Investing in Spa Employee Training: Why it Matters and How to Profit From It

Written by Douglas Preston

Why should I keep training my employees when they quit so quickly afterwards?” This is an often heard and, on the surface, reasonable response from spa managers when asked how well, or often, they train their staff members.

The frustration is understandable. The spa industry has a high rate of job turnover, a large percentage of employees leaving a new position within the first 12 months of being hired. Business owners, keenly aware of the time and cost of providing on-the-job training, increasingly feel that such training produces little more than money losses or, even worse, preparation for the employee to leave and then compete with them using skills they funded. As a result, fewer spa employers are willing to risk the expense of employee training, except in critical functions such as point-of-sale (POS) and record keeping, general facilities orientation, and basic treatment protocols, as needed. Owner mistrust of employee intent also leads them to devote more attention to business data protection than performance excellence.

Industry enough, job candidates routinely cite lack of training and “disorganized management” as a principal reason for leaving a prior position. These candidates felt that they were underprepared for the tasks they were obliged to fulfill, then left with having to cope with a boss’s disappointment with their underwhelming service quality and anemic retail numbers. For the affected employee, this is like hearing a manager say, “I will invest in training you after I can see that you’re worthy of it.” It’s hardly a logical or motivating message.

For the success-minded business owner, a more overarching perspective on employee training as a sound investment may be needed. Just as with marketing or even the beginning months of a new startup spa, an expectation to see a quick return on the dollars invested will prove to be a letdown. All business expenses are a gamble at best with no guarantees of survival or operating profit – regardless of what has been spent on achieving it. Employee training costs should be eyed from a similar point of view: it is an upfront expense in the hope of producing a down-the-line payoff. A spa owner can no more be certain that an employee will be retained by the business than they can know the customers they serve will return — all are circumstances and influences beyond anyone’s control. But, that said, there are important reasons for devoting resources to employees, regardless of how long they hold their jobs.


By interviewing hundreds of spa employee candidates and through industry surveys, a hierarchy of values has emerged detailing what these potential employees value most in a work setting. The following is the list of values in order of importance: education, praise and recognition, job security, professional growth and advancement, and personal income.

Education. Employees want to learn new skills and techniques above anything else, so the opportunity to receive that is of the highest importance to job recruits.

Praise and Recognition. Over and over again, candidates bemoan the lack of positive reinforcement and appreciation from former employers – a major morale-killer for a team member.

Job Security. Employees quickly begin to feel nervous and insecure when managers voice company financial troubles, make frequent changes to rules and protocols, or openly share co-worker dissatisfaction.

Professional Growth and Advancement. While team training helps fulfill the desire for education, some employees possess an ambition to rise within the ranks of their co-workers. Few want to view their positions as dead end, even if they do not aspire to a leadership role.

Personal Income. Oddly, while making a living does matter to all workers, only the rare spa employee cites money as a key reason for entering the career. The point here being that the more an employee receives the prior four values, the longer they will wait for the money to come. Deny them those key values and money is all that is left. The money will never be enough or come soon enough to buy off what matters most to an employee.


An uncoordinated spa team is a disgruntled team. Confusion, conflict, mixed messages, and competition begin to gnaw away at whatever cohesiveness a spa crew may have between them. Needless to say (and probably rightfully so), management is cast as squarely to blame for this unhealthy work environment. This leads to damaging rumors, factionalism, and higher job turnover.


A successful spa business is wholly dependent upon the quality performance of those delivering the services. Failure at that point of professional and customer interaction spells doom for any company hoping for a better outcome. It just will not be there. This is especially true in sensitive settings such as one where personal services are performed. Clients are vulnerable and highly aware of what is transpiring around them. They can sense an unhappy or distracted atmosphere and it is easy to tell when employees are not up to par for the work they are doing. Naturally, this results in costly service refunds and poor Yelp or Google reviews. Think training is expensive? Try the price of a sour public appraisal of a business.


Even the most training-generous spas usually skimp on bolstering employee retail and service sales skills. There are lots of reasons for this: team resistance to selling, reliance on product vendors to teach sales, or a poor business focus on retailing. Sometimes, even spa ownership and management have an aversion to product and service promotion with clients, causing them to ignore this important employee skill development. The bottom line is that a willful neglect of sales training is perhaps one of the most expensive and business damaging factors that all spas would be advised to remedy as quickly as possible.


Let’s face it, as service providers to trusting customers, spa owners are morally obligated to provide them with the quality experience that is promised – no excuses and no compromises. Owners must deliver the same fine performance that a client would expect of anyone serving in a hospitality environment. It is simply unconscionable to short-change deserving customers of anything less than the best possible service. This means that, regardless of the length of stay for any employee, they should all be brought up to an excellent standard of performance – even if they resign the day after their training is complete.


Douglas Preston’s career spans over 30 years in professional aesthetics, spa management, and skin care career mentoring. His business articles appear in many of the top trade journals and magazines. He is past-president of Aesthetics International Association and former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. His recently published book, An Esthetician’s Guide to Growing A Successful Skincare Career, is a top-seller among ambitious working skin care professionals. Preston leads The Inspired Esthetician, a membership-based resource for professional education and career/business mentoring. He also practices aesthetic skin care in his prestigious Los Gatos studio, Preston Skin Center.,, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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