Salons Seek Staff Amid Scarce Workforce, Survey Reveals

American Salon recently surveyed* its audience to assess the current state of the industry (check out our previous reports from the findings). Here, we unpack what salon owners and managers had to say about staffing their businesses. We asked respondents if they are looking to hire additional staff now that businesses are emerging from a tumultuous two years. Most (55 percent) responded that they aren't, while 44 percent responded that they are actively hiring.

Those that are keeping status quo attributed it to continuously slow business and a less-than-thriving economy. One owner/manager said they will not be hiring new staff because they can't afford to pay a living wage, and paying anything less is not in alignment with their morals. Another reported that when business starts picking up again, they will start making plans to expand, but for now, it's a solo act. 

For those actively seeking staff, be it stylists, colorists, assistants or receptionists, the quest is unanimously laborious and mostly unfruitful. "We are finding it more challenging than ever to find young stylists who are passionate about the beauty industry and who want to work more then two to three days a week," wrote in one respondent. "We advertise everywhere. Nobody is even looking at our ads for hiring," said another. Even at salons where business is booming, it's a challenge. "We have not been able to find new stylists for at least six months," said one respondent, adding, "We are booked weeks in advance, our stylists earn more than 95 percent of stylists in our area, and it's still very difficult to find [staff]." One owner said they are considering poaching from other salons after failed attempts with traditional advertising methods.

Another owner's solution is to hire back former employees rather than continue attempts to attract a new workforce. Others who are seeking help turn to resources such as Indeed, Craigslist, Facebook and Instagram, and sales and brand reps (for salons affiliated with brands, like Aveda Concept Salons). Others say word of mouth is the best tool for attracting quality talent.

The tried and true method of reaching out directly to beauty schools for new licensed graduates is, for now, a thing of the past—most cosmetology schools were closed during the pandemic, likely due to a combination of stay-at-home orders and a widespread aversion to in-person experiences. The industry is simply behind when it comes to a new, trained workforce.

A salon owner who is also an educator said finding new talent is the easiest thing they do, because they are out in the field educating ambitious stylists all the time, indicating that salon owners and managers might be able to lean on educators in their area to help with recruitment.

One salon owner shared words of wisdom for both stylists and owners/managers: "Regardless of experience or talent, a great work ethic and a charismatic personality will begin a long, rewarding career, beyond what anyone can imagine."

Keep an eye out for our next report on survey findings, where we explore clients' spending trends in a volatile economy.

* The American Salon Business Sentiment Survey was conducted between May 23 and June 27, 2022. Of the 417 responses received, 57.55 percent were salon owners/managers, 23.02 percent were independent contractors, 6.25 percent were salon employees and 13.19 percent identified as “Other,” ranging from educators, retired salon owners and “working owners.”