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Recruiting and Retaining a Loyal Salon Team

April 25, 2016

Salons and spas typically experience high employee turnover. Stylists and service providers may be looking to advance their careers or they may just not fit in with a business. While staff changes are inevitable, you can improve retention by following some recruitment best practices.

Employment Brand

Recruitment does not only happen when you need to hire someone. It is something that should be in your mind throughout the year. In order to quickly fill openings with stylists who will stay for years, you need to ensure that potential employees are aware of your company and have a positive impression of it. Beyond recruitment, a strong employment brand can also help you get new clients. After all, people want to go to a salon where they know their stylist enjoys what they are doing and likes where he or she works.

Brand Reputation

Just as clients want to know about your business before scheduling their first appointment, job candidates are looking to know about your company before they apply. How long have you been around? Are you a destination salon with clients driving many miles for your high-end services? Or perhaps your main goal is to provide quick and affordable cuts to the families in the neighborhood?

Similar to building your reputation in front of potential and existing clients, building your employment brand can be achieved through your website and social media. Devote a section of your website for motivating top talent to apply. Share employee stories, milestones, and awards to show candidates what they can achieve while working at your salon. List your company values and provide examples of how your employees are living it out. For example if your salon takes pride in giving back to your local community, post a photo of a recent volunteer experience or provide a link to a community organization that you support. Just as reviews attract clients, have your existing (or past) employees write or record a quick testimonial on why they love working at your salon and how they’ve grown professionally and personally through their experience.

Another way to build your brand’s reputation in the minds of potential employees (and clients) is to enter competitions like the Salon Today 200, North American Hairstyling Awards, or The Contessa Awards.

You can also build a network with a local college that offers a program in a related field. Set up a mentorship program where you can teach a few students some tricks of the trade or make a classroom presentation to tell them about your experiences from getting through school to becoming a salon owner. Another option is to sponsor and judge a hairstyling competition for the graduating class. Even if you only hire candidates with experience, there is still value in creating a favorable impression on students. A few years down the road after they have gained some experience, they will likely still remember your salon and may apply for your employment opportunities.

Employee Value Proposition

Many organizations develop an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) which outlines the rewards and benefits of working for them. While it incorporates the financial aspect (wages, commission schemes, benefits), it also extends beyond that. What type of environment do your employees work in? What is the salon culture? Do you provide professional development opportunities for your staff?

In addition to recruitment, the EVP also helps retain staff. So make sure that your EVP is a true reflection of your workplace. Employees will not stick around if they do not experience what they were promised. When creating your EVP, talk to existing employees and ask why they came to work for you and what they enjoy about their jobs.

Job Postings

From time to time, stylists may visit your salon to drop off their résumés. Instead of immediately dismissing them if you don’t have any positions available, quickly review the résumés and keep the quality ones on file. When openings arise, you can consider these candidates and potentially save yourself some time and money as you may not even need to advertise.

When it is necessary to promote an available opportunity, write out your job descriptions to showcase your brand and the position. Then, get the word out with these free or inexpensive methods:

  1. Your salon website and social media networks
  2. Referral program where clients and existing staff may refer a stylist they used to go to or a friend they know. You can reward the referrer with a discount on their next appointment or a gift card to a nearby restaurant (for employees).
  3. Local newspapers
  4. Online job boards such as Modern SalonBehind the Chair, Indeed, and Monster
  5. Beauty schools (works great for hiring recent or upcoming graduates)


Many salon and spa owners hire based on skill. While important, it should not be the sole criteria in your hiring decision.


Decide on a minimum competency level and if the candidate meets it, consider other factors. After all, additional skills and techniques can be taught later while some other characteristics cannot be.

If your state or province allows it, consider setting up a trial to ensure that they meet the minimum skill level you desire. This can range from a test on a mannequin to a couple days working in your salon with actual clients.


The key to having low turnover is to recruit employees that share your business’s values and is personally committed to a similar mission and vision. On a daily basis, they reflect those values in the way they conduct themselves in front of clients, other staff, and even when there is no one around. Remember that even their actions outside of the workplace can influence people’s impression of your business.

Fit and Personality

To have a loyal workforce, you need to ensure that new hires will fit in with the existing culture and will get along with other employees and your clientele. You will want to make sure that there is a good balance of personalities.

With that in mind, a couple characteristics to look for is humility and leadership. Your hires should understand their strengths and weaknesses and always be willing to learn. For the long-term growth of your team, you want to bring in leaders who take initiative and want to move up the ladder.


There will be times when the salon is quieter. However, there are other tasks that can still be done, like restocking shelves with retail products, ensuring the salon is clean and tidy, or answering the phones. Would you rather have a stylist who is willing to pitch in beyond their job description or someone who will sit around because they think certain tasks are beneath them?

To ensure you get someone with the traits you desire, craft interview questions around those qualities. Also, consider asking why they are looking to leave their current employer. Their answer can tell you a lot about their personality and their ambitions.

While many salon owners only hire stylists with established client lists, this is not recommended by many industry experts. If these stylists are coming from another salon, they may be stealing its clients’ information. Beyond the ethical dilemma, you may be putting your own client list at risk if you hire them as they may try to steal your clients when they leave your salon in the future.

Download a free interview template now.


After selecting a candidate, you need to manage the expectations of the salon and of the new employee or else the relationship won’t last long. Create an orientation program for new hires. First, provide them with a list of rules and expectations. It can go over topics like professional conduct, dress codes, and brand values. Further, consider creating a contract to explain that client lists belong to the salon or to issue a non-compete clause where they may not open or join a salon down the block from you (check with your state/province about the legality of such clauses). While it is often just a formality, these could protect your business.

Even when you hire an experienced stylist, have him or her partner up with one of your trusted employees. This will allow the new hire to observe and get a feel for the salon culture, processes, and experience. After a couple shifts, they can switch roles so that the new employee can get comfortable and even contribute some fresh ideas for the salon.


Regardless of the careful selection process or the clearly stated expectations, staff changes will happen. However, you can minimize turnover by following a few steps.

Appreciation and Encouragement

Thank them for their contributions and reward them for hard work. Showing your appreciation does not have to be complicated or expensive.

Know Your Employees

Spend time to get to know your staff members and to find out their interests. If one stylist loves knowing about the latest styling tools and the trendiest beauty products, ask for his/her input before placing your next purchase order.

Career Advancement

Provide regular feedback to employees and learn about their short and long-term goals. Provide opportunities for them to develop the skills necessary to reach those goals. Even if their dream is to manage their own business, share your experiences and offer to mentor them. With your commitment to them, they may be open to partnering up with you if you wish to open a second location or to franchise your salon.


If members of your team feel they are being treated poorly (relative to coworkers), they will leave. Set up an organizational structure to clearly outline everyone’s roles and to determine the decision making process. In addition, develop a set of criteria to explain how and when employees can be promoted, for example, from a Junior Stylist to a Senior Stylist.

When Employees Leave

Even the best employer has staff members who will resign. No matter the work environment or the positive relationships with coworkers and clients, employees leave for reasons that are beyond your control. Reasons may vary from going back to school to starting their own salon or relocating to a new city.

Resignations can be managed so that you minimize the impact of the loss of the employee on your work flow and work environment. Handled effectively, the exiting employee leaves knowing that he or she has contributed and added value during their time in your employment.

  1. Develop an employment-ending checklist, which can include but is not limited to:
    A.   Receipt of written letter of resignation with termination date,
    B.   Return of company property (i.e. keys, styling tools and any other company owned items),
    C.   Review of non-compete agreement or confidentiality agreement with employee.
  2. Hold a recognition and farewell event for the employee before his or her last day.
  3. Conduct confidential exit interview.
  4. If an employee is viewed as a threat to the ongoing work and environment, you can terminate the employment relationship immediately or you can limit access to your business system including client details, marketing functions, or inventory if your departing stylist will continue working for a couple more weeks. Be sure to notify them of these changes and to explain that it is merely business and is not meant to be personal.
  5. Be reasonable and understand that some customers are loyal to their service provider. Ask your departing stylist to leave business cards that you can provide to any clients who ask where they have gone to. (When you do so, make sure to tell them that their business is valued and that another one of your stylists will be happy to serve them. Even offer a special deal or discount to give another stylist a chance.) Stay professional with these clients; they may end up sticking with, or coming back to, your salon.


Having a loyal workforce with minimal employee turnover does not happen by chance. It starts with building your brand and hiring the right combination of skill and character. Once they are on board, effort should be made to retain them as well.

How Insight Software Will Help

Insight Management Software will help you manage your staff more effectively and efficiently. Record employee contact details, create recurring work schedules, set unique prices and appointment durations, track hours worked, and automate payroll. With Insight, you can also determine what each employee can access: appointments, client details, inventory, reports, and more.

Download Salon Interview Questions

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