stealing. Unfortunately, not all employees are honest and trustworthy. In the salon setting, stealing can appear in many forms, from taking money out of the cash register to giving away free tans or lotions. Fortunately, there are security precautions you can take to limit your staff’s ability to steal from you.
First, many salon-management software programs include controls that allow you to make certain portions of your system password-protected; some programs can even limit specific functions on a given screen. In addition, software offers you the ability to track what your employees do within the system. (Check out the many threads on TanToday.com about salon owners catching employees who were stealing by monitoring their activity on the computer.)
Second, a security camera can be a great way to prevent employee theft—or even catch employees red-handed. Perhaps they forget about the camera or think that you don’t check the tapes; either way, film doesn’t lie. Though it’s never pleasant to find out you’re the victim of theft, catching thieves early on can help mitigate the negative consequences.
Like other retail sales and service businesses, indoor-tanning salons rely on employees to contribute to overall financial success. Therefore, it’s vital that you recruit good employees and reward them for hard work. And when all else fails, knowing how to smartly deal with the problems will go a long way toward protecting your business.