I might be giving away my age when I start a sentence with “in my day”, but the state of the beauty industry sure has changed since I qualified in 2001, and unfortunately not for the better.
I have hired at least 100 therapists over my last 20 years in the industry and seen the slow decline. So called Beauty schools have popped up and offered short courses that don’t give these young women a proper understanding of the knowledge that is needed to successfully treat clients in salon or at home. Anatomy and Physiology have fallen away from the curriculum at low end schools resulting in therapists offering a rub instead of a therapeutic massage. The higher end schools like Madge Wallace and Camelot are still including Anatomy and therefore putting out more technically astute therapists who can be taken seriously. How can you treat acne if you do not understand the anatomy of a pimple?
I can only conclude that it is the lack of professionalism that filters down from these schools into the industry now, because the general lack of professionalism is astounding.
When I set out to study beauty therapy my granny asked me what any typical Jewish matriarch would ask, “will you make money?” I responded “Yes Gran, I can earn about R10 000 a month” which at the time was a good wage! But it did not start like that and sadly for many therapists it will not get to that for them.
The problem perpetuates because companies lower the standard of their offering instead of upping the skills and standards of their therapists. Some large companies, household names in the beauty industry, are amongst the biggest culprits. At Sheer Bliss we incentivize our therapists to learn more and improve their skills with qualifications that will improve their CV no matter where they work.
I don’t have a problem with a company creating work for the less fortunate work force in South Africa, but I have a problem with the company charging spa prices as if those staff are qualified and then paying them as if they are not. It’s blatant exploitation and these women cannot work anywhere else because they are not actually qualified. That is not empowerment.
There is a lot of frustration in the workforce of the industry because therapists cannot find work, and the reason is that they cannot meet the standards of a high end spa or salon with a low level entry “qualification”, or they are applying with a diploma in manicures and pedicures but do not read the job spec. This leads to frustration for the candidate and employer alike.
The solution is for the industry to stand together as a whole and demand proper quality staff. In January 2020 I recruited for Sheer Bliss, we received 80 applications and did not hire one. None of the candidates fit our criteria in terms of qualifications or the fact that that role required that the therapist have her own car.
What makes a good therapist?
Just like any other business, a good therapist needs the proper training required for the job. However what is missing, is real staff engagement, having a long-term investment in the company and a genuine interest in the health of the business. Staff understanding that their contribution attributes to the success of the business. This is only achieved when staff have personal ambition and millennials in particular are hungry to learn and develop. Many salons will complain that they train staff and then they leave. I believe this is a combination of poor salaries and employers not insisting on a time frame commitment from staff when training them. There is a disconnect when it comes to understanding staff dreams and goals.
One of the most important key elements of the industry is client relationships. You cannot expect a client to return to the same therapist without having a real connection with that therapist. I see it more often than you think that a therapist is working on someone and it’s just a job to get done as if the therapist is doing the client a huge favour.
A therapist should be invested in her career, working hard to be the best version of herself in order to offer her clients up to date information and recommendations of what is trending in the industry. The trade is ever changing so she will never stop learning. She should have a real interest in protecting her reputation as a therapist and that means taking every client, every job and every training opportunity seriously.
I shudder to think what the industry will look like in South Africa in the next 10 years if this shortage of high end therapists is not met, and the industry does not push to up the caliber of therapists.