26 May 2018 Spa Business Handbook

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Spa Business Handbook - Career Move


Career Move

A study of more than 500 spa managers highlights the benefits of working in the industry and will be used to create a PR campaign to pull more talent into the workforce. Lori Hutchinson looks into the findings

Talent in the Spa Industry PHOTO © shutterstock/Goodluz
Hutchinson presented the findings at the 2013 Global Spa & Wellness Summit
The survey results were used in an infographic promoting spa careers
Working in exotic, beautiful locations is considered a big plus PHOTO © shutterstock/MJTH

A total of 548 spa managers, directors and owners from around the world participated in the Spa Management Career Trends Survey, the results of which were unveiled at the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) in October.

The survey was carried out by the Spa Management Education Committee – a GSWS task force which was originally set up to address the number of issues that the spa industry faces with its workforce around the world including the lack of skilled staff at managerial and director level (see p86). Even though it’s a non-scientific survey, the committee which worked on it feels the information is still valuable.

High five
The responses from survey participants showed that there are five main reasons to love a career in the spa industry:

1. Exotic workplaces and great co-workers Spas are situated in incredible locations and beautiful buildings around the world. The people who work in the spa industry ‘care’ – they want to (and do) make a significant difference to peoples’ lives.

2. Spa managers love their jobs. Eighty-six per cent of spa managers are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their current job, with the biggest proportion (65 per cent) falling into the latter category of being extremely satisfied. Also, 94 per cent are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their career choice in the spa industry.

3. Opportunities to be mentored. There’s a chance for spa managers to learn from those at the top of their game. One question in the survey was: “To prepare for my current role, I wish I had more of [fill in the blank]” with five choices. Twenty-six per cent selected mentoring from an experienced spa professional, 24 per cent, opportunities to attend industry conferences and 23 per cent, academic education about spa management. As a spa leader, if you want to become a mentor there’s a definitely a need in the spa community!

4. Lots of room for career growth. Sixty-four per cent of spa managers started out as spa receptionists, while 58 per cent have worked as therapists or technicians. When questioned, 66 per cent of respondents said their career development in the industry has been fast. These numbers reflect two related facts: the spa sector presents incredible opportunities for people to work their way up and it’s also growing at a fast pace.

5. When they find the industry, they stay Eighty-three per cent of managers say working in spas is only their first or second career choice. What’s more, 76 per cent of the respondents have been in the spa industry for more than 11 years and 30 per cent over 16 years. Also, 80 per cent of spa managers say they would recommend a career in the sector to their best friend.

Other observations
The survey brought to light some more interesting findings about spa managers.

Despite 86 per cent of respondents saying they’re satisfied or extremely satisfied with their current jobs, 57 per cent are actively seeking a new position. These are people who are used to the fast development of the industry and they expect and want career growth. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough corporate or regional spa management positions available and if we want to retain talent in the industry, we’ll have to find new ways to keep executive level spa directors engaged.

In terms of career aspiration, 31 per cent of spa managers consider a corporate or regional position overseeing multiple locations as the ultimate fulfilment of their spa career, while 26 per cent want to be a leading spa consultant.

Thirty-five per cent of spa managers find leading staff the most enjoyable part of their role, followed by assisting guests (17 per cent) and marketing, PR and sales (12 per cent). Thirty-seven per cent said the least favourite part of their job was dealing with IT systems, which suggests that there’s a critical need for IT consultants and training in the spa community.

When it came to education, 66 per cent of respondents had two- to four-year college degrees and financial management was seen as the most important skill set for a successful spa career. They valued this ahead of understanding spa treatments, being a strong leader and HR aspects, and delivering excellent customer service. But here is the surprise: they ranked themselves below these aspects on skill attainment. A huge gap exists between what spa managers know is important and what they feel they can actually do.

Ninety-four per cent of respondents said that having a mentor is important, especially in relation to two specific skill sets: leadership and HR. Meanwhile they feel training and education is most important for learning about a number of other aspects including spa treatments and culture; financial management; marketing, PR and sales; information systems; retail; and strategic planning. People recognise that mentoring is important, but also believe that academic training teaches the essential business skills.

What’s next?
Overall, the Spa Management Career Trends Survey confirmed the findings of an earlier piece of industry research: the 2012 Spa Management Workforce & Education study by SRI International. Both highlight that there are many opportunities and challenges for the worldwide spa industry to create a well-functioning management workforce system.

The Spa Management Education Committee has now created new sub-committees to focus on four specific areas – career paths, internship, mentorship and developing a worldwide PR campaign to entice people to join the spa industry.

The committee would welcome people who want to join one of the teams. But beyond that, it’s asking for spa companies, educational institutions and associations to assist the spa industry by:

* Telling more people that joining the spa industry is a fantastic career move

* Producing additional spa management courses and making them more accessible

* Providing staff educational assistance as a perk of the job

* Creating and participating in a spa management internship programme – formal or informal

* Creating a local mentorship hub for mentees and mentors to meet

* Developing a job-shadowing programme and open house policy in facilities to help attract more people and talent to the global spa industry

* Providing spa career information for members and staff on websites (the committee has resources to help with this)

* Creating company-sponsored scholarships for staff to learn through education

* Creating and participating in a worldwide spa job perks agreement including offering discounts on spa services for staff and managers at their own spas and when visiting other spas

The worldwide spa industry is growing and so is the need to entice more talent to it. If you have any ideas about how we can attract more people and support them in their roles, please get in touch.

Forming the Spa Management Education Committee

There are up to 180,000 spa managers and directors in the global spa industry with only 4,000 students enrolled in spa management-related degree programmes. These were the head-spinning statistics from the 2012 Spa Management Workforce & Education study which was conducted by SRI International on behalf of the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS). It also revealed that:

One – We don’t have enough trained spa managers for the growing number of spas worldwide. And there’s no well-defined educational or career pathway 

Two – The are only a few college-level courses that specifically cover the ‘hard skills’ needed in the spa business. As a result, there’s a shortage of technical/business skills at management level 

Three – Few spa companies invest resources to adequately train their staff

The Spa Management Education
Committee was formed in light of these findings at the suggestion of GSWS board member Anna Bjurstam. Its purpose is to improve the industry’s management system by bridging the gaps between three stakeholders – educational institutes, training providers and spa businesses. It aims to do this by serving as an advisory board, releasing guidelines on core competencies, as well as networking at schools. 

In early 2013, Lori Hutchinson of Hutchinson Consulting and Jeremy McCarthy, group director of spas at Mandarin Oriental, co-chaired a sub-committee working on career paths, internships, and mentorships. Committee members were: Elena Bogacheva (SWIC), Angela Cortright (Spa Gregorie’s), Aldina Duarte Ramos (Accor), Elaine Fenard (Spa Strategy), Nancy Griffin (Contento Marketing), Kim Matheson Shedrick (Natural Resources Spa Consulting), Geeta Morar (SVA Spas & Salons), Deborah Smith (Smith Club & Spa Specialists) and Ana Taffin d’Heursel (Six Senses Spas).

The sub-committee focused on conducting the survey of global spa managers to learn about their opinions on their education and career paths.


PHOTO © shutterstock/arek_malang

The main goal of the committee is to improve the industry’s management system

Background to the survey
The Spa Management Career Trends Survey is a non-scientific trend report based on 548 owners, directors and managers in the spa industry. The data was collected via an online survey.
Facts regarding survey participants:

* Most of the respondents (319) lived in North America, but there were also 104 participants from Europe, 55 from Asia, 27 from the Middle East, 17 from Central & South America, 17 from Africa and 11 from Australia & Oceania

* Eighty per cent of respondents were female and 20 per cent were male

* Eighty-six per cent of respondents were employed in a management position. Fourteen per cent are consultants

* Fifty-two per cent worked in a hotel/resort spa and 14 per cent in a day spa

Lori Hutchinson worked in hospitality HR for 15 years prior to setting up her own spa and hospitality recruitment firm Hutchinson Consulting in 1993. She’s the co-chair of the 2014 committee tasked with creating an international PR campaign, video and website to entice more people to the spa and wellness industry.

email: lori@hutchinsonconsluting.com

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2014 issue 1

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