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Finding the Right Team Members

As owners and managers it is a challenge to stay plugged into the pool of potential employees in your community. Many of our present staff talk with and know potential employees that they see on a regular basis. How can we take advantage of those relationships to add the right people to our staff?

How about employee referrals?

Employee referrals are an excellent source of hiring leads. And if you've been hiring for any length of time you already know that.

Almost every salon/spa has some employee referral program, but few of them are as effective as they can be. So how do you breathe life into your employee referral program? Here are six suggestions to make sure you have an effective employee referral program.

1. Identify key people in your salon/spa

Key people are the ones you'll turn to for employee referrals. This is the group that you describe to other managers as "If I had three more of Sandra, I'd have the salon booked solid!" Key people are the ones whose productivity appears to be higher, or are a catalyst for your team to outperform others. These best employees dress properly, have great customer retention, are on time and never sick, and are excited about work. (Admittedly, it's harder to see those catalysts.) Identify those people, so you can ask them to refer people with whom they've worked in the past or gone to school with.

2. Explain open positions to your key people

Once you've identified your key staff, explain the open positions to them. Consider telling them about positions beyond those directly related to their own. One of the best employee referrals I have seen was when I told a stylist about an open receptionist position. The stylist had worked with a receptionist in a previous spa, had maintained contact, and when this position opened up, referred them. Both enjoyed the spa's culture and were highly successful for a number of years.

When you explain positions to key people, try including questions such as, "Who was the best at customer service you ever worked with? What made that person so good?" When you ask behavior-description questions like that, you're prompting your employee to remember specific situations. You can see if the situation your employee recalls is anything like the situation for which you're hiring. If they are similar, ask the employee to contact the person. If the situation is different, focus on your current situation and say, "Oh, I see why that person was great. Our situation is a bit different. (Explain how it's different.) Have you ever worked with anyone in this kind of situation?" Now you've refocused your employee to think about people who would fit your salon/spa.

Don't expect an answer immediately. People may need time to think about previous situations. Tell your employee to take time to think about potential candidates. Arrange a follow-up discussion in a few days. This could also let them “feel out” their friends in an informal way.

3. Make referral fees worth an employee's time

Referral fees can be tricky. You don't want a referral fee so high that people stop working -- but you don't want it so low that people don't bother calling their friends and colleagues. My rule of thumb is that an employee referral should feel like a substantive bonus to an employee. If you're concerned about money, remember that cash isn't the only thing that will feel like a bonus to an employee. Consider other perks: an education class, a tool allowance, conference or beauty show admission, extra training courses, maybe even more vacation days. You may even want to implement a tiered referral fee, so that employees don't just receive a fee after 90 days of the new hire's employment, but enjoy some benefits before then. They could get 1/3 of the finders fee on the hiring day, 1/3 when the 90 day new hire probation is over, and 1/3 if the new hire is with your salon/spa 12 months later.

4. Keep paperwork to a minimum – like almost zero

Aside from a reasonable referral fee, boatloads of paperwork will turn off an employee referral program. Make it easy for employees to submit a candidate. How about just have the present employee give you a resume from the applicant with the referring employee’s name written on it?

5. Show that hiring is a priority one for everyone!

It's easy to say that hiring is a priority. But if you show that hiring is a priority with your actions, such as explaining your hiring status at each staff meeting, you're showing your employees that hiring is a priority for you. Have a 90 day training program in place that your staff knows about. Have a 12 month goal setting program in place to get productive staff booked fast after the training program is over. Have your present staff do periodic evaluations of the newer employees. Celebrate the event when a present staff member brings you a new employee. Celebrate 90 day, 1 year, and 2 year anniversaries! Your urgency will help your staff feel urgently about hiring also -- prompting them to refer others to you.

6. Encourage your employees to discover other potential employees professionally

Your employees are ideally placed to find passive candidates, in other words, the people whom you would like to hire but who aren't looking. Your employees will find those people by networking at professional education events. Have your key staff scout out the people at seminars and education events that fit your culture and hiring criteria. Tell them to exchange business cards and have them call the potential employee for a follow up meeting after the class. If the person is interested your key staff member will find out minutes into that first cup of coffee. Encourage your employees to attend professional group meetings or participate in online forums of like-minded people.

Check with your staff when you start hiring, to make sure everyone knows what actions to take in order to refer a candidate. You may have other barriers preventing your staff from sending you candidates.

You'll know if you have an effective employee referral program if you have identified your key employees, explained the kinds of people you're trying to recruit, if your referral fees are reasonable, if paperwork is easy for employees to navigate, if your actions show that hiring is a high priority for you, and if your staff bring in candidates

How about using your best customers to find potential employees for you? Develop a bonus program for customers who refer people who are great at customer service in other industries, or who they know personally or professionally are in the beauty industry. This is a whole different article and program you can implement!


The most important thing is to keep the referral program, rewards, and your goals in front of your key people. Make an effort to review a portion of the program with each key employee every month!


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