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Finding, Retaining Quality Spa Staff

The importance of retaining your staff and the relationships they build with your members cannot be over-emphasized.

A KEY COMPONENT of a successful fitness center spa is top-quality staff. A high-end spa with all of the amenities, decor and lavish touches is wonderful. However, if your service providers are unable to meet client expectations, you will struggle to meet your revenue goals and will have poor repeat business. Repeat business and member referrals are critical to a fitness center spa's success. Thus, the importance of retaining your staff and the relationships they build with your members cannot be over-emphasized.
Searching for quality
Whether you are hiring spa therapists who have been in the business for many years, or ones fresh out of school, there are a few things to look for.
Team attitude. What responsibilities did they hold at their last spa? Were they involved with cleaning and stocking treatment rooms, touring clients through the spa, performing chair massage during their down time, helping with desk duties, etc.? A helpful, cooperative attitude is essential to smooth spa operations. Be careful about hiring part-time therapists who also have their own private practice. Fostering a team attitude will be more difficult if they have not had to adhere to policies and procedures previously set by a spa (i.e., dress codes, therapists' checklists, etc.). In addition, by hiring therapists who have their own practice, you are running the risk of them enticing your members to visit them elsewhere at a lower price.
Training/continuing education. What modalities are potential staff members currently trained in, and how much training have they had? It's best to hire therapists with a minimum of 600 to 700 hours of training. Are they trained in Swedish, deep tissue, sports, pregnancy and stone massage, reflexology, wraps/scrubs, Shiatsu, etc.? Your menu of services will help dictate what modalities you will be hiring for. You may also want to find out what continuing education your candidates have had in the past few years. To maintain accreditation with the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, therapists need to accumulate 40 hours of continuing education units over a four-year period.
Client/customer care. Ask your candidates to "talk" you through the experience they have given at prior spas. Do they go above and beyond? In a massage, for example, if the client had a tight back, would they use hot towels during the service and adjust their routine in order to work a little extra on the client's back? Would they offer stretching techniques after the service was complete? In what ways would a treatment from your potential new hire differ from that of any other therapist?
Check references. It is essential to properly check references for your new hires. If therapists are fresh out of school and have no prior work experience, speak with their instructors at the school they attended. With no prior experience, you will have to inquire about attitude, dependability and reliability. For candidates without any experience, it would be wise to check with former employers outside of the spa industry. Describe your operation, and question whether it would be a good fit. For therapists with prior work experience, make sure you speak directly with their department manager or the spa director at their place of prior employment.
Hands-on service. Have your director, lead therapist and/or other senior spa therapists receive a hands-on treatment from potential hires. Compare notes as to areas of work that were excellent, and what areas they may need additional training in. This is the true test, and a critical step in the hiring process.
You found 'em, now keep 'em
To minimize the pain of turnover, it is important to have a solid staff retention plan in place. This can be done in a few ways. Pay scale is at the top of most therapists' requirements. Be sure your compensation is competitive within your market. If you are paying your therapists a percentage or flat rate per service given, you may be able to pay a lower rate in exchange for your ability to keep them busier. However, if you are initially not as busy as some of your competition, you may need to pay a little bit more.
Find out what your staff is searching for in their place of employment. Is it gratitude? Staff like to feel valuable and be treated as a major asset to the team. Does your staff have access to your fitness facility? This is an easy, cost-effective perk. Does your staff receive sizeable discounts on your retail product? Are your therapists able to trade spa services with one another at little or no cost during down times? This is also an effective way for staff to learn techniques from one another. Do you budget a small amount of money for quarterly staff functions? Creativity is key to developing an effective staff retention strategy.
Ultimately, in the person-to-person world of spas, finding and keeping a great staff is indispensable to the success of your fitness center spa.
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