Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks

UK Spa Association

News and views from the UK Spa Association

Agency Therapists

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Over the years it has proved harder and harder to recruit for Spas in certain areas, Therapists and Managers in particular. I have never had trouble when recruiting for Fitness staff and Spa Front Office, they would send CVs to me in abundance. However, certainly for Therapists it’s a very different ball game.

When I started out Managing Spas, Therapist CVs would land on my desk daily. I had my pick of the bunch and this meant that I could rely wholly on employing my own staff directly, be it part time, full time or sometimes on zero hours contracts.

I started to see a change in employment patterns in about 2010. The market was changing, agencies had been set up to offer Spas the opportunity to take on a Therapist for short periods, generally a minimum of 4 hours a day and you would cancel them if they were no longer required by giving notice. This became a positive solution to manage last minute sickness, holiday cover and to fill the weekend demand.

Whilst you need your core staff to manage the seven-day spectrum, it was becoming more prevalent to keep their numbers to a minimum, a skeleton staff if you like. A Spa would then build around this in response to demand by incorporating agency staff as required. The Spa market subsequent to the 2008/9 recession was becoming more challenging to predict and therefore for many Spa Operators this flexible employment regime became a solution to managing yield. As a result of this shift in the industry, Therapists started signing up to the agencies in droves, mainly to take advantage of this kind of ‘pick and choose’ work.

As a Spa operator, you will need to adapt to this change and offer a range of positions to suit different personalities and desires. You will always require your core full-time employees and I recommend you offer a range of part-time positions that work for the business and, of course, fit in with the lifestyle of that employee. Perhaps also offer casual work at a slightly higher hourly rate but this work cannot be guaranteed and, finally, work with agencies to fill the last-minute demand. Shannon Teague from The London Mobile Spa agrees that this solution is the way forward ‘We are experiencing a national shortage of therapists, so having the support of an agency especially at this time offers a much better chance of finding candidates - we know where to look and how to reach out to them. Recruitment can also be very time consuming so taking this responsibility off the client’s hands allows better use of their in-house resources and time to focus on driving their businesses forward. Our clients enjoy the flexibility of agency use which is commitment free and gives them the freedom to book shifts according to their business needs, even on a last-minute basis’.

The agencies have now come in to their own and recognise the need to ensure the candidates they are sending have the right attitude, appearance, service standards and, of course, Therapy skills. Sabine Dedeyan from Serenity Spa Solutions explains ‘Our therapists go through a stringent vetting process. First a thorough interview discussing their CV, qualifications, experience and career aspirations. We then check their qualifications that they bring with them to the interview, and their ID and right to work in the UK. This is followed by a trade test which could be massage or beauty related. If the therapists are successful, they are invited to sign up on our platform, where they would upload their certificates, training and insurance documents. Our clients can view all those documents when they make a booking through the platform giving them an extra layer of confidence in the vetting procedure’.

That said, I would always recommend interviewing them yourself before taking them on and ensure they have at least one day’s training in the ethos of your own Spa and the way you work. By taking this approach, investing time and effort into suitable agency staff you will find that they respond by demonstrating commitment to your spa. You will then be able to call on them in future with confidence via the agency rather than having a different person sent each time which can of course be far more challenging to manage.

Brooke Robertson from Oracle Beauty believes it’s paramount for any business to have an agency ready to use as and when needed, especially in the spa industry. Brooke adds ‘Our motto is ‘We help our spas stay perfectly staffed during the ups and downs of their business’. We understand that when therapists are absent, or the spa has seasonal peak periods it’s imperative that they have the staff they need. Full columns minus the staff, equals a loss, in not only business and revenue but also customers. Customers who have had their treatment cancelled will be disappointed and dissatisfied, customer satisfaction is everything to the spa and their reputation depends on it. The cost of an agency therapist in comparison to the revenue generated from a full column of treatments performed, is minimal.  Having the option for support when needed is why I believe spas should use agencies’

The use of agency staff has become a hot topic within the industry in recent years, Spa Operators are asking whether they should be choosing this option and how its best to manage ad hoc staffing and still maintain standards and the quality of treatments. In conclusion, properly managed, this need not be a disadvantage and can actually help with flexibility and overall levels of service.

Helena Field, GM of the UK Spa Association

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