Retaining tanning salon employees is the hot topic this week. “Poached Out in Paducah” posed a tricky question to this tanning salon business consultant:

“How do I prevent clients from trying to poach my employees? Over the years, I’ve had tanners who’ve done everything from ask my salon employees to babysit to go and work for their companies. My employee policy states that there’s supposed to be no fraternization with our customers but I can’t focus all my attention on enforcing that when I have so many other duties. I know that I can’t compete with $15 an hour plus health insurance, but there has to be something I can do to hang on to the tanning salon staff I have. Help!”

Thank you for an excellent question. I know that other tanning salon owners struggle with this issue, too.

Enforcing a non-fraternization policy is a lesson in futility. Telling this generation of tanning salon employees who they can talk to and what they can talk about is fruitless. Frankly, millennials don’t need to worry about a job for a job’s sake. If all they’re looking for is a paycheck, they can work at many entry-level service jobs.

Want to avoid competing with healthcare benefits and $15 an hour? Then start the employment relationship with an interview that determines if the candidate really wants to work in the tanning business for its own sake. Across the country with many salons, we look and eventually find folks who work in tanning just because they love tanning. It’s similar to young people who spend thousands of dollars to get a four-year degree in sociology.

Most sociology majors know that what they’ll earn won’t compensate them for all their school loans. This doesn’t seem to discourage them, though. These are people who want to be of service to the community, and social work is their passion. Believe it or not, successful tanning salon owners also find passionate employees. These young people know they’re sacrificing higher income working somewhere else to be part of this indulgence tanning business.

Keep in mind that the indoor tanning industry is much more appealing then Wendy’s, or on a shipping line at some warehouse. Having said that, for those who do not have the luxury of just doing what they’re passionate about, we can never compete with $15 an hour and paid health care. But, once you have some staff who are dedicated to indoor tanning, use these tips to keep them at your tanning salon:

  1. Offer some dollars for ACA reimbursement after they’ve successfully completed a year of work at your tanning salon. (Successfully means good performance reviews and little or no discipline issues.
  2. For the better performing workers, offer a “retention bonus” of say $400. Pay it out at the end of the peak tanning season if they stay fully employed during during that time. If you think about it, $400 is cheap when compared to the cost of replacing a good sales person in the middle of March.
  3. Have a career path designed so salon employees can see the ways they can be promoted. For example, Sales Consultant I to sales consultant II to assistant manager to manager to senior manager and so on. Millennials want promotions, and even getting it at a tanning salon will reinforce their egos and desire to grow with the company.

While we’re on the subject, why not do a little poaching yourself? It’s really easy. Carry some business cards around with you when you’re shopping or going to restaurants and other businesses in town. If you encounter someone who gives amazing customer service and is a good salesperson, slip them a business card. Ask them to call you if they’re interested in a job change. Just be sure to do this when the person’s boss or supervisor is not there to see it. You don’t want to cost someone the job they already have!

It was a pleasure answering your question. I hope this information helps you in your efforts to prevent employee poaching… and maybe poach a few good tanning salon employees, yourself. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask this tanning salon business consultant.