Where have all the therapists gone? The spa recruitment challenge

therapist training Aug 31, 2021

During the pandemic, spas had one enormous glaring challenge: they couldn’t open.

Then when other health and leisure facilities began to resume business, spas still remained on the proverbial red list. While we’ve all been thrilled to be able to return to work, since lockdown restrictions have been lifted, spa business owners and therapists have been beset with a new set of challenges, especially when it comes to recruitment, retention and staff training. We spoke to Nikki Spicer, Spa Director at Vita Skin Spa to get the business owner’s perspective.

Nikki says: “Since opening up again, recruitment in general has been so much harder than I’ve ever known it in the 15 years since I’ve been an employer; I was quite shocked. I thought coming out of Covid, as so many salons had closed or let people go, that it would be easier, but speaking to other owners, everyone is finding the same problem.”

The problems Nikki cites, and which are echoed across the industry, present multiple problems. Firstly, there’s the ability to open a business at all, secondly it affects the ability to deliver the standard of service that businesses want, and thirdly in order to meet a rising skills shortfall, businesses are facing a much higher cost of staff training.

There are simply not enough therapists

Many business owners are finding that there are fewer therapists in the industry than there were before the pandemic, despite business closures.

Nikki believes the reason for the staff and skills shortage stems from three areas - those leaving the industry, a lack of higher-level training, and those starting their own businesses. She says:

“I think a lot of people have used Covid to reassess their lives and to move into different careers, which hasn’t really happened in the past. Most spas and salons were closed for 10 months or more and to be furloughed for that amount of time in quite a hard job meant that people realised it wasn’t for them anymore.”

She is not alone in finding this to be the case - Professional Beauty and Boutique Hotelier are just some of the publications reporting on the industry’s recruitment crisis. Meanwhile, greater media emphasis has also been placed on the challenges of the wider hospitality industry, which is also finding recruitment to be an issue.

Another interesting observation that Nikki makes is that of the people who haven’t left the spa industry during the pandemic, many have used the time and money from furlough to become self-employed or set up their own businesses. She sees this as a failing of the terms of furlough payment, which in hindsight she feels should have had similar caveats to maternity leave:

“Although furlough was lifesaving for our business, it’s been a downfall in some senses. As a business, we have put time and money into saving jobs and we have had highest staff turnover we have ever had with people either changing career or working for themselves. I think there should have been something retrospectively where staff were required to stay for a certain amount of time following furlough. It really did save our staff and was a great incentive but then people had no reason to come back.”

Next week we will be looking at the other side of the recruitment crisis – the skills shortage and training issues that have arisen during the pandemic.
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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