Is Your Salon Staff Motivation Low? Turn Complacency Into Profit With These Tips

Is Your Salon Staff Motivation Low? Turn Complacency Into Profit With These Tips

As a general rule, salon staff motivation is corrected by finding out what hair stylists want and making their goals possible. One of the biggest mistakes I see owners make is using incentives that aren’t in line with what salon pros really want.

Expecting results based on what salon owners think should be motivating does not produce the results you are after.

Hi there, my name is Susan Wos! I work with salon owners, hair stylists and beauty professionals across the US and Canada as the owner of Salonspa Connection.

When I’m not selling salon businesses or helping owners of hair salons hire, I’m providing advice through coaching and blog posts.

Lack of motivation in salon staff is something I see ALL THE TIME. Things have changed in today’s salon industry workforce, this is no secret.

The problem is, we haven’t adapted. Or hired the right stylists.

Modern Salon & Hairstylist Motivators

Truthfully, a fat paycheck should be enough… Today’s salon pro isn’t necessarily money motivated.

Some salon pros are go getters, striving to make as much money as they can. Then there’s the rest of the crowd.

Happy to sit around on their phones until a client calls, not upselling or even pre booking their next appointment. These salon pros often are not tied to mortgages, expensive car payments and most of them do not have children.

You may say they are “spoiled” or “pampered”. I say they don’t have a reason to work harder, yet.

Unless stylists are born and bred to have a great work ethic, motivation often doesn’t come until need sets in.

salon staff motivators

Some Hairstylists are Perfectly Content Being at the Bottom

Do you have salon staff that come to work, just for something to do? What about those that do have bills to pay, yet they never seem to work hard to achieve?

I’ve seen this behavior in salons, and in every industry known to man. The stylists who are content to scrape the bottom of the pay scale, regardless of financial obligations are likely to always be this way.

The good news? They will likely always be an employee, somewhere. You won’t have to worry about them leaving a commision or hourly salon for booth rental.

The bad news? There isn’t a whole lot you can do to motivate this personality type, long term.

Short of threats, the motivation to do just about anything you could provide just doesn’t exist. Either let them take up space at the bottom, or let them go.

Why Is Salon Staff Motivation Important?

Salon staff motivation is important because it means they are invested in your salon brand as well as their careers. Happy salon staff who are busy is a pleasant work environment to be in. Unmotivated staff members breed problems and affect other stylist’s attitudes and performance.

What Are the Key Motivation Factors For Salon Employees?

The key to motivating salon staff is to find out what matters to each individual. Most of us have something we want. It’s a matter of figuring out what that is. Consider the following when motivating salon staff:

  1. Ensure you are giving meaningful compliments and praise on a regular basis.

  2. Check in regularly to make sure salon pros like working in your salon.

  3. Get granular with individual benchmarks and rewards- find out what motivates each individual stylist.

  4. Have a friendly salon competition or contest.

  5. Get regular feedback for new ideas and strategies.

  6. Make staff feel valued, heard and supported.

  7. Empower staff members in decision making processes.

  8. In commision or hourly salons, get creative- reward with more time off or a more flexible schedule rather than money, awards or gifts.

  9. In booth rental salons, offer free rent as rewards.

how to talk to salon employees to get good results

A Little Praise Goes a Long Way- Show Gratitude & Celebrate Success

A positive and encouraging work environment not only boosts retail sales, but it also increases job satisfaction. Owners and salon managers who take the time to give praise and kudos have more motivated employees and booth renters.

We tend to forget that a few words can make or break employee motivation. If you are a parent, you understand the effect of kindness vs no attention given.

Children crave acceptance, encouragement and love. Same goes for salon employees.

Take the time to reward people with kind words, if you aren’t doing so now. Give genuine compliments, send sweet notes and go the extra mile to praise behaviors you want to see more of.

If stylists crave your praise and attention, they rise to the occasion to achieve. If stylists know what they do will never be good enough, or there is little reward for achievement, they will drag the bottom or plot to quit your salon.

Ensure your hair salon is where people want to work

Are people working in your salon because they want to, because it’s a stepping stone or the only job they could find? Many salon owners don’t know the answer to this question…

If you have stylists that are working with you because they WANT TO, you are in an excellent position. It’s much easier to motivate salon staff if they chose your salon over others.

Find out why they chose your salon to better understand what motivates employees in your salon. Hone in on the reasons they like working with you and add to that list!

When your salon is a stepping stone

A lack of motivation may stem from the fact that your stylists are already halfway out the door. Examples would be:

  1. Your salon was chosen to work in because other salons were full or not hiring.

  2. The salon is the closest one to the employee’s house, (convenience).

  3. You are a commission or hourly salon and stylists want to build clientele and move to booth rental or a salon suite.

  4. You have the best pay in town or offered incentives to get stylists to work for you.

  5. Stylists came to work for you because their friends work in the salon.

  6. Your salon staff interviewed with you, only- they didn’t do their research to find the best salon to work in for their wants, needs and preferences.

Finding ways to motivate salon staff when your salon is just a blip in time for hair stylists, is a difficult situation. The solution?

Find out why stylists choose your salon. Have regular meetings, and get to the bottom of their motivation to work in your salon.

Salon Love Language: Understand the Different Personalities in Your Salon and What Makes Them Tick

Keeping staff motivated requires an understanding of what appeals to each individual team member. While Suzy may want more money, Chelsea may just want more time to spend with her boyfriend.

A good place to start is understanding salon staff love languages and what motivates employees. There is no one size fits all incentive program for your whole team.

If you are offering incentives or salon contests, offering rewards that are different each time may elicit better results. Hold regular meetings, uncover shared values and offer a variety of incentive programs to suit the differing salon staff motivations.

how to know if hairstylists plan to leave a salon
How salon owners are different from hairstylists

Don’t tie everything to hair salon sales

If your goals are always tied to money and sales, you may need to change things up a bit. Hair salon employee motivation rarely comes when they feel the benefit is for YOU.

If they aren’t motivated by more money, get creative with your offers. Of course everything ties back to sales, just make it far less obvious!

Set lower, easier to reach benchmarks and offer a tiered reward system. Create monthly incentives and longer term rewards.

Experiment, get new ideas and plan out the year ahead. Take notes on what worked for whom and offer a variety of rewards.

Motivation comes in many forms- Invest in the training and personal development of your salon employees

A great example would be a training, or a hair show that is expensive, yet salon staff motivation is there to attend. Stylists who are motivated to attend the training will rise to the top. Offer to pay for the training and travel expenses on a tiered system.

It doesn’t have to be a salon related training or show, either. It can be business related or even a concert of a popular music artist.

Experiment, get creative and document what works, and what doesn’t!

Motivating your salon team with contests and competitions

A friendly competition goes a long way. Having no contests or competitions yields nothing.

If it’s been awhile since you had a contest, get some new energy flowing through the salon and let the achievers, achieve.

Competitions will de motivate the right people and allow a stagnant staff member an additional opportunity to earn and grow.

Motivating salon staff- Maintain a healthy competition balanced by team spirit

The LAST thing you want to do to motivate your salon staff is to pit stylists against each other! Unless you own one of those ultra competitive, elite salons where everyone is backstabbing to get ahead, allow everyone the opportunity to achieve.

The goal with competitions is for them to be friendly and for motivating staff that are just sitting still. Let the pressure of the stylist who is trying to achieve be motivation enough for other employees to at least try.

Give hair stylists the OPTION to participate or not. Making required competitions only de motivates employees who are already on the edge of leaving a salon.

The idea here is to create team spirit, not to have employees at each other’s throats.

how to make salon staff unmotivated

Don’t always make it an “open” competition where staff members are competing with each other

Structuring individual goals and allowing your team to compete against themselves tends to be more motivating than competing with all employees. Individual scenarios where the team is trying to outdo their own achievements from the past, makes it more realistic to reach goals.

Get ideas from each team member on where and how they would like to improve. Use this as fuel and give them the tools they need to reach their goals.

For instance: A stylist would like to get new clients from social media, but so far they’ve had no luck. Create a reward- $50 for getting a new salon client they snag off social. Send them to a hairstylist social media class to help them get there!

Getting feedback- Create a work environment that nourishes creativity

Getting ideas and feedback from your employees is a great way to initiate motivation. You would be surprised at how well stylists respond to being asked what they think.

If employees feel you are approachable, you will automatically get better results. If you rule by fear or threats, you will never know what employees are thinking or feeling.

I know as a former salon owner, we live in fear of walkouts or staff turning against us. Salon employee turnover is a constant concern, especially with aggressive owners who go as far as poaching stylists from salons.

Living in fear is not the path to success. Opening the door for feedback, criticisms and creative freedom, is.

Check fear, resentment, stress and anger from past behaviors at the door! Treat every day as a new beginning and give stylists the benefit of the doubt. Make it known you want to know what they are thinking and how they are feeling, because you care.

A motivated salon team = Feeling heard and supported

If employees don’t feel like their opinion matters, you will never be able to motivate your salon staff. I think back to when I was a salon owner and I had a team member- “Mary”, who was always whining about something.

Mary would whine to her clients, other stylists and to me. She had an unhappy life and it came out at work. It was painful to hear her negativity and quite honestly, I didn’t have the patience to tolerate her conversations.

Then one day I overheard her telling the other employees that “Susan just doesn’t care about me”. I did care and realized I needed to turn her attitude around about me, quickly.

Learning to tolerate and redirect the whining, and jumping on the positive things she would say, helped to make her a much happier team player. I began to pay attention to the wonderful things she did offer our salon.

Instead of ignoring, giving advice or dismissing the things she would whine about, I began to just be empathetic and LISTEN. When the bitching would start I would simply respond with “that’s a tough thing to deal with”, or “I hate that for you”.

Results of salon owners listening and being supportive

Mary was one of the hardest salon team members to motivate. She was older than most of us, had established clients and her boyfriend took care of most of her financial needs.

She had quite literally NO REASON to earn more, do more or further contribute to our team.

Once I changed my approach with Mary, she too changed. Listening to and supporting what I felt to be insignificant problems made all the difference in the world!

Think about how you are dealing with the issues your employees bring up. Take a more empathetic approach and you may be surprised how this motivates salon employees.

Learn how to be an effective leader by empowering your salon staff

Imagine this- An unmotivated stylist comes to you with ideas around new retail products that they have heard about and want to try. These products are not the type of retail you want in your salon. Here are your choices and the likely outcomes of each:

Option #1. You say to the stylist, thank you for bringing this up but it’s not the direction we want to go. The stylist doesn’t feel heard or empowered and is still motivated to try the new products.

The stylist loves the new products and is resentful you didn’t give them a chance. She is now motivated, but it’s to leave your salon and find somewhere to work that allows her to carry the retail.

Option #2. You are flattered the stylist took initiative and is coming to you with new ideas. You offer to order a starter kit, just for her to try. and ask for feedback on what she thinks.

The new products end up being a huge hit with a few staff members and the stylist feels empowered and encouraged to continue to contribute to the team. You put the stylist in charge of educating the team motivated to use the products.

Now you have a stylist that feels heard, is getting experience in leadership and is further invested in your own salon business.

Identify positive behaviors in salon employees

Identifying and feeding behaviors around  leadership and initiative is the best way to motivate a salon team. Don’t ignore or dismiss ideas that are brought to you, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. THIS is an opportunity to grow team members and empower individuals who are invested in your salon brand.

Providing a Stable Business Environment

In the aforementioned scenario, an owner who is tight on money may have made excuses not to buy the new beauty industry products. EVEN if you are struggling to make ends meet, cutting your business off from additional income generating opportunities makes it harder to grow.

Being emotionally and financially stable, or at least appearing to be, is important to maintain a motivated team. Gossip runs wild in the break room, making sure none of those conversations have to do with the salon’s ability to stay in business.

Additional ways to motivate your salon staff

Take these tips and implement them into your business, today!

Focus on things that are simple to measure

Don’t overwhelm attempts in salon staff motivation with complicated rules or hard to reach goals. Start small and make salon employment incentives easy to understand. An easy to understand, healthy competition is far more beneficial than a complex road to achievement.

Long-term incentive programs that encourage people to stay with your salon

Consider the offer to buy into the company. Sell shares, ownership percentages and opportunities to become a hair salon manager. Let staff buy into not only your brand but the profits as well.

salon owner worries

Salon Employee Satisfaction Surveys

There are several salon employee satisfaction survey tools you can utilize to increase team building. Some salon software offers the options for not only customer feedback but for your team to answer anonymously to employee satisfaction levels.

Gauging team happiness is important to understand where and how the salon can improve.

Organize Salon Staff Events

Want more positive reviews from team members? Focus on team building activities, in-house events. Think about building a sense of community as ways to motivate your salon staff. 

Find things the whole team can participate in and ask for ideas around what events are most appealing.

Offer a Salon Career Path

Creating a clear path for advancement is key to team success. Post the benchmarks in the staff room and cover all the basic achievements.

Make advancement and additional opportunities to earn money, clear, to keep staff motivated.

How do you appreciate salon staff?

To show you appreciate salon staff, express yourself by being thankful and praising positive behaviors and achievements. This can be done verbally, by giving gifts, giving out thank you cards or by rewarding staff with prizes and perks.

What is the key to success in a salon?

The key to success in a salon is by taking ownership and being accountable for what happens in the day to day client service offerings. Making the client experience second to none is the best way to be successful in a salon career.


I hope you have found this blog to be helpful in getting ideas on how to motivate your salon team. Habits and behaviors take time to change.

Make small strides, everyday to learn the best ways to get the results you want from your business. If you are in need of another great tool for salon business help, make sure to check out our comprehensive list of salon mentors and coaches.

Additionally, our beauty industry blogs have a massive amount of free resources, guides and tools for salon owners and independent professionals.

Yours in service,

Susan Wos

motivating hair stylists starts with a great salon

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