Investing in Education
Education is important in every profession, and the grooming business is no exception. However, because there is no government-required licensing or continuing education requirements in the grooming industry, ongoing education can be a challenge. In fact, only a small percentage of us consistently push to obtain more knowledge.
When it comes to educating themselves and their staff, salon owners and managers have a lot to think about. For me, the first and most important training is on policy and procedures. This subject isn’t the most glamorous part of managing my business, but it is crucial. My policies cover safety rules for both pets and groomers, grooming and cleaning processes for our shop, employee requirements and expectations for customer care.
It takes some time to put this information together in manual form, but doing so can be very useful. Your policies and procedures shape your work environment. It is also a safety net when managing difficult employees. With clear guidelines in place, you will have an easier time doling out discipline when necessary. Once your manual is assembled, it is important to update it regularly. I usually make my employees read and sign the manual after each update.
When it comes to educating new hires, I prefer to use on-the-job training. This allows the new groomer to see, firsthand, the different facets of the position. It gives new hires the opportunity to develop a working relationship with existing stylists and reinforces safety rules, policies and procedure in the salon.
Continuing education for a salon’s existing staff is just as important as new-hire training. Salons should regularly remind staff of policies and procedures. I recommend two to four regularly scheduled training sessions per year.
This continuing education can be formal or informal. Formal employee training often includes a memo to each member of the team. The informal and often more pleasant approach is to send a one-page invite to the entire staff. Call the training whatever you like, but the event should be informative and presented in a non-threatening manner. I like to cover everything and make a verbal highlight of changes. I also like to give out compliments to those who deserve them, encourage dialogue and keep the discipline to a minimum. I prefer to emphasize issues in a more general manner, rather than point fingers.
When designing a continuing education program or updates to your salon’s policies and procedures, the desired outcome should be a blend of both technical and personal development. This training will allow employees the opportunity to develop a good understanding of their positions and how they fit into the overall business.
A good place to start is with the procedures for opening the business in the morning. Covering things like disabling the security system, opening blinds, checking in customers, setting up products for the day, opening the cash register, etc.
Follow this by outlining your expectations for how the business should be closed each day. Here, you would cover similar things such as setting the security system, closing blinds, breaking down and cleaning, counting the cash register drawer and filing customer information.
Ongoing training can also cover steps for maintaining and stocking inventory, ordering from suppliers, completing paperwork, cleaning, and temperature control or other maintenance issues. Cleaning during and at the end of the day is critical, so I make sure the staff knows what needs to be cleaned and how often, as well as where the cleaning supplies can be found.
Another valid point to cover includes any special tools, products or services that require staff members to have specific knowledge or skills. Who is permitted to deal with these special offerings, and who is not ready yet? How much experience must they have before they are allowed to perform a task or demonstrate a product?
Train your staff on how to use the salon’s computer systems, and operate the cash register and any other equipment. Be sure to oversee these things until you are sure they know what they are doing.
Explain to the staff when they should ask for help. And if a staff member is not allowed to use a certain piece of equipment, let them know who is authorized to perform these operations.
Provide a list of contact names and numbers for all the resources an employee may need in your absence. Your emergency vet, the police department and other local resources. Don’t forget to include your own information.
Salon owners should also convey how to wait on customers, including everything from how you want the staff to address clients when they walk in to the attention you want them to pay to the person to up-selling items. What should they say when they answer the phone? How formal should they be? Remember that your staff represents your business, so be clear about what you expect.
Telling the staff how they are expected to dress and behave is important to me. I like my staff to wear grooming clothing and avoid negative comments. I encourage my team to use code words when frustrated, such as, “You are so cute as I clean this wound on my arm.” This sounds much better than, “You nasty little monster, look what you have done to my arm!”
I do not mind cell phones being used. However, I limit usage to lunchtime and make it clear that cell phones should never be used when a client is in the room.
Remember to communicate your expectations regarding absences. How far in advance do they need to schedule a day off, and what is the protocol? When will you post the work schedule? Can staff members trade schedules, or are there specialists in certain areas that cannot be shuffled around? Does the staff get sick days? What holidays do you give them, if any?
Discipline doesn’t have to be intimidating or a touchy subject if you have been proactive in communicating expectations. Things to consider putting in your policy handbook include how many warnings a staff member will receive and how those warning will be conveyed.
I cover payroll and salary policies individually. When I give raises, I identify the criteria that the raise was based upon. Do you want to conduct regular performance reviews? Telling your staff what they are doing right is important, but it’s also helpful to identify areas of improvement and opportunities for personal development and growth. People appreciate a clear path and knowing where they stand.
When it comes to providing specialized training to the staff, many of us hesitate. Drawbacks to staff training can be downtime for the staff in training, because when they’re not working, it’s costing the salon money. It’s also an interruption to their work schedule and to your customer service delivery. The expense of training can be high when you add it up. However, an improperly trained staff will definitely cost you more in the long run, so it’s worth the investment.
Of course, every salon owner has to come to his or her on conclusions on training depending on the situation. How much revenue does your groomer bring into your business? If it is only $1,000 a month, it might not make great business sense to spend $1,200 on training them.
Consider other ways to encourage training, such as sharing training expenses. The idea is that the groomer will become more efficient, feel motivated or empowered, or receive high accreditation, and that will benefit both sides. Another way to motivate is a rewards program. You can reward groomers at your shop for educating themselves by offering them bonuses for achieving a goal such as certification or for an award at a grooming contest. Both will reflect positively on your business.
There are many ways to approach training, but you have to start with an understanding of its value to your business. First of all, providing training for your staff will give them a sense of security and fulfillment. The more satisfied they are, the more they’ll contribute to your success and the less turnover you will experience.
Also, just imagine how efficiently your staff will operate when they know all the shortcuts. For example, if each groomer can save ten minutes per dog and averages six dogs per day, that will essentially add one hour to their day. This means that each groomer will be able to groom one more dog per day. Now multiply that by how many groomers you have and you will start to get an idea of what ongoing training can mean to your business. What’s more, the quality of the work will improve and less supervision will be needed.
Training improves your groomers’ skill-sets, making them more flexible and able to handle a greater variety of breeds and coat types. This will improve the customer experience and give your staff confidence.
Whatever training you decide on, make it fun, rewarding and engaging. Use games or some other fun element to start each training session. Keep everyone fed and provide plenty of short breaks. It will make the time fly and keep everyone happy.
Christina Pawlosky is a Certified Master Groomer, professional handler, breeder, and successful pet store and grooming shop owner (The Pet Connection) since 1985. She is currently is the National Training Manager for Oster Professional Products, where she manages 19 top groomer ambassadors and travels nationwide to speak and demonstrate grooming techniques with Oster’s comprehensive line of grooming tools. She qualified for GroomTeam USA from 1992-1995, earning multiple titles, and she continues to hold the record for most Crystal Achievement Awards ever won (8). Christina produces grooming DVDs through her website GroomerWorks.com, in which she shares tips and techniques.
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