02 Jul 2022 Spa Business Handbook
 

HOME
VIEW DIGITAL EDITION
CONTENTS
PROFILES
BUY HANDBOOK
JOBS
NEWS
PRODUCTS
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
Sign up for FREE ezine
Current issue
Spa Business Handbook

View this issue online

view this issue contents
Buy print edition

Download PDF

Previous issues
Spa Business Handbook
2020-2021 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2019-2020 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2018 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2017 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2016 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2015 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2014 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2013 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2012 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Download PDF
Spa Business Handbook
2011 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Spa Business Handbook
2010 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Spa Business Handbook
2009 issue

View issue contents
View this issue online
Spa Business Handbook - Short staffed

Industry insights

Short staffed


The explosion in spa development and growth of the home spa market has led to an international staff shortage. Sue Harmsworth talks about issues and possible solutions…

The industry needs salary scales and career progression Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Managers need to understand therapies Maples Images/shutterstock

The industry is facing a big staffing problem for a number of reasons: global spa development has exploded, and there has been an expansion in the home spa market triggered by the pandemic. Good therapists have found they only have to do three treatments a day to earn more than they did working for a spa.


Brexit has also caused a problem in the UK, as many therapists from Eastern Europe have left. These were often advanced therapists, who could do six or seven massages a day.

As well as a therapist shortage, there is also a shortage of experts. If you’re going to run medical programmes, you need specialists like medics and naturopaths, but because of licensing, doctors can’t just move around the world. Even with nutritionists the qualifications vary from country to country. We have shortages all the way through but, going forward, I think we’re really going to struggle with finding experts like nutritionists, naturopaths, osteopaths, wellness counsellors and mental health professionals.

Better salaries
Therapists used to come out of college, go to a salon for more training and wouldn’t go to a spa or on ships until they were 21, having amassed considerable experience, but since the global spa development explosion they’re not getting that core training.


One of the mistakes the industry makes is to not differentiate pay between experienced therapists and the young inexperienced ones. It’s ridiculous that an experienced therapist is frequently paid on a level with someone without any training, such as waiting staff.


Someone who has trained and then worked for several years will have more experience of bodies, anatomy, physiology, as well as life skills and empathy than an 18-year-old just out of school, yet there is no heightened salary or career progression and therefore little motivation for them to stay long term.

The industry needs a much more graduated progression and salary should be linked to skill set. Advanced therapists, who have a number of different skills, should be empowered to create bespoke treatments, which can be charged at a premium rate.

Management support
We also need better managers to support the team, who understand their skills as well as the emotional piece therapists get from clients. Managers often don’t understand the amount of emotional energy which goes into delivering a treatment and the negative energy which therapists take on from clients.


For years the industry has debated whether spa directors need to understand therapies, with the consensus being that they just need to understand the business side. My view is they need to understand therapists too. When the client has contraindications, the manager needs to be able to answer questions and support the therapist. Historically, so many people with cancer were turned away in a negative way because the therapists weren’t trained in what to say.

The best managers I know either do a short massage course, or come up through therapy route. The problem with this is that too many therapists get pushed into management roles as it’s seen as a progression when they should stay as senior therapists, on a higher rate, or become a trainer.

Focus on training
There is some good news. Diane Hey is running a fantastic apprentice scheme in the UK, which is new for the holistic part of the industry. It is a three year apprenticeship, where both the companies and the apprentices get paid. At level 4 the therapists can diversify.

Added to this, the pandemic pushed the industry to embrace online training and this has improved globally, with many good companies now training online.

About the author:

Susan Harmsworth has helped define the concept of the modern spa. Starting out writing on fashion and beauty for Vogue in London and New York, she later opened a salon in Toronto and then a thalassotherapy resort in France before going on to create the luxury skincare brand, ESPA.


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2022 edition

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | Advertise | © 2022 Cybertrek Ltd