Educator Turnover: Breaking the Cycle

Keri Davis-Duffy | Source: Gila Rut
Keri Davis-Duffy | Source: Gila Rut

Consistent Salon Education Awaits

In-house salon education programs hone stylists’ technical and soft skills to get them ready to hit your salon’s floor. But for owners, running in-salon classes, training trainers and keeping content consistent is another full-time job.

Soon after opening Gila Rut 25 years ago (now with three locations in the San Diego area), owner Keri Davis-Duffy realized she couldn’t do it all, and her in-salon training program needed to be delegated to someone else.

Karla Lopez Martinez | Source: Gila Rut
Source: Gila Rut

“I promoted stylists to trainers and sent them off to programs so they could learn how to do it,” she says. “I spent a lot of money educating educators over the years.”

And while Gila Rut’s stylist training program was excellent and effective, there was room for improvement. The technical aspect was sound, but there weren’t enough guidelines for the educators, which created a lack of consistency.

Davis-Duffy decided it was time to create a plan not just for her new stylists, but also her educators.

A Plan for Consistency

With her team, including salon partner and educator Karla Lopez-Martinez, and lead educator Jonatan Rizo, Davis-Duffy developed Train U a system to keep every educator in the salon consistent in everything from class preparation, to teaching methods, to specific lesson plans.

“Educators are now consistent across the board, delivering the curriculum in an efficient, effective manner,” Davis-Duffy says.

Not only is the stylist education program running smoothly, Gila Rut’s culture has also improved because of it.

“You can’t have a strong culture without strong systems.”

“If you don’t have an education program to build systems to build culture, you have nothing. So I started with an education program,” Davis Duffy says.

The turnover in educators every two or three years was resulting in inconsistent education, and Davis-Duffy kept having to step in to work with new educators.

“I had no method to teaching or system to train the educators. We didn’t have any class prep, either,” she says.

Now, with Train U, there is a how-to guide for all the tools and resources educators use.

“We have time-efficient programs with five learning points (engage, define, explore, create and express) so stylists know what they need to do to get on the salon floor,” Davis-Duffy explains.

“There are class guides that allow educators the freedom to create their own classes after they’ve moved through the first phase, too.”

The information in the class guides is specific, telling educators what to say, what to listen for, what handout to give, etc.

“It’s very detailed,” Davis-Duffy says. “It’s not left up to the educator anymore, so students get consistent education every time, no matter who is teaching them.”

The benefits are three-fold—for the stylist, the educator and the salon:

Stylist Benefits

  • Highly engaging program
  • Consistent learning
  • Fast pace


Educator Benefits

  • Additional source of revenue
  • Enthusiastic stylists
  • Confidence builder
  • New learned skill
  • Growth opportunities
  • Cultural ambassador


Salon Benefits

  • Education is company owned
  • No teaching experience necessary for a stylist to become an educator (they go through the Train U program and do online tutorials that take them through an education binder)
  • Class consistency
  • Technical consistency
  • Systematically taught
  • Peace of mind for owner


The Beauty of Testing Out

Finally, educator evaluations of students are formulated and required to avoid passing people just to be nice or not hurt someone’s feelings.

Love this shot of stylist @vanessapalstylist cutting this Precision-Bob-Hairstyle. #haircutselfie #inthezone #experiencegilarut

Posted by Gila Rut San Diego Salon on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

“There’s a numeric evaluation,” Davis-Duffy says. “Students know what they are going to be evaluated on before they even start class. For example, you can’t pass a 45-minute hair cut if you are taking 1.5 hours to do it.

On the flip side, students are also given reviews to fill out about the education they receive (anonymously) to make educators stronger.

“People want to know how they are doing so they can do it better,” she says.

Karla Lopez-Martinez applying makeup | Source: Gila Rut
Source: Gila Rut

A System for Everyone

Gila Rut has had such success with Train U that they’ve made it available for salons to purchase. With Train U, the guesswork is removed for owners who want to revamp their education program, but feel intimidated by the process.

Visual aids, Power Point presentations, handouts, progress trackers, check sheets and more are all easily accessed online by educators and students.

“The goal for every salon is to have a sustainable program so they can always be growing and ready,” Davis-Duffy says. “Train U allows them to promote stylists, train them, and find a new educator when one quits or steps down.”

Everything Gila Rut uses is available in Train U. And with more than 25 years of experience, Davis-Duffy and her team know what works and what doesn’t for in-salon education.

“We developed Train U so we could share ours with you and help you successfully launch it in your salon,” she says. “It removes the guesswork, offering everything you need to create a consistent, inspiring training program that eliminates the crisis created when educators leave.”

Visit to learn more about Train U.


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