16/07/2009 - 00:00

Ensuring all new recruits make the cut

16/07/2009 - 00:00

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AS 2009's Australian Hair Fashion hairdresser of the year, Tracey Laing knows a thing or two about cutting and styling hair.

NO CUTTING CORNERS: Staffing and recruitment posed major challenges for Tracey Laing in her first few years in business. Photo: Grant Currall

AS 2009's Australian Hair Fashion hairdresser of the year, Tracey Laing knows a thing or two about cutting and styling hair.

But it was when she and husband, Steve, started their Toni & Guy franchise in 2001 that she began to fully understand the cutthroat nature of the hairdressing industry.

Within hairdressing circles, Toni & Guy are said to be leaders of advanced and fundamental cutting and colouring techniques, providing ongoing education and training systems worldwide.

"Having been in the industry for 26 years, the Toni & Guy philosophies keep me growing as a hairdresser, which keeps me constantly motivated for my clients and in leading my team members," Ms Laing told WA Business News.

For Ms Laing, those 18 team members are integral to her business's success.

With at least 10 other salons in the immediate area of her business in Subiaco, the landscape is always competitive and recruiting quality stylists a challenge.

"During the first two to three years, which are growth years in all new businesses, we did struggle to get the timing of staffing correct. This meant that most of the time we were not able to grow as quickly as hoped; it also meant we were slower in becoming profitable," Ms Laing said.

Despite strong growth in the business over the past eight years, staffing and recruitment issues remained.

"This is because staff are particularly hard to find within the industry and there is a recognised shortage of qualified staff nationally," Ms Laing said.

"This makes it difficult to plan when to take on staff as we have found the most suitable staff will come along either too early or too late to follow our business plan.

"So basically if we take the staff on too early it means they are unproductive relative to our business needs, and this costs money; but taking them on too late means we are losing clients as we cannot service the clients without the staff."

As a result, Ms Laing has implemented a company employment policy that requires all qualified hairdressers to complete a paid six-week training program, usually run during June and July, which is a downtime in the industry.

Only employees who have completed the program are qualified to look after Toni & Guy's clients.

"The training program is in place to maintain a consistently high standard of hairdressing throughout our salons nationally and internationally," Ms Laing said.

"Now, as an established business, the need for new staff is far less, so the problem has almost corrected itself."

The franchise's staff retention strategy also includes providing opportunities for staff development, such as being part of fashion shows or taking on in-house and external educational roles.

Achievable promotions are also available, ranging from management positions to becoming a staff trainer and even a franchisee salon owner.

"What we have found is that, through our constant focus on training and growing the team's personal and technical skills, we have created an environment people want to be part of, resulting in longer-term staff retention," Ms Laing said.

"We have worked on creating a happy, highly skilled team, which gives an environment in the salon that clients want to visit and be part of. So this has created a successful business."

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