Business Featured

How and where do I find the right stylists to join my team? | Phil Smith

September 13, 2021

“I’m struggling to recruit good stylists. I find that most candidates either have unrealistic salary expectations or the wrong work ethic. How and where do I find good people. And how can I hang onto them?”

PHIL SAYS: “You are not on your own here. The recruitment picture in the hair industry has changed and at the moment it’s especially challenging. If you ask me, this is partly driven by the rise in
self-employment. Latest statistics show that 54%of people who work in hairdressing and barbering are self-employed.* This figure has grown significantly. Add to that the fact that there are less people starting apprenticeships (a drop of 13%* according to latest research) you start to understand what’s fuelling the problem. It wouldn’t be overly dramatic to suggest that there is ‘a recruitment crisis’. As well as a shortage of people, as salon owners we are completing for staff with the right skills. And yet, we need good people now more than ever as our businesses recover.

The question is, how do we find them? I took a decision around eight years ago to alter my business model. Rather than a fast-paced, target driven, high pressure environment, my goal was to create a salon where service and standards – rather than profits – came first. I decided there must be a better way to achieve and measure success. This touched all areas of the business and more recently I’ve begun to consider how and where I recruit new staff. In fact, the answer for me has been to go back to basics. By reaching out to schools and targeting school leavers, we’ve managed to find young, keen candidates. My current team all joined me as juniors. Yes, it takes more investment in training, but I’ve been rewarded with loyalty and longevity. Rather than a three-year apprenticeship, we complete our training in 18 months. I believe in paying a decent salary from the outset and the rest goes into a pot which funds further education. At the end of the 18-month apprenticeship, all recruits go on a course that polishes up their skills.

The pace of life – not just careers, but clothes, cars and lifestyles – applies to training and we have to accept that there are very few people who are prepared to spend three years folding towels and sweeping floors. It doesn’t mean that I’m willing to compromise on high-quality candidates. Recruiting from ground level means your team members are joining without any technical hair experience. But rather than being a disadvantage, I see that as an opportunity. For me, talent spotting has never been about who can do the best haircut. The right junior is always the one with the best attitude. I measure potential in staff by their conversation, work ethic, commitment, enthusiasm and initiative. I’d say you can tell almost instantly whether a recruit has what it takes to make it to the top.

Once you’ve attracted the right staff, it’s as much up to you as them to keep them there. Don’t assume it’s just about salary. What do YOU offer above and beyond any other salon on the high street? I’ve always had a philosophy that as soon as someone decides to work for you, you work for them. When anyone comes on board, it’s my job to make sure each person has what they need. Everyone has different driving forces and I make it my business to find out what they are. If staff know you’re working for them, I’ve found they’re far more likely to come to you with what they need and be open about any issues. At Smith England, we also keep the team motivated with opportunities for growth and development such as awards, photoshoots and experiences outside of the salon. It develops their skills and drives their ambition.

In today’s world, staff are more and more focused on flexibility and being in control of working when and how they need to. Rigid structures are a thing of the past and I’ve had to adapt my business to accommodate this. Longer holidays and time off based around school terms are two areas that come up time and time again. Similarly, I allow the team to run their own columns. They know their capacity and I trust them to find their own limits. If you have someone good who works hard, you need to find a way to strike a balance.

In short, you have to see your team as your salon’s greatest asset. Investing in finding the right people and keeping them with you does pay off. And, don’t forget, by listening to your team and creating a job they enjoy showing up to, they get what they need and – importantly – so do you.

* Statistics according to NHBF 2019