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Motivating Employees

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Keeping employees happy and productive is no easy task. Either their grout is dirty, their kids are colicky, they missed their morning coffee, or the day just isn’t going their way. However, a spa is sacred space. Unhappy employees make for unhappy clients. This develops into a long term recipe of financial disaster. But don’t lose hope. With a few simple dink dinks to your systems and facility—happy productive angels arise from the dust and a big ka-ching later all is well.

Setting the Tone
From the moment an employee is hired, it should be clear that the corporate culture is happy, productive, team oriented, and client focused. Just as you would help a child learn manners or teach a puppy not to chew on things, consistency starts at the beginning. And guess what? People and puppies both enjoy the safety net of having boundaries. It is so much easier when the spa’s foundations are bound to the goals of happy, productive employees. So, for instance, a training manual with the spa’s main tenants is useful in teaching the new employee what is expected of them. Allowing senior staffers to fully train new employees mentoring the methodologies of the spa reinforces the rhetoric. A mini-review at the end of the new employee’s first 30 days is somewhat crucial to reinforce and refine these concepts.

Set Goals
A big part of motivating employees is creating parameters for success and growth. How does an aesthetician or massage therapist know where to go if there is no road map? Furthermore, what sort of productivity quotas are in place? This is different, of course, for each department. For instance, a massage therapist will never sell as much retail as an aesthetician. However, they can be expected to up-sell massage, pre-book, and offer add-on services like endermologie or pressotherapy. Aestheticians, on the other hand, can usually sell dollar for dollar retail to service sales if they are good at their trade and take it seriously. Everyone has a place at the spa and the point is let them know your expectations of them. Otherwise, without a finish line they will simply be running in place.

Lead the Way
Without a management team participating in the positive expressions that should be the norm at a spa, there is no pathway. Moreover, when leadership fails everyone fails. The job of a spa director or retail manager is to do the work of each individual whenever necessary. Leadership means getting down in the trenches and really fighting for the team. Leadership also means mentoring each behavior that you would like the rest of the staff to exhibit. Most of all great leaders build up momentum. Success leads to further success and so on. Great spa directors flip rooms, clean out tubs, sell like crazy, and cheerlead along the way.

Improve Team Skill Sets
When I owned spas I experienced a fair number of employees who were so lacking in skill sets that they literally took twice the time to do a facial, waxing, massage, or body wrap. This dilemma is everyone’s nightmare. It makes the client nervous as well as the technician. Beyond that, it creates a disaster for scheduling the next appointment. All in all, those lacking in skills will not only slow things down; they create a mess for the rest of the team. Beyond this the team spirit is affected and everyone sort of slows down. In terms of actual productivity, this is a no-brainer. Offering in-house sessions utilizing vendors as well as home grown education takes the edge off for those who may not understand certain therapies or for others who may just be rusty in a few areas. Even for your stars, education helps tremendously by increasing their speed in such treatments like waxing and their finesse in other areas like microdermabrasion.

Give it Away
Sometimes we get so busy running the spa that we literally run our staff down. We start to see their faults and forget to celebrate their multiple successes.  I always say, “Catch them doing it right.” One great method is the $5 trick. Sure, $5 isn’t much. However, it is typically a latte, lunch, meter fare, etc. Moreover, it truly is the thought that counts. So, carry some $5 bills with you and when someone does something right let them know and hand them the bill.  Offer friendly contests. Try not to make them span across the months. Have a contest for a day. Then give something away at the end of the day. So, for instance, have a Saturday contest to see who can add on sell as in adding a lip wax, brow shaping, multi-layer mask, etc. Similarly, offer day long retail sales contests. At the end of the day you can either offer a specific prize like dinner out or a gift certificate to a shop nearby or cash. Another way to offer prizes and bonuses is to issue mad money.  This is sort of like setting up a bank within your organization. As employees win prizes or receive bonuses, they earn money in the bank. This way they can opt to save up for a vacation or ultimate luxury that they have been craving leaving the money in the “bank” until they reach their goal. Of course, they can always cash in their bank if they choose. The bank concept simply allows them to reach a goal with less temptation to spend their bonus money. This concept really allows employees to compete against themselves and seems to work well towards that end. Whatever you do make sure you reward good behavior—notice the good things!

Make it Personal
As we attempt to motivate staff, we forget they aren’t cogs.  Nope, they aren’t clones either. They are separate, amazing individuals. We hope that as they follow our systems and maintain a standard of consistent quality that they will also bring to work every day that special spark that is their personality. The same philosophy must stand behind your motivational tactics. If possible sit each employee down for five or 10 minutes per week and go over their numbers. Where are they at with their performance goals?  Do they need to start paying more attention to retail sales?  Did they have a stellar week and produced double from the week prior?  These sessions must be both “no pain, no gain” and hurray… you did it!  If you don’t guide each individual and look at their particular personal style and skill sets, you will definitely lose their passion and a lot of their productivity along the way. Moreover, we only see what is in front of us.  Otherwise, I think most staff become complacent. They feel that the management doesn’t care. They do start to feel like cogs. Their spark fades and the clients feel it. Take care of the individual.

Challenge them to Grow as People
Self-esteem issues are often prevalent among staff. This leads to all sorts of problems on the job. The reluctance to sell retail, offer the add-on sale, really connect with the client….  The list is really never ending. The self-esteem problem affects their home life which in turn affects their performance in the spa. By offering self help seminars, motivational field trips to seminars, and simply giving away positive thinking books and tapes, staff members can grow by leaps and bounds emotionally. Also remember what goes into your brain—goes into your brain. Praise your staff like you would a child. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Something as simple as, “you look great today,” or “that client was so pleased with you—way to go!” This type of language can get you miles and miles of optimal performance. More importantly it feeds their brains the emotional nutrition that we all need as individuals.

Success Leads to More Success
Assign each staff member a task each week. For instance, have your aesthetician sell hydrating fluid as her goal all week. Challenge her to sell out your stock. Offer her a carrot at the end of the proverbial stick if she can do it. Challenge your massage therapists to get referrals. Set a number as a goal that is possible but somewhat over the top. Challenge your front desk staff to pre-book more clients. Give them a number and encourage them throughout the week as they struggle to beat the clock. Ironically, each time your staff reaches a goal they will reach a bit further. Suddenly you will have grown a garden of superstars. Even more tantalizing is human nature. We tend to mimic those around us. Many think this is a survival strategy to fit in with the group for self protection purposes. In the spa it means that your stars will rub off on those who aren’t quite sparkling yet. Keep up the momentum and suddenly you will witness a fire storm of stars.

Assign Mentors
Spas are made up of all sorts of people. Consequently, you will have performers who just blow everyone away; those in the middle and those who are limping. Put the true performers with those who aren’t quite up to speed and let them do their magic. They will be flattered to be given a leadership role and the underachievers will naturally absorb some of their more positive habits. Go so far as to give up on making a profit off of your highest achieving staff members. Their presence alone is worth the financial hit. That is, if you use their talents to better your staff and increase positive behaviors throughout the organization.

Motivating your staff is a key element in your spa’s overall success. It should be as large of a priority as paying bills, doing laundry, and opening your front doors for business. Take time out each month to scope out next month’s bonus options, events, internal promotions, and motivational tactics. Developing a motivational agenda is crucial to your spa’s overall health.

Melinda Minton is president of Minton Business Solutions, a marketing and spa consulting agency in Fort Collins, Colo. Minton is a licensed massage therapist, aesthetician, cosmetologist, and former spa owner with an MBA in marketing, She works with spas in product positioning, start-ups, profitability strategies, and publicity/marketing campaigns. She is founder of The Spa Association (SPAA), and has written for numerous trade and consumer publications. Reach Minton at 970-226-6145, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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