Top Ten Tips For Developing A Salon Education Program


Whether you have a training program you’d like to improve or you’re just developing one, here are 10 best practices to incorporate.

1. Start Trainees as General Assistants.

Train a candidate as a general salon assistant for three or four months prior to their entering your training program. That allows enough time and exposure for the candidate to understand what your salon is about, and for you to understand what they’re about.

You’re about to invest a lot of training time and money into this individual, so it’s important to know that they’re going to be a constructive team member and a good cultural fit when they finish training.

2. Outline Levels and Goals.

To execute a craft at a certain level, you have to practice the same actions repeatedly until you master that skill. It’s a different process than the standard academic learn-test-forget method. For this reason, younger learners can get annoyed with all the repetition. They want to conquer, “test out,” and rush forward. If we don’t set clear expectations for the standards of the next level, they’re confused — “We went through this!” or “We’re just repeating the same thing!”

But when shown that they’re expected to hit a higher level of execution than the last time, that they have to perfect THIS technique to THIS standard — they get it. The key is to be clear about the criteria they have to meet at each level, up front.

3. Break it Down.

In teaching a craft, there is often a lot of assumed knowledge by the instructor. One of the biggest mistakes we make is to overestimate what a student can do. So start each lesson assuming they know nothing. Break each technique into the simplest components; train the students on each separate element; then build it all back up into a technique.

This process of breaking it down and building it back up becomes especially important as you train new service providers in the way your salon does things. As students they have access to a massive amount of information. They need a point of reference, and it’s your job as a trainer to give it to them. Otherwise they’ll seek tutorials out on YouTube that may be counter to the standards you’re trying to create.


4. Keep the Ratios Low.

Any more than 12 trainees per educator and the instruction becomes diluted. This is especially true with new hires who have had some experience, or who were at the top of their class in cosmetology school — the more someone knows, the more you have to slow them down to see what they’re doing. The best thing you can do is watch them with an eye toward coaching what needs to be corrected. If you turn around and they’re done with the task, you’re not being effective.

The ratio of classroom instruction to hands-on time should be about 20:80. In craft-centered training, 80% is applied application of theory, i.e. practicing what you have learned, becomes far more effective than sitting in a classroom.


5. Practice and Self-Pace.

Trainees can understand the theory and concept — but until the neural pathways are built and they have built dexterity and muscle memory, it’s all just theory. Put a comb or scissors in their hands, and without practice, there’s no connection between that knowledge and how the hands move to achieve it. They need to practice over and over to create the connection.

Trainers should spend substantial time with the ones who are not getting it as quickly. As educators, that’s where we get pushed.

Plus, people develop at different speeds, so training with individual test-outs is most effective. Allow them to take the test when they’re ready, not because the calendar says it’s time. The most effective learning program is a series of competencies that lets them test out and advance to the next level, at their own pace.

The 3-Tiered Training Program

There are a lot of programs out there, but this is the structure we’ve seen most effective.

1- ApprenticeshipA 3-4 month “audition” as a general salon assistant reveals if they’re a fit with your culture, before you invest in their base training. They’ll contribute by shampooing, working the front desk, even stocking shelves.

2- Base Training- After deemed a fit and while apprenticing further, add in 8 paid training hours a week. These are self-paced and based on set competencies. The trainee must pass each level to move to the next. Once all are completed, they enter the New Talent Program.

3- New Talent Program- At this level the trainee is now “New Talent” and begins seeing guests at reduced prices. Class time drops to about 4-6 paid hours a week and now includes business-building skills, like retail sales. Once all skills are trained on and basic benchmarks like RPST are met, the trainee graduates out of New Talent Program.

Advanced Education Education never ends… so for “on staff” team members, advanced education is ongoing and at least quarterly.

6. Layer in Benchmarks Over Time.

Once the trainees have mastered basic skills training, it’s time to introduce the business behind the chair. They should begin a second level of technical training, layered in with instruction about benchmarks for guest retention, pre-booking, etc. All these behaviors should become part of their ongoing review process, so they’re developing their technical and business-building skills, simultaneously.

Once they’re seeing clients, there should be a coach near their chair observing their behaviors and giving feedback.

7. Control the Content.

As the owner, it is necessary for you to have control and knowledge of your training program’s content and materials. If you let someone else develop highly individualized content, and you don’t know it, you’re without a training program if they leave. Maintain access and approval on all content. Even if someone else is developing and running your training program, you should know what the program involves, and have full access to everything.

8. Invest in Your Trainers.

You want trainers who are excited and motivated so that their positive energy flows to the trainees. Compensate them financially: If they’re highly skilled stylists also working behind the chair, determine how much time they’re devoting to instruction (generally a half-day or more) and pay them time-and-a-half in exchange for this work that eats into their personal time. Compensate them professionally: Send them to exciting advanced education opportunities that will make them better at what they do and give them more incentive to teach and to stay on your team. Over the years, it will pay off.

9. Celebrate Milestones.

Congrats BonnieTrainees appreciate recognition and validation. They know that if their advancement means something to you, then it must be important. Congratulate them every time they reach their next level. Post progress in the breakroom; recognize them during team meetings; print certificates —whatever fits into your salon culture. Incorporate celebration and recognition as a necessary component of your training program.

10. Constantly Build Your Team. 

You should view your training program as a growth engine for your company. Make it your plan to constantly be moving people through the program. Even if you’re not “hiring,” if you see talent out there, get them on board in some way. People move; their spouses get relocated; they have life changes — and it’s dangerous to get too comfortable with the staff you have now. Develop your team, in a way you can move trained people smoothly into place when the opportunity arises. It’s strategically a much more sound move than frantically fishing for employees when there is a position to fill.

Need help creating your education program? Let’s talk.


Archived Comments

3 Comments (Comments are closed)

  1. Brandy Branch says:

    Good afternoon
    Is NeillTSP hiring for an cosmetology instructor?

  2. Excellent guidelines! The details matter! We are developing our in salon program as we speak! Its scheduled to start in the fall! Good to know we are in alignment! Neill Tsp gave me a great start! Sean its good to see your face! Paul the patient! lol Im happy for your company’s professional success! all the best!

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