What I’ve learned… about retaining team members

Hari Salem, founder of the iconic HARI’S HAIRDRESSERS in West London, on what he’s picked up about keeping staff loyal across his salon group’s lengthy lifetime

I’ve always thought retaining staff is crucial to any salon owner. Without a good team, you haven’t got a business. Having worked for many successful salons before I opened my first shop, I learned what to do and what not to do.  Having been in the industry now for over 50 years and with my own salon business for 41 years, I’m very proud to say that most of my team have been with us for the whole of their careers. And this is the main reason I believe my salons have been the successes they have been.

The first and most important reason for retaining staff is training. Good training is the foundation of our business today. I don’t have fond memories of my training days and I wouldn’t want to wish that upon anyone. It felt like cheap labour, shampooing all day and only two hours training a week in the evening after a long day.

Training is so important to me that I gave up my column 10 years ago to focus on educating my team. I spend one or two full days per week with my trainees, where we develop a bond and trust that you cannot buy or recruit. This enables them to come to me if there are any issues that might arise at work. I give them my time and attention, which helps build strong relationships, cementing a strong salon team.

Our training school has really developed over the last few years, now training around 30 people each year through either an NVQ or HARI’s own academy. We have recently employed a head of education to look after the apprentices and make sure they get the most out of the training experience. The training starts with one day per week, and as they progress, they move to two days per week, and eventually onto the ‘fast track’ programme that gets them ready to have their own column, training four days a week.

Opportunity is the second most important reason for retaining staff. People won’t stick around if they get bored or feel they’re not progressing. When I train hairdressers, I give them a skill set that allows them to grow into great hairdressers over time.  For the more experienced stylists, we support them by entering industry awards, getting involved in Fashion Week, weddings or other events that are thrown our way giving them a host of opportunities to develop. We opened our Notting Hill branch two years ago and gave three of our longest serving staff the opportunity to invest in the business.

Pay is another important factor in retaining staff, although this isn’t always the most important for everyone. From the outset, I look to pay my staff well. For a business owner it makes no sense to take advantage of someone and pay them less early on to find out they are unhappy and see them leave. It also helps motivate and drive the junior staff to see more senior staff earning well.

Fulham Road Salon

Keeping the team busy and driving new clients through the door is an important factor in retaining staff.  I’m heavily involved in the marketing and PR activities of the salons to ensure this happens.

Atmosphere in the salon also helps keep staff loyal. I’m really proud of the look and feel of all of my salons, with each of them having their own identity with different vibes and energy. I have personally fitted out the salons with furniture from my travels around the world, making each salon personal and unique.  We employ staff from all backgrounds and cultures, ensuring that all feel welcome and comfortable and I make sure everyone is treated with respect from the cleaner to the senior stylist.

Finally, having a big Christmas party (even via Zoom) to celebrate all the hard work is a highlight of the year for everyone! It boosts team bonding and morale, helping everyone through the busy Christmas period.

Meet Hari and his team…

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