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Where have all the therapists gone? A high turnover industry

business insights & tips spa & salon industry news Sep 20, 2021

In the third part of our series on the recruitment crisis in the spa industry with Nikki Spicer, Spa Director at Vita Skin Spa, we look at the longstanding issue of high staff turnover.

The spa industry has notoriously high levels of staff turnover even under normal circumstances. We have mentioned before about the typically short career span of therapists in the spa industry. Figures vary from as short as 18 months up to eight years - either way it falls far short of a working life.

The physical demand of the job, and the emotional challenges as therapists frequently find themselves filling the role of unqualified counsellor, all lend themselves to burnout. This has always meant a that spa business owners need to work extra hard to support their team, and the good ones do. With the additional risk management awareness post-Covid, and the flood of demand that has swept the industry since salons opened, supporting and caring for staff with appropriate training and care packages has become even more important.

“This is a high staff turnover industry. Most of my therapists stay for four or five years and longest has been 11 years - they have generally only left because they are moving away from the area. I sometimes get CVs where people have changed jobs every six months, which is off-putting because that’s not long enough to warrant training people - we invest so much time and money into training. We also put a lot of extra things in place to try to retain staff. We have started offering a private health insurance cash plan, which is a preventative approach (a lot of people leave because of injury) that gives you money to spend on therapies like counselling or physio or seeing a private GP. We also do things like Perkbox, give staff an extra day’s holiday on their birthday and all the usual commission. You have to be really competitive with your recruitment package because people are just not applying so really need to make yourself stand out to get people in first place and then to retain people and to keep them healthy, especially when it comes to mental health. We have a wellness plan, a head of wellness who is trained in mental health first aid and more to help keep people from burnout and keep them loving the industry.”

This last point is one that really resonates with us because unlike many jobs, working in the spa industry really is a labour of love. Nikki says:

"It is an industry you have to love and when people fall out of love with it, that’s when you lose them. We have had a couple of people that happened with, and often they go to something else and then come back later. I always try to leave the door open as sometimes they’re just not loving it at that moment and need a break.”

Business is booming but can we keep up?

All of this is coming about at the same time as business owners are working out how to manage the spa environment to support the wellbeing of guests and staff members when official Covid restrictions have been lifted. It’s also at a time where the industry is booming, and demand is soaring.

“Spas are so busy, so it’s the worst time to be struggling with retention. Right now, we need to be fully staffed but you can’t take on the wrong person; you still have to have people who you believe work with your brand and your team.”

Ultimately, we know that wellness has an increasingly important role to play in society and it’s value to individuals is enormous. We need to take care of our therapists, and that means ensuring training is of an appropriate standard, that they have the tools to protect themselves and vulnerable clients, and that they feel supported within their roles, so that we encourage people to join the industry but also help prevent skilled people from leaving it as well.

At Jennifer Young we offer higher level training to support therapists in their ability to provide spa treatments to vulnerable clients by understanding technique, risk management and the rationale behind both. 


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