6 Strategies for Creating a Diverse Spa Staff

spa-staff[Image: Getty Images]According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 46 percent of the workforce, and they fill a whopping 83 percent of jobs at beauty and nail salons. However, those who identify as black and Latino continue to be underrepresented in spa jobs. There are many incentives to reverse this lack of diversity, with one of the main ones being economic: A study from McKinsey & Company found that companies with a racially diverse workforce were
35 percent more likely to enjoy financial returns above national industry medians. Katlyn Hatcher, director of spa and wellness for Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania, believes a diverse workforce benefits both her employees and customers. “Having different viewpoints allows everyone on our staff the opportunity to grow and learn,” she explains, adding that clients are more likely to get their needs met when they can choose from providers who have varying training, skills and backgrounds. But it can be hard to actively seek out diverse candidates when hiring staff for your spa (and retain them once they’re on board). These six strategies will help you get started.

  1. Follow the Skill Set – Begin by checking community centers, grocery stores and websites geared toward different neighborhoods for job bulletin boards. Bellevue, Washington-based Yuan Spa, for example, offers acupuncture and cupping among other services that originated in Asia. “There are a lot of practitioners in the Chinese community who are already trained, and those are the ones I want to recruit,” says spa director Sasha Sampson. To that end, the spa advertises its open positions in a variety of local Chinese language newspapers and magazines.
  2. Partner Up – “Go to massage or esthetics schools in different areas, and personally invite whoever runs it to visit your spa,” suggests Bruce Schoenberg, owner of Oasis Day Spa in New York City and Westchester, New York. Schools are more likely to send their best students to spa owners they know and trust, so it’s a good idea to develop relationships with them. Schoenberg has also asked ethnic skincare companies—as well as other businesses that have field reps—to recommend job candidates who have impressed them on their travels.
  3. Seek Trusted Referrals – If you already have diverse employees on staff, ask them to recommend former classmates, colleagues or others from within their networks. People tend to study and socialize with those from similar backgrounds, meaning an employee of a certain ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is likely to refer someone else from that group. “When we’re hiring, I look to my current staff. I think, ‘Who do I want to replicate?’ Then I ask those employees where they worked previously and if they know who might be interested in joining our team,” says Schoenberg. Data also shows that applicants who are referred by someone they know tend to be better-quality candidates who stay at a company longer.
  4. Understand and Overcome Implicit Bias – Stefanie K. Johnson, PhD, assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business, defines implicit bias as an association between a certain group and competence. “If you think of a CEO, you probably picture a white male,” she says. “That’s no surprise because 91 percent of CEOs are white men.” Knowing that, people begin to make an unconscious association between white men and leadership skills. Not only do they come to believe white men make better leaders, they punish anyone who doesn’t fit that stereotype by holding them to a higher standard. “The net result is that you hire the most ‘typical’ person,” Johnson explains. People also tend to hire others like themselves; women, for example, are intrinsically more likely to hire other women.To ensure implicit bias plays less of a role in the hiring process, make a point of interviewing at least two people with backgrounds that are not typical at your spa. “Speaking with two diverse candidates increases the likelihood you’ll hire a diverse candidate, because if you have one person it will reinforce that bias, but if you consider two it goes away,” says Johnson. Accountability is also key: Set goals for diversity in hiring, then track how many diverse candidates apply, are interviewed and are ultimately hired.
  5. Maintain Communication – English is a second language for many of Sampson’s employees. While they may be able to communicate with clients just fine, their comprehension skills might not be strong enough to grasp all of the elements of their employment agreement. “We sometimes hire an interpreter to come in during training to ensure our staff members fully understand the level of service we expect, and so they can ask any questions they may have,” she says. You must also be sensitive to the fact that some groups may work and communicate differently from others, and be prepared to resolve any problems that arise from cross-cultural misunderstandings. “We want to make sure we have open communication and that they’re happy. If any issues arise, we address them as soon as we can,” adds Sampson.
  6. Celebrate Diversity – Nemacolin Woodlands Resort fills many temporary spots with foreign workers who use the H2B visa program. The company organizes events to honor these employees’ diverse backgrounds to make them feel welcome and part of the team, says Hatcher. A map adorns the wall and has a pin in every country that the spa’s employees call home. Staff recently served an authentic Mexican meal in the cafeteria, and another group is planning a Jamaican Day. These celebratory events are working well: “We’ve seen a lot of the same associates participate every year,” enthuses Hatcher.

–by Sophia Bennett

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