While every segment of the franchising industry is struggling amid the novel Coronavirus pandemic, many service-based businesses have been hit especially hard due to state-mandated closures and social distancing practices. In light of the current situation, franchisors need to do everything they can to support franchisees, team members and employees. At Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spas (multiple locations), one of the main initiatives has been focused on the engagement of staff members, as well as creating the infrastructure for recruitment efforts down the line.
Keeping Massage Therapists Engaged and Supported
With many studios shutting down across the country, it is important to keep teams engaged during the downtime. Hand & Stone launched a weekly motivation webinar for its massage therapists to foster excitement on topics related to the industry. In addition to reminding staff why they entered the massage space, these webinars are an opportunity for therapists to connect with each other and share best practices. For example, during a recent webinar one therapist discuss the difference between state licensing and board certification exams, while another shared distinct tools that can be used to become certified.
Whether it is discussing ethics, new standards in the industry, consumer promotions, or COVID-19 information, it’s important to maintain an open dialogue with each massage therapist to keep them up-to-date and informed. These conversations are essential and can create a close-knit business community for franchisees. Initiatives like this may have been hard to prioritize during the regular work week, but now they have nothing but time.
In addition, Hand & Stone has been increasing engagement on its massage therapist Facebook page, including a campaign called “Know Your Why” where therapists share their self-care routines. Beyond engagement, the franchise has also been encouraging staff to catch up on online training and ongoing education initiatives. There are countless ways franchisors can connect massage therapists to their profession and make staff feel inspired coming out of this crisis.
New Hiring Initiatives
In terms of the future labor market, many are noting that there will likely be a deeper pool of qualified candidates as smaller massage or beauty businesses are forced to cut staff or close their doors. During this time, the value of a franchise network and proven infrastructure will become increasingly apparent. There are only about 3,000 franchised massage locations in the country, with the other 20,000 being independently owned. Coming out of this, qualified massage therapists will be looking for stable work, and the businesses that were able to show adaptability and support during this time will be the ones that people are attracted to, both from a consumer standpoint and an employee standpoint.
When it comes to recruitment efforts, it is important to pivot messaging in order to highlight how the business has supported staff amid COVID-19. For example, Hand & Stone has been sending newsletters to its partner schools to keep prospective stylists and students up-to-date on our initiatives. While most advertising has been suspended at this point, the brand is slowly but surely getting its marketing back up and running. How brands support their franchisees and teams will be the primary story needed to create brand awareness and return bigger and better after this crisis.
In the massage industry and beyond, we may start seeing a reprioritization of which skills are most important when hiring. For example, massage therapists who have certificates in oncology may be in high demand as they have experience in medical training and can be ready for the new needs of consumers.
The Future of the Industry
Like all businesses, Hand & Stone is developing new safety and sanitation protocols designed to protect consumers as well as massage therapists. Expectations will be very different when we return to “normal” life, so we must work diligently to ensure that our studios are secure for all parties involved. For example, Hand & Stone has put together a reopening policy that highlights some best practices, especially for those studios that are considered an essential business in their state. It is important to remember that, as an essential massage therapist, the services provided need to be health-oriented in order to create the right environment.
While hiring initiatives have been at the top of mind, Hand & Stone is also offering local business owners additional support throughout this pandemic. Whether it be loan application and lease deferment resources, virtual training, member benefits, consumer promotions, or at-home alternatives to popular massage services, the company continues to look for ways to aid its franchisees. Outside of its internal teams, Hand & Stone has also been donating supplies to first responders and hospitals in addition to contacting elderly members and clients to provide food or other essentials.
In every industry, business owners, team members, and even consumers are in need of compassion and assistance, not only to survive through this trying time, but also to ensure that we can all come back stronger than ever on the other side.
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