5 simple steps to nailing your salon and hair stylist training program

Small business owners in the beauty industry search high and low for team members with specialized training, which ensures they’ll consistently deliver a great customer experience. And in an ideal world, new hires will be so experienced and talented they barely need any onboarding time and can hit the ground running.

But your salon is much more than a place where stylists simply perform their duties and earn a living. It’s your business, and to help that business thrive, you need team members who will build a great salon team, provide consistently great client care, and boost your local reputation. And that requires thorough and intentional salon training.

Don’t shy away from investing time and effort into your salon employees’ training and professional development because doing so is part of a longer-term strategy for business success. So, instead of winging it on your new team member’s first day, put a detailed training program in place so your staff members are well-equipped to meaningfully contribute to your business and exceed your expectations.

The benefits of salon employee training

According to the North America Mercer Turnover Survey, the average US turnover rate is 22% and the cost of hiring new employees can amount to as much as $1,300 each. But creating an effective salon employee training program can help reduce turnover and its associated costs, as well as grow your business and increase your clientele.

This is because salon employee training programs can:

  • Perfect and sharpen your employees’ skills so they can perform their jobs better
  • Communicate your expectations
  • Make your team members feel appreciated and valued
  • Bolster your employees’ interpersonal relationships
  • Enhance your company’s reputation for high-quality service
  • Keep your salon up to date with the latest trends, products, and technologies

How to conduct salon training and education in 5 simple steps

Whether you’re hiring a makeup artist, colorist, or skin care professional, one thing’s for certain: Training salon employees isn’t straightforward. New recruits might arrive at your salon with a lot of background knowledge, but they won’t necessarily have all the experience and business know-how they need to be a confident member of your team.

First things first, consider sending your new hires a training program to look over before their start date so they know what to expect. Homebase’s hiring and onboarding can help you with this by delivering training materials to employees along with their onboarding documents.

And if you need guidance putting together your training program, consider these five simple steps to establish and carry out a successful salon training program.

1. Determine and explain your training levels and goals

Experts from the Aveda Institute recommend training new salon hires as salon assistants for three or four months before they start their official stylist training. And even though when you begin formal training depends on your preferences as a business owner, starting with the basics is always the best idea.

So, when bringing your new trainees aboard, speak to them about the different levels of salon training you offer. And if they’re fresh out of a cosmetology program, it might be helpful to go into detail about what they’re going to learn throughout all the different stages of your training.

For example, when developing your hair stylist training program, you might set the following goals:

Level 1 | Salon basics

Your new hire will learn all about how you schedule appointments and interact with guests. You can also teach them about inventory management, salon cleanliness, and how to shampoo clients so they can start helping the other stylists right away. This is also a great time to let new team members shadow more experienced team members when they have free time.

Level 2 | Developing confidence with your craft

Here’s when your new hires can start putting their skills and learning into practice with supervision and guidance. While they may have learned many basic techniques in their beauty or cosmetology programs, they still have a lot to learn. Plus, they need to get used to the techniques you use at your salon, which will ensure that all your stylists give clients a consistent, high-quality experience.

Level 3 | Working with clients

At this level, your new hire is ready to start serving clients at a lower price point, but you or your more experienced stylists will still need to supervise them to some degree. As your trainee gains confidence working with guests, you can also teach them about retail and business skills like upselling, client retention, and client management.

Level 4 | Working independently

By now, your trainee should be ready to work by themselves. You should still offer them coaching and mentorship, but you won’t have to supervise them the same way you did before. And even though your new stylist is ready to work alone, they should still be open to continuous feedback, learning, and training for ongoing professional development.

Keep in mind: Not all of your salon new hires will need to go through every level of training. If certain new team members have experience working with clients in other salons, you could opt for a brief trial period where you observe them for a few days of work before officially bringing them on board.

2. Develop and distribute salon training materials

The most effective training programs combine a variety of different teaching methods. And while your salon training process should be mostly hands-on, you can also provide some online tutorial videos or home study materials to accommodate different learning styles.

And if you expect your new staff members to study and do research outside of their time at the salon, provide them with a list of approved resources in your employee handbook or training manual. That way, you’ll have clarity on the materials they’re learning from.

While having motivated stylists who look into educational resources independently is a good thing, it’s essential to make sure your whole team works off the same materials so they all provide the same level and quality of service. Remember, customer care inconsistencies could cost you clients in the long run.

In addition, divide and distribute your training materials by learning stage. The online training materials and resources you provide should always reinforce what your new team members are learning in person at that particular moment in their program, gradually increasing in difficulty as they progress. Read up on salon management software tools that can help you run your training and business more efficiently.

3. Conduct employee training and exchange feedback

Once your new hire understands the end goals of their training sessions and has their materials in hand, it’s time to start carrying out your actual salon training program — or hand the process over to more experienced employees.

Regardless of what you’re teaching your new hires, spend 20% of your time on educational materials and 80% on hands-on learning. And even if your trainees have a firm grasp on certain key concepts, it’s important to give them plenty of time to practice them until they feel confident. And don’t rush them — allow them to set their own pace.

You can also ask more experienced team members to help train your new hires. This way, trainees can learn certain tricks of the trade, ask specific questions, and observe how other stylists approach the same techniques on different clients.

Finally, be sure to designate time for exchanging feedback. Collect observational feedback from other salon employees in addition to your own, and:

  • At the end of every day, explain where you saw new hires excel and where they need more practice.
  • At the end of every week, prepare a list of issues and items new team members need to prioritize the following week. You can also ask for their thoughts and perspectives about your training sessions and ask if there’s anything they particularly enjoyed or felt needs improvement.
  • At the end of every month, meet for a formal performance review with new staff members so they can see how they’re doing on paper. You can also ask for more feedback about your training process. Prompt them to comment on the structure, materials, methods, and trainers themselves.

4. Move forward with coaching and mentorship

When your new hire is ready to start working on their own, it’s an occasion to celebrate. But they still need support from you and other salon team members — especially because salon trends are constantly changing and service providers in the beauty industry always need to be adaptable and willing to learn.

So, even after new staff members have successfully gone through your training program, you should provide them with four to six more months of mentorship. This ensures you’re giving them the guidance they need during their first few months with your team and prepares them for a career of lifelong learning and training.

To create a salon mentorship program that actually works, here are the steps we recommend taking:

  1. Organize your mentorship program. Decide how often your mentor and mentee should meet and what they should work on during their sessions.
  2. Decide on your incentives. Are you going to pay your mentors? Or will you offer them other kinds of rewards like extra paid time off or free access to inventory and supplies?
  3. Talk to your most experienced employees. Ask them if they’re interested in supporting new team members as mentors.
  4. Match your mentors and mentees. Pair your new hires with mentors who have similar interests or specialties, if possible.
  5. Check in with your mentors. Talk to them at least once a month to see how their mentorship sessions are coming along. Offer guidance and advice if they need help supporting their mentee.

5. Acknowledge milestones and celebrate successes

Being a salon trainee involves a lot of hard work, dedication, and willingness to take constructive feedback. And working in a salon isn’t an easy career path — you probably already know that because you’ve done it, too. That’s why you should build in celebrations for every milestone your new salon employees hit throughout their training process.

And don’t just celebrate when your new hires complete their program. Recognize accomplishments like their first 25 or 50 clients, their first positive feedback, or completing a long, challenging job without coaching.

You can celebrate your new team members’ achievements with:

  • Team announcements and shoutouts on your team chat app
  • An employee happiness app, which can track and celebrate work anniversaries
  • A praise wall in your break room
  • Posts about employee successes on social media
  • Organized events like staff lunches or office parties
  • Perks like discounts and deals on your products

Streamline your salon training and onboarding process with Homebase

Discovering top salon talent is just a small piece of the giant hiring process puzzle. And your brand new stylist or esthetician’s learning and development largely depends on the effectiveness of your company’s training and development programs.

If you’re struggling to build an onboarding and training program for your salon business, Homebase can help.

Our onboarding platform takes the hassle out of hiring, allowing you to track all job applicants in a single location, screen candidates, and communicate and schedule interviews. And it doesn’t stop there. Homebase onboarding can also help you with:

  • New hire paperwork and welcome packets. As soon as you send someone a job offer, we’ll send them your new hire paperwork.
  • Pre-onboarding. Your new team members can enter their information into your database and e-sign their direct deposit and tax documents.
  • Document storage. Once your new hires e-sign their documents, we’ll securely store them on our platform, keeping you compliant.

Salon training FAQs

homebase customer photo homebase customer photo

What is the best way to train stylists?

The best way to train stylists is to start out slowly, gradually introducing your trainees to each technique they need to perfect. In general, you should follow these steps:

  1. Determine the goals and techniques your team members need to perfect at every level before they can move on.
  2. Introducing the techniques. Break them down step-by-step first, with accompanying training materials. Then, show trainees how the techniques look in action.
  3. Let your new hires practice with supervision and guidance. Don’t rush them. They need to perfect their craft at their own pace.
  4. When your new team members are ready to work with clients on their own, train them on your salon business practices. At this point, they’ll get paid, but at lower prices than average.
  5. Continue coaching and mentoring new team members while they serve clients.
  6. Celebrate milestones and successes. For example, make a teamwide announcement when your new trainee completes their first month working with clients independently.

Where can I find hair stylists for my business?

There are a few ways you can find hair stylists for your salon business, and we recommend using two or more of the below methods for the best results:

  • Using a hiring and onboarding platform like Homebase to post your job listing across multiple sites
  • Share posts on sites like Indeed or ZipRecruiter
  • Publish a classified ad on Craigslist or Facebook
  • Use salon-specific job search sites like Behind the Chair or Simply Salon
  • Leverage your salon’s social network pages on Facebook, Instagram, or even LinkedIn to post about new stylist opportunities
  • Make sure you mention you’re hiring on your salon website
  • Connect with local cosmetology programs to see if they have graduates who might be interested in working with you

How long does it take to learn how to be a hairstylist?

In general, it can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete a hair stylist program at a licensed beauty school. In addition to that, new stylists should be prepared to spend at least six more months of on-the-job apprenticeship and training before they’re ready to handle their own clients.

What is expected of a new salon employee?

New salon employees are expected to have:

  • Familiarity with styling tools and products
  • Some inventory management knowledge or training 
  • Experience with shampooing client hair
  • Some experience interacting with clients at reception or the front desk
  • Knowledge and practical experience with cutting and styling techniques
  • Experience with coloring and treating techniques
  • Knowledge of how a salon operates and best practices around customer retention and client booking
  • A growth and learning mindset

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