Staffing problems? Four reasons why no one wants to work at your spa

Ask around in the spa and wellness industry about a manager or director’s biggest business challenges and the majority will tell you it’s staffing.

ISPA recently reported that the number of employees in spa increased by 1.6%, from 359,300 in May 2016 to 365,200 in May 2017, and there are still currently more than 32,000 vacant positions for service providers in the spa industry. ISPA president Lynne McNees said that effective communication of these openings and opportunities will be a priority for ISPA in the future.

While spa does have some unique staffing issues, often caused by unique factors such as remote locations, long hours, and niche skill requirements, the problem itself isn’t unique to spa and wellness. Almost everyone in every sector struggles with finding and retaining qualified candidates. And even if you can find them, you can’t keep them. We live in an era of job hopping, particularly when it comes to millennials, who stay in jobs for less than three years on average.

Nothing can be solved in one fell swoop, but there are some obvious reasons you might be having trouble attracting talent, some of which are easier to fix than others.

Here are three reasons you could be having trouble attracting employees.

You don’t pay enough. Nobody wants to hear this but there’s no point in sugarcoating it. The hard truth is that therapists and aestheticians work hard and are often underpaid. This isn’t necessarily your fault. Spa profits can be very low, and people struggle to stay afloat. But you’re nothing without your team, so if you an afford to pay them more, do. Or find a compensation plan that works better.

On the bright side, it’s not impossible to attract talent with less money. Studies consistently show that as long as they can pay the bills, many people value work-life balance, experience, and meaning over money when it comes to job satisfaction. But you have to be a great place to work.

Your current employees are unhappy. That brings us to your current employees. They can be your greatest evangelists or your loudest detractors. Treat them well and they will be the former, treat them shabbily and they will repel potential clients and workers. I have a friend who worked as a massage therapist at a well-known luxury hotel spa, where her pay was terrible and they treated her very badly. Well, not only doesn’t she work there anymore, but none of her friends will ever go there for a treatment and, more to the purpose of this article, you can be certain that she won’t recommend the workplace to her peers. By the way, she’s very well connected. When your employees love their workplace, they tell everyone about it, and people flock to work for you. When they hate it, they also tell everyone.

They don’t see a future with you. I once conducted some market research for a firm, in which I asked survey respondents, all things being equal when it comes to compensation and benefits, what  the most important factor is when considering a new position. By far the most popular response was “opportunities for advancement.”

Nobody wants to take a job when all they can see in the future is the same thing day after day, year after year. They might take it if they have to, but they’ll be looking for something better from day one, and when they find it they will leave and you will be right back where you started. Everyone needs to be able to see a path forward. Or what is the point? Career pathing is essential when it comes to attracting to talent.

You haven’t given any thought to your employer brand. I’m sure you’ve heard of an “employer brand.” It’s the type of term HR staffing firms love to throw around. Many think it’s a pretty boring subject and we kind of roll our eyes, but all of the above is part of it, and it’s worth looking into if you haven’t already. It’s what makes people want to work for you. It’s deciding who you are and what you want to be as a workplace.

Just remember that if your current employees aren’t happy, you’ve got to fix that, or you’ll never solve your staffing problems. When you do fix it, everything else will fall into place.

Spa Executive magazine is published by Book4Time, the world’s most innovative spa, salon, wellness, and activity management software. Learn more at

(Image: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo)

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