Motivating Employees

Written by Melinda Minton

Keeping employees happy and productive is no easy task. They may currently be dealing with personal issues or simply just having a bad day. However, a spa is a sacred space; unhappy employees make for unhappy clients. This can typically develop into a long-term recipe for financial disaster. By implementing new guidelines for your staff to follow, it can prove beneficial to the overall success of creating a positive spa environment.

Set the Tone
From the moment an employee is hired, it should be clear that the corporate culture is happy, productive, team oriented, and client focused. Just as you would help a child learn manners or teach a puppy not to chew on things, consistency starts at the beginning. People and puppies both enjoy the safety net of having boundaries. It is so much easier when the spa’s foundations are bound to the goals of happy, productive employees. A training manual with the spa’s main tenants is useful in teaching the new employee what is expected of them. Allowing senior staffers to fully train new employees and mentor the methodologies of the spa reinforces the rhetoric. Having the new employee review the training manual again at the end of their first 30 days is crucial to reinforce and refine these concepts.

Give Goals
A big part of motivating employees is creating parameters for success and growth. How does an aesthetician or massage therapist know where to go if there is no road map? Furthermore, what sort of productivity quotas are in place? This is different, of course, for each department. For instance, a massage therapist will never sell as much retail as an aesthetician. However, they can be expected to upsell massage treatments, pre-book clients, and offer add-on services like endermologie or pressotherapy. Aestheticians, on the other hand, can usually sell dollar for dollar retail to service sales if they are serious and experienced. Everyone has a place at the spa and the point is making each employee aware of your expectations.

Lead the Way
Without a management team participating in the positive expressions that should be the norm at a spa, there is no pathway. Moreover, when leadership fails, everyone fails. The job of a spa director or retail manager is to do the work of each individual whenever necessary. Leadership means getting down in the trenches and really fighting for the team. Great spa directors flip rooms, clean out tubs, sell like crazy, and cheerlead along the way. Leadership also means mentoring each behavior that you would like the rest of the staff to exhibit. Success leads to further success and so on.

Improve Team Skill Sets
I have experienced a fair number of spa employees who lacked time management skills. They literally took twice the time to do a facial, wax, massage or body wrap. This dilemma can be a nightmare as it makes the client nervous as well as the professional. Beyond that, it creates a disaster for scheduling the next appointment. Employees who lack the necessary skills will not only slow things down, but they will also create a mess for the rest of the team. Furthermore, the team spirit is affected, and it may cause everyone to slow down. In terms of actual productivity, this is a no-brainer. Offering in-house sessions utilizing vendors as well as continuing education takes the edge off for those who may not understand certain therapies or for others who may need to fine tune their skills. Education helps tremendously by increasing their ability to perform various spa treatments.

"Leadership means getting down in the trenches and really fighting for the team. Great spa directors flip rooms, clean out tubs, sell like crazy, and cheerlead along the way. Leadership also means mentoring each behavior that you would like the rest of the staff to exhibit. Success leads to further success and so on."

Give it Away
Sometimes we get so busy running the spa that we literally run our staff down. We start to see their faults and forget to celebrate their multiple successes. It is important to acknowledge your staff’s achievements with positive reinforcements. One great method is the five dollar trick. Sure, five dollars is not much; however, it can cover your employee’s latte, lunch, meter fare, and so on. It truly is the thought that counts. You may also offer friendly contests and give something away at the end of the day. For example, have a Saturday contest to see who can upsell an added service. Similarly, offer daily retail sales contests. At the end of the day, you can offer a specific prize such as dinner or a gift certificate to a shop nearby. Another way to offer prizes and bonuses is to issue mad money. This is sort of like setting up a bank within your organization. As employees win prizes or receive bonuses, they earn money in the bank. They can opt to save up for a vacation or another ultimate luxury that they have wanted. The bank concept simply allows them to reach a goal with less temptation to spend their bonus money. This concept really allows employees to compete against themselves and seems to work well towards that end. Whatever you do, make sure you always reward good behavior.

Make it Personal
As we attempt to motivate staff, we must remember that they are not our clones; they are separate, amazing individuals. We hope that, as they follow our systems and maintain a standard of consistent quality, they will also bring that special spark that is their personality to work each day. The same philosophy must stand behind your motivational tactics. If possible, sit each employee down for five or 10 minutes per week and go over their numbers. Where are they with their performance goals? Do they need to start paying more attention to retail sales? Did they have a stellar week and produce double sales from the week prior? These sessions must be productive by offering constructive criticism and acknowledgement of quality work. If you do not guide each individual and look at their particular personal style and skill sets, you will definitely lose their passion and a lot of their productivity along the way.

Challenge them to Grow as People
Self-esteem issues are often prevalent among staff. This can lead to all sorts of problems on the job including the reluctance to sell retail, offering add-on services, or to really connect with the client. The self-esteem problem affects their home life which, in turn, affects their performance in the spa. By offering educational resources, staff members can grow by leaps and bounds emotionally. Also, it is important to remember that positive reinforcement goes a long way. Acknowledging the employee by saying something as simple as, “you look great today” or “that client was so pleased with you” can guarantee optimal performance from your staff members. More importantly, it feeds their brains the emotional nutrition that we all need as individuals.

Success Leads to More Success
Assign each staff member a task each week. For instance, have your aesthetician sell hydrating fluid as her goal all week. Challenge her to sell out your stock. Let her know a prize will be given if she can do it. Challenge your massage therapists to get referrals. Set a number as a goal that is possible but somewhat over the top. Challenge your front desk staff to pre-book more clients. Give them a number and encourage them throughout the week as they struggle to beat the clock. Ironically, each time your staff reaches a goal, they will reach a bit further than the last time. Suddenly you will have grown a garden of superstars. Even more tantalizing is human nature; we tend to mimic those around us. Many see this as a survival strategy to fit in with the group for self-protection purposes. In the spa, it means that your stars will rub off on those who are not quite sparkling yet. Keep up the momentum and suddenly you will witness a fire storm of stars.

Assign Mentors
Spas are made up of all sorts of people. Consequently, you will have performers who blow everyone away, those in the middle, and others who are struggling to perform. Put the true performers with those who are not quite up to speed and let them do their magic. They will be flattered to be given a leadership role and the underachievers will naturally absorb some of their more positive habits. Use their talents to better your staff and increase positive behaviors throughout the organization.

Motivating your staff is a key element in your spa’s overall success. It should be as much of a priority as paying bills, doing laundry, and opening your front doors for business. Take time each month to scope out next month’s bonus options, events, internal promotions, and motivational tactics. Developing a motivational agenda is crucial to your spa’s overall health.


Melinda Minton is president of Minton Business Solutions, a marketing and spa consulting agency in Fort Collins, Colorado. Minton is a licensed massage therapist, aesthetician, cosmetologist, and former spa owner with an MBA in marketing, She works with spas in product positioning, start-ups, profitability strategies, and publicity/marketing campaigns. She is founder of The Spa Association (SPAA), and has written for numerous trade and consumer publications. 970-226-6145 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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