Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hiring in 2012

Back in March 2008 I wrote a post on hiring and said we prefer to hire new graduates. Well, here we are in 2012 and I'm singing a different tune.

We are a Team-Based salon, which means we work as a team to build the salon's business to benefit all team members. A big part of that is making sure clients are comfortable sitting in any chair. Yes, many of our clients have a favorite stylist. But what helps us succeed and grow is client willingness to see another stylist if their usual is booked, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable.

Clients only become comfortable in another chair when:
  1. They have permission from their stylist
  2. They get the same great experience no matter who they see
My team does a great job of making sure clients understand that our priority is taking care of them. If that means they see someone else we are totally cool with that. But if that client sees someone new and gets a bad haircut the damage is done - they will never sit in another chair again.

And this is what brought us to our new hiring tune. We don't have unlimited resources to train apprentices over a long period of time. And while we never put them on the floor before they've demonstrated to us they are capable of consistently meeting our quality standards, there is still a huge skill gap between an apprentice and someone with say, one or two years experience. 

Three of our last four hires came to us with other salon experience and what a breath of fresh air that was! All we had to do was verify skill levels and train on specifics to our salon services (we are a men's salon, so color is a smaller part of our business than most salons). We have found our complaint rate lower than when we hired those without experience and so we are better serving our clients.

So where are we finding them? One came from a failing salon where she was starving on commission. Another worked with some of our team members in the past and we were able to scoop her up when she moved back in-state. The third came from Sports Clips. Don't overlook the chains as a recruiting ground. While their formal training may be lacking, the stylists are baptized by fire and learn as they go. After a year in a Great Clips or Supercuts environment they've done hundreds of cuts (yes, some of them bad), have gained confidence and are ready for your finishing touches.

We used to worry that hiring experienced stylists would create problems within our culture. What bad habits would they bring with them from their former home? Would they be too set in their ways to do things our way? I think there is a point where that becomes a problem - the longer someone has been a stylist, the more set in their ways they are bound to be. But when we find people who have been in the industry one or two years they are still pliable and can usually easily adapt to a new system.

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