It was a Salon Today article that inspired Tiffany Lahn, owner of Salon Secrets Spa in Kennett Square, PA, to simplify her recruiting effort as the pandemic eased up.
Technical high schools had always provided a good selection of potential team members for the salon, located 40 miles outside of Philadelphia. Before COVID, Lahn would invite the students from the schools’ cosmetology programs to do a tour and a day of education at the salon.
“We brought in models and everything!” Lahn says. “It was a lot of work.”
As with so many aspects of salon management, after the pandemic this all seemed more complicated than necessary. With many salons to choose from, the students in each of three schools were just looking to start their careers in an environment that would feel comfortable. The salons’ goal, too, was to find the right fit. Maybe it wasn’t necessary to stage a day of education, which required a lot of planning and energy to pull off.
After reading a Salon Today article about doing a “salon crawl,” Lahn reached out to neighboring salons and contacted the schools as well. Everyone liked the idea. The schools incorporated a field day into their schedule for the students to visit four salons in one day.
“This was an opportunity for the students to see different cultures,” Lahn explains. “We’re a 5,500-square-foot, 10-chair salon with a team-based-pay structure, full spa, and mini women’s boutique. Students can see whether that culture is right for them.”
One of the schools asked the salon to sponsor their students by providing their first kit. Lahn was happy to do that, but the students who participated tended to be juniors and seniors who already had their kits. Instead, the salon offered a $300 cash scholarship to a student the school selected.
“The scholarship offer makes the opportunity more alluring to students,” says Lahn, who has arranged the open house twice so far—once in the fall and once in the spring. She says that, at minimum, she hopes to make it an annual spring event.
Removes the Intimidation
“What we’ve heard from the students is that they’re scared to go into salons,” Lahn says. “I think part of that is the way the pandemic affected everyone, but I can remember, too, feeling intimidated to go fill out an application at a salon. This way they come in as a group, with their friends. So it’s fun.”
While they’re visiting, Lahn invites them to apply for an internship. This “extended shadow” forms the next step for any potential hire. The schools encourage the students to apply.
“The technical high schools have a big focus on placement,” Lahn explains. “Each teacher has a goal of placing every student.”
Focusing on the right fit, Lahn doesn’t think in terms of “competitive edge.” Every salon offers something appealing.
“I think I have a really great company—a great team and a great culture,” Lahn says. “But somebody might want a smaller salon that does only hair and has a different type of training program. I don’t feel competitive with the other salons. I really value our relationship in the community and often invite other salons to do programs with us. We have high employee retention, and I don’t worry about losing stylists to other salons or those salons getting the good students. If someone wants to leave and try another salon, that’s always been okay with me.”
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