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Expert Career AdviceManaging a Beauty Business ➜ Salon Staff Incentives That'll Boost Motivation

Let's face it: Even people who LOVE their jobs need a little motivational boost every now and then. (Especially during chaotic times, like a pandemic.) Below, you'll find do's and don'ts to follow when creating salon staff incentives for boosting motivation. Plus, we'll highlight some winning ideas from salon pros.

Before we get started, however, we want to clarify one thing: For the purpose of this article, when we say "incentives," we're referring to incentives that fall outside of any incentive-based programs that might be part of a person's employment contract.

Make sense? OK, let's dive in.

1. Do focus on things that are simple to measure.

In other words, you shouldn't create an incentive program or contest around subjective things (or things that might result in you being accused of playing favorites). Instead, focus on what's easy to measure. For example, the team member who rebooks the most this week will receive a $10 gift card to their favorite coffee shop.

Tony Gordon, a licensed cosmetologist and cosmetology teacher, says, "Recognizing people with awards for outstanding behavior is an ongoing engagement strategy at Gordon Salon. We use our basic Key Performance Indicators as a basis for prizes: Pre book, retail per client, productivity."

(And Tony should know a thing or two about managing and motivating staff, since Gordon Salon has five locations in the Chicago area AND seventy employees!)

2. Do share numbers with your team members so they know where they stand—and where they can improve.

Sure, staff incentive programs help bring in more revenue to the salon. But truly great programs will also help team members grow their skills, confidence, and careers. The way to do this? Show team members their numbers!

Elizabeth Perez runs a full-service hair salon in Winchester, Virginia, called LoX Salon, which employs seven stylists, two assistants, and two receptionists. She notes that she recently started sharing monthly analytics with her employees—to great effect.

Perez says, "At the beginning of the month, I provide them with the following information: the total number of appointments and their occupancy, including their total working hours, booked hours, and available hours." She goes on to explain that this info—along with monthly goal sheets—provides each stylist with something tangible to work towards.

Perez adds, "Client retention is very important, and when they can see the clear numbers, they get a better understanding of what they have to strive for."

3. Don't always make it an "open" competition where staff members are competing with each other.

It’s perfectly appropriate and motivating to have the occasional program or contest where everyone gets measured on the same thing (like most re-bookings). The issue, however, is that the same people tend to win these sorts of contests over and over, simply because some people are more natural when it comes to sales.

Yes, we should still acknowledge and reward these natural salespeople. And sure, seeing their success can (at times) motivate others. But it's equally important to give everyone a chance to win and to be acknowledged for their efforts.

Here's an idea that Kim Berube, our Milady Marketing Manager, used to do when she had her own salon. Kim would retrofit an old spinner that she took from a board game. Each number on the spinner pointed to a prize, like a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts or a "pass" to leave the salon thirty minutes early (no cleaning!).

Every time a staff member sold a certain number of products, they got to go into the break room and spin the magic wheel. For some staff—the ones who were natural at retail sales—they might spin every day. For other staff members, they might spin once a week or even longer. But in the end, everyone got something. And people were only competing with themselves, not their colleagues.

4. Do occasionally design incentive programs and contests for groups/teams.

Remember, this isn't The Hunger Games. You want to create a positive culture, not a cut-throat one. So don't ever pit individuals against each other. However, pitting teams against one another is a different story! In fact, creating teams that have a good mix of veteran talent and newbies is a great way to mentor those who are just getting started while helping the pros take on more leadership/mentoring roles.

Tony Gordon from Gordon Salon says this strategy can also work well if you own more than one salon. "Because I have multiple locations, we set up one salon against another in a quarterly contest, like a sports league," Tony explains. "The location gets points for KPIs [key performance indicators] and anything else we want to emphasize."

5. Don't tie everything to sales.

Yes, the ultimate goal of salon staff incentive programs is to make more money for the salon. But in today's competitive landscape, the route to increased revenue isn't always so direct.

For example, effectively marketing a salon today means you need a highly active digital presence along with lots of positive reviews. So perhaps you run an incentive program for a month where the team member who scores the most five-star reviews for the salon's Google Business page gets a prize.

Another option? Make an incentive program around "most improved" percentages. So the person who "most improves" in their re-bookings over the last month gets a prize.

You could also let your team members direct a contest where they get to vote. Similar to an Employee of the Month idea, staff members can nominate the employee of the month (or of the week). Then, that person chooses the next employee of the month/week. The winner gets a trophy that they can display at their station (and pass on when the time comes to select the next winner). Plus, they'd get a prize as well.

6. Don't overlook your receptionists.

The best salons usually have rock-star receptionists who have a knack for selling products and getting clients to rebook. Reward these folks as well! You don't necessarily need to come up with a formal program or contest, either.

Kim Berube recalls at her old salon that they sold packages of prepaid haircuts for kids. So a normal haircut might have cost $17, but if you bought the prepaid pack of six haircuts at once, it brought the price down to $14/haircut. Kim says that her receptionists were the ones who promoted and sold these prepaid packages the most, so she'd give them a percentage of each one they sold.

"I'd give them 10% of the sales, and I did it once a month," Kim says. "So they got the bonus in their final paycheck of the month. And maybe it wasn't a ton, but even an extra thirty bucks was still something, and it was nice for them."

7. Do make the details and rules super clear and easy to follow.

If you can't clearly articulate your contest or incentive idea to a ten-year-old, then it's too complicated. You need to make it easy for people to understand. For example, "In July, whoever sells the most detangler product will win a $100 Amazon gift card." That's simple and straightforward.

Tony Gordon from Gordon Salon says, "You may create very elaborate and convoluted programs that make it hard to recognize the intent of the program. Start with why? Describe your intentions."

8. Do make it visual.

We work in a visual business run by visual people, right? Contests and incentive programs that people can "see" and be regularly reminded of are always your best bet. Post notices in the breakroom. Share info on social media: "Congrats to Lisa who rocked re-bookings this week! Who'll be next week's winner?"

Here's another idea inspired by Milady's Marketing Manager Kim Berube. Using our "person who sells the most detangler product in July wins a $100 Amazon gift card" as an example . . . you could keep track of people's progress on a white board or bulletin board in your break room.

Draw a mountain on the white board. Include milestones on the side of the mountain: 10 products, 20 products, 30 products, etc. Keep track of where employees are, week-to-week, as they move to the top of the mountain. You get the idea. Make it bright and colorful!

9. Do create long-term incentive programs that encourage people to stay with your salon.

Sure, we all like those "quick wins" of spinning the wheel after a good week of selling and scoring a gift card to our favorite restaurant. But programs that provide a big bang in the long-term can also be incredibly empowering and motivating.

Elizabeth Perez says the biggest short-term incentive at LoX Salon is a percentage on retail sales. Every quarter, she gives each stylist 10% of the retail they sell. "This pushes them to recommend products to their clients and they get paid for doing so," Perez explains. "Retail tickets continue to rise, and sales increase monthly."

In addition, her salon has levels: Master, Senior, Artist, and Junior. Perez says, "Each level has certain requirements based on experience, the stylists' client retention, quality of work, and track record. This motivates our stylists to move up in level and offers them a career path at the salon."

10. Do celebrate to motivate.

Tony Gordon from Gordon Salon says, "Creating any cause for celebration is great: work anniversaries, birthdays, etc. Some rewards for work longevity include big items, like Apple products. We have at least seven reasons to celebrate the staff. There is a direct correlation between celebrating individuals and staff retention."

11. Do take breaks, ask for feedback, and make improvements.

Running constant back-to-back incentive programs will have the opposite effect and run your staff ragged. Give people a break from always competing with each other, and even with themselves.

Taking breaks also allows you to follow-up on necessary skill-building. For example, maybe during the detangler program, you noticed a couple of team members who really struggled with selling products. Perhaps providing one-on-one mentoring might make sense before you start another contest or incentive program.

For a final piece of wisdom when it comes to motivating employees, Elizabeth Perez has this to offer: "My greatest advice is to give salon staff some sort of ownership. I always tell my staff [that] while they work for me, they more importantly work for themselves. I can inspire and promote, but at the end of the day, they are the reason why the client will rebook and come back . . . so they need to own that."

Sounds like great advice to us! Here's to an incredibly motivating year ahead.

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