PULSE POINTS:Unstaffed Positions
by Russell Donaldson

Without going deep into economic theory, industries strive for ‘full employment.’ If there aren’t enough people, demand won’t be met and the industry won’t perform to its full potential. For some time, the spa industry has seen a trend of unfilled vacancies—spas actively seeking to recruit staff to help them meet their demand. With the number of unstaffed positions in the spa industry equating to approximately 10 percent of the overall workforce, it is worth paying attention to where the gaps are and why they exist.

In the ISPA U.S. Spa Industry Study each year, ISPA publishes a ‘compensation supplement,’ gathering data on staffing, earnings and benefits. Total employment in the spa industry in 2018 is estimated at 372,100, so it’s a strong contributor to overall U.S. employment. However, the 2018 study also estimated that the industry has over 38,000 unstaffed positions across the U.S., with two thirds of survey respondents reporting vacancies for service providers specifically.

Unfilled positions are primarily caused by two things: new job openings created by growth of a business and people leaving to take new positions. The majority of service provider vacancies (over 20,000) are for massage therapists. In addition, an estimated 8,000 estheticians and 7,000 nail technicians could be recruited. The high number of vacancies points to a strong level of demand for people with the necessary skills and qualifications to work in spas as service providers. Demand for directors and managers exists too, with over 2,500 unstaffed positions estimated in 2018, showing that good development opportunities exist for those currently working in the industry or for those keen to pursue a career in spa management.

In the 2018 Industry Study, participants were asked what they believed was the main issue facing the workforce. A lack of qualified and experienced talent was easily the main challenge and was highlighted by 40 percent of respondents. They say the number of qualified people doesn’t match the growth in the industry, a finding which backs up the large number of service provider vacancies. This in turn can mean difficulties meeting demand. Many of the remaining issues mentioned are linked to recruitment difficulties including training, turnover and staff retention, pay and compensation structures, and regulations. The growth in the number of spas and the ensuing competition for staff was also highlighted by respondents.

Clues as to why people want to work in spas—which may be useful starting points for recruiters—can be found in ISPA’s recent Workforce Study. In that study, service providers overwhelmingly said that their main attraction to the industry was the nature of the work itself and 80 percent said they wanted a long-term career in spa. If they had left a previous role in the industry, a poor work environment was the top reason.

Using the people who are great advocates for working in the industry could go some way to attracting talent to the spa workforce and fill some of the vacancies that currently exist. It also goes without saying that those recruiting within spas or training the next generation of service providers have a role to play in highlighting why people want to join the industry. The hope is that this will draw more people to work in an industry that provides fulfilment to so many, allowing the workforce to grow and the industry to reach its full potential.