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Post pandemic business advice for spas and salons

business insights & tips recruitment spa business Sep 26, 2021

For so long during the pandemic, businesses struggled to stay afloat and to plan for a safe return to the treatment room. Some, of course, sadly didn’t survive. Others, thankfully have.

As things have re-opened, we were thankful for the chance to get back to work - even though it came with a myriad of tangible and intangible checks and balances that we’ve needed to be mindful of to do so safely. However, for many, the return hasn’t been quite what we thought it would be, with enormously high demand sitting alongside an unprecedented skills shortage. So, having come through the pandemic, when it comes to spa businesses - what now?

Steve Charlton is the Founder of the The REAL. Leadership Consultancy, which specialises in leadership coaching. We spoke to him about advice for spa businesses as we get back to work, handling staff shortages and post pandemic leadership. Here’s what he had to say:

Understanding ‘Covid shock’

Covid shock is a term we coined to describe the feeling people are having as they return to work. In the first lockdown, the process of 'getting on with it' was comparatively easy in terms of options, because it was very prescriptive and everyone was in it together, even if it was horrible. Then as different lockdowns happened, there were different levels of flexibility and personal responsibility, which made things tougher. Regardless, we tend to settle into the situations we’re given. Covid shock came from the sudden realisation of the reality of going back to work - realising you must get up, dressed, on the Underground etc., - it’s a shock to the system and a lot of people don’t want to go through that. That’s why there’s the ‘great resignation’ - a lot of people have reassessed and want a new way of living. It’s not a young person thing either; it’s across all demographics.

Get ready to adapt

The need to adapt applies to every industry and business leader. When we did our research into Covid shock, most leaders were very concerned about their teams and less worried about themselves - their safety, their security, their happiness. By and large, the mantra seems to be that as leaders, we’ve got to be ready to adapt and no one really knows what that means until they start doing things. A lot of people benefited from working from home during the pandemic, so the thing we’re learning is that businesses need to be ready to learn - listen to people and talk to them. There are multiple organisations where the chairperson is saying ‘this is what we’re going to do’, but by and large it’s difficult to operate against one message, it’s about working with individuals and adapting to their needs.

Speak to individuals

Another thing we’re advising business leaders, is to speak to individuals in the team - don’t just take the temperature of staff as a group. Take the time and do every type of communication you can. As a manager, you’ve got to be more open than ever to feedback and communication on a regular basis.

Have people in your team who will tell you what the mood of your team is. I don’t just mean managers. In my career I have always had change advocates in the team. They’re often very vocal but have their finger on the pulse of the team and they had licence to come to me and tell me what was happening. Once I had that level of honesty, I found it much easier to support everyone. You can’t assume that you will get the feedback you need from HR or senior members of staff. You need to speak to junior members as well - the way you foster that trust in communication as a leader is to be vulnerable, honest and open.

Make recruitment a continuous exercise

A lot of people have left industries (including the spa industry) during the pandemic, having had time to reflect. Regardless of the pandemic, you can never assume people will be there, so you should always have succession planning in place. Always talk to people and have feelers out for new recruits.

In terms of how you encourage people back into the industry. There’s no single answer. However, it’s important to understand what’s working for them; the work experience has to be as good, if not better than when they were at home. Be conscious of working hours, being more aware of flexible hours. If you’re expecting to go back and run your business as it was pre-pandemic, then you will be disappointed.

Empathy and values

There are different expectations about coming to work now. Money is important, but people are looking at the values of what they’re doing. They’ve been through a very personal, tough time and everyone’s appreciation of what’s important has changed. Many individuals want to be very clear about why they exist in their job, what they are doing and why it’s important. Highlighting the values of the organisation and linking them with peoples’ jobs is important.

There are also other things to think about, such as what perks staff have, flexibility with personal time and working hours etc., but I think generally the key thing is that empathy needs to be more present than ever before. For business leaders it’s about caring for people rather than putting profit first. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about improving profits; invariably, focusing on people is far better way of growing a business. I coach a lot of female leaders and, in the past, that focus on people was seen as a soft skill but now it’s seen as a much harder and desirable skillset. More and more companies now do mental health first aid training and offer counselling where once it was an unspoken thing.

Handling fear

Fear is a real challenge. A lot of businesses want people back in the office, but there are challenges around personal fears, who’s vaccinated, who isn’t etc. There’s a lot going on there.

The bottom line again, is that everyone is worried. As soon as the Government says it’s about personal responsibility, that element of trust comes in and it can be polarising. Businesses must treat every case individually, but I can see it being increasing problem. There is no playbook for this as a leader; you couldn’t have been taught it at Harvard and so it comes back to having to adapt and learn - not just for a couple of months, but ongoing.

Ultimately, now the focus for business leaders should be about being ready to adapt and be open to change. Vulnerability doesn’t stop when the pandemic ends for leaders - share your experiences and be open about it so it encourages communication within the team and take your cue from there.

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