With the number of cosmetology schools and graduating students declining, recruitment and retention will become a pressing matter for salons in the near future. 
 - Getty Images

With the number of cosmetology schools and graduating students declining, recruitment and retention will become a pressing matter for salons in the near future. 

Getty Images

With the number of cosmetology schools and graduating students in a serious decline while a growing number of salon suites are luring away experienced stylists, an employment-based salon’s ability to recruit and retain top talent is critical not only for its growth, but also its survival.

For that reason, when Qnity and SALON TODAY partnered on the fourth annual 2 to 10 Emerging Leaders Competition, they chose “Relentless Recruitment” as this year’s theme. Throughout the competition, teams of salon leaders, ages 35 and younger, work together on business-building missions that generate innovative ideas.

In the competition’s first year, teams were asked to design novel salon concepts that would shape the future of the beauty industry. The following year, emerging leaders were tasked with the Culture Quest challenge—to create blueprints for the kind of salon culture they desired and outline steps for the salon’s leadership to cultivate it. And, last year’s InstaStrong challenge invited the competitors to select a new or existing service category and design a marketing campaign that embraced both social media and traditional tools to drive measurable sales growth.

As in years past, the teams were assigned an imaginary $5,000 budget for their campaign. At the spring 2019 2 to 10 conference, the 10 emerging leaders were divided into two teams and assigned to one of the coaches/mentors: Amber Lynn Maxwell of Ihloff Salons and Spa in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Garrison Neill of Paris Parker and Parker Barber in Hammond, Louisiana.

Across different salons, states and time zones, the team members worked together on their concepts, with each participating in a presentation to the competition’s judges in late August. James Griffith, owner of the James Griffith Salon in Venice, Florida; Stacey Soble, editor of SALON TODAY; and Qnity Founder Tom Kuhn served as this year’s judges. Presentations were scored on Originality, Feasibility, Teamwork and Presentation.

Team Lead to Succeed

Led by Jon Rizo of Gila Rut Salons in San Diego, the Lead to Succeed Team started their presentation with some interesting research. To prepare for the competition, they asked 305 stylists across 33 states what they believed were the most important characteristics that attracted them to a salon environment. Compensation, benefits and healthcare; continuing education, a salon with structure; and a team atmosphere were the most frequent responses.

Based on that research, the team determined that its mission was to close the gap between salons and schools by creating positive relationships between stylists and students. The team designed a mentorship program where students would work closely with a salon’s stylists on a project.

To gather the students—or mentees—the team suggested the salon connect with local cosmetology schools, asking them to handpick their most productive and engaged students. Stylists from the salon would present the concept of the mentorship program to the identified students, and each selected student would be paired with two mentors so that a mentor was always available to the student. Mentors are chosen based on their ability to complement a student’s strengths and improve their weaknesses.

“Over four months, the mentees work closely with their mentors on a project that creates a fun, exciting look on a model, then they oversee a photoshoot of the collaboration, giving the graduating student a nice piece for their portfolio,” says Dani Everson of Clementine’s A Boutique Salon in Denver.

During the mentorship, the mentees would come into the salon for 30 minutes each week, and throughout the project they’d create a mood board, conceptualize their model’s look and design a plan for creating the look. Finally, the mentee would prepare the model and supervise the photoshoot.

Mentors would be rewarded for their time and advice with a $150 credit toward an advanced education class of their choice. The mentees benefit by connecting to a salon’s environment, growing through guidance and encouragement, developing their skills and confidence through the process and gaining valuable education. Salons benefit by getting to meet students who are engaged and inspired and by really getting to know the prospective new hires before the hiring process.

The competitors from last year's 2 to 10 Emerging Leaders Conference present their InstaStrong markting campaigns at the 2 to 10 Conference in spring 2019. 
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The competitors from last year's 2 to 10 Emerging Leaders Conference present their InstaStrong markting campaigns at the 2 to 10 Conference in spring 2019. 

Team Allure

Led by Susannah Bolich of J. Con SalonSpas in St. Petersberg, Florida, Team Allure chose their name because allure is “the quality of being powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating.”

“Our strategies are going to guide salons of any size and budget to be a magnet for the exceptional talent they desire,” Bolich explained.

The team determined that a majority of a salon’s future staff will be Millennials or from Generation Z, then researched what both these generations want in a work environment. They decided Millennials want freedom, work-life balance and a common group purpose, whereas members of Generation Z seek security and financial gain.

Considering salons of all different sizes, the team then tailored each of their ideas at three different price points.

First, the team recommended leveraging a salon’s most underused asset—its guests. The team designed an incentive program that rewarded clients when they refer a graduating student or working stylist to the salon. For salons on a budget, the team suggested offering a free service, such as a blowout or conditioning treatment. For salons with a healthier budget, they proposed offering the guest free product for a year after the referred stylist had been with the salon for a year or more. For salons looking to hire a top master level type of stylist, the team suggested offering the referring client free cut and color services every six weeks for a year after the stylist had been employed for a year.

Next, the team proposed amping up the salon’s digital presence in terms of recruitment. In addition to creating a recruitment portal on the salon’s website, the team suggested aggressively pursuing ideal cosmetology students as well as unhappy suite renters using video on the salon’s existing social media platforms that showcase the positive aspects of working in a team-based environment. For the budget-conscious, free video shot on mobile phones or tablets could showcase the day-to-day life of a stylist in the salon. The salon’s team members would be challenged to catch video of times the team rallies around each other or celebrates a collective goal. For salons with a bigger budget, the team recommended investing in professional-grade video equipment to capture real-life employee testimonials or hiring a professional videography team to capture in great detail the inner workings of the salon in a Keeping Up with the Kardashians-approach.

The team’s third recruitment approach revolved around strengthening the salon’s presence in local cosmetology schools by inviting students for in-house educational events, either led by a salon employees or visiting brand manufacturers. For salons with a healthier recruitment budget, the team suggested investing in the student’s education and rewarding those with the highest attendance and best performance with gift cards for services at the salon. The highest budget option included surprising graduating students that had already been hired with flowers and gift baskets on graduation day or a graduation party at the salon.

 - The team leaders and the mentors for the 2019 competition, clockwise: Garrison Neill, Paris Parker and Parker Barber in Hammond, Lousiana; Amber Lynn Maxwell, Ihloff Salons and Spas in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Jon Rizo, Gila Rut Salons in San Diego and Susannah Bolich, J. Con Salons in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The team leaders and the mentors for the 2019 competition, clockwise: Garrison Neill, Paris Parker and Parker Barber in Hammond, Lousiana; Amber Lynn Maxwell, Ihloff Salons and Spas in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Jon Rizo, Gila Rut Salons in San Diego and Susannah Bolich, J. Con Salons in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Outcome

The judges agreed that both teams did an outstanding job of putting forth innovative ideas to recruit top talent, and when the presentations were scored, Team Allure won—but only by a point.

Members of the winning team received complimentary tickets to Serious Business 2020, which will be held in New Orleans, January 19-20. Both teams were invited to present their ideas at the 2020 2 to 10 Conference, which will be held in Chicago, April 20-21.

“The presentations from both teams this year were excellent, and the real winners are the salons these team members hail from—the engaging and out-of-the-box strategies they developed are ideas salons can implement when they need to ramp up recruitment,” Tom Kuhn says.

The Teams: 

Team Allure Captain: Jon Rizo, Gila Rut Salons, San Diego 
Members: 
• Dani Everson, Clementine’s A Boutique Salon, Denver
• Stefano Lima, The Establishment, Los Angeles
• Wagner Westerbeke, Gadabout Salons 
and Spas, Tucson, AZ
• Garrett Gonzales, Mark Pardo SalonSpas, Albuquerque, NM
Mentor: Amber Lynn Maxwell, Ihloff Salons & Spas, Tulsa, OK


Team Allure Captain: Susannah Bolich, J. Con Salon Spas, St. Petersburg, FL
Members:
• Lucas Randolph, Randolph’s Salons, Rochester Hills, MI
• Austin Randolph, Randolph’s Salons, Rochester Hills, MI
• James Thomas, Tonya Jones SalonSpas, Birmingham, AL
• Blair Buckner, The Hair Company, Leonardtown, MD
Mentor: 
• Garrison Neill, Paris Parker and Parker Barber, Hammond, LA

Judges:
• James Griffith, James Griffith Salon, Venice, FL
• Stacey Soble, SALON TODAY
• Tom Kuhn, Qnity and the 2 to 10 Project