- How to Hire (and Keep) Dog Grooming Staff
It's no wonder dog grooming businesses are in high demand! Yet, finding good help can be challenging if you don't know what to look for in your groomer and other assistants. Obviously, showing up on time and having the right attitude is critical. But what else? How can you ensure you hire well and keep your staff happy?
1. Consider your expectations
Business people - not groomers, run some pet salons. They want to hire seasoned groomers who'll do a top-notch job to keep their customers coming back. You'll review their grooming portfolios for this type of hiring potential, talk to past employers, and ask about future plans. You want to find someone who's experienced and committed to grooming but not someone who wants to open their own salon in a year or two.
On the other hand, experienced dog groomers with a salon sometimes hire bathers or receptionists because they want to handle all the actual grooming themselves. Still, others have developed a training methodology over the years and prefer to hire less experienced people and teach them their methods.
What's your preference? It'll guide you on what you say in your ad, how you talk to the candidates and help you hire the right people.
2. What about certifications and training?
This fits in with your expectations. If you'd rather hire an experienced groomer, you'll want to ask what certifications they have. What types of ongoing professional development do they participate in? Some dog groomers love going to the trade shows and meeting their colleagues. These regional events are great places for continuing education, exchanging ideas with other groomers and discovering new products in the marketplace. Some groomers even participate in dog grooming competitions at events like PetQuest or Groom Expo.
Such groomers are committed to the field and it shows with their enthusiasm for continuous learning. They're looking for an employer who is also excited to let them share what they know. Perhaps, they're excited by perfecting a dog's rounded foot; if so, encourage it. Let them practice on as many dogs as possible. Or, they may be dedicated to finding ways to calm an excited dog. Such dedicated groomers are a tremendous asset to your salon. Encourage them, pay them well, give them time off for the trade shows, and they'll add to your bottom line.
Of course, everyone on your team needs training. Whether it's in-house, online, or at a physical grooming school or event, what type of training can you offer your team?
3. Show 'n tell
Nothing beats a real-life demonstration. You can ask the potential groomer to bring along a dog - theirs, a friend's, or a neighbor's - and watch as they groom that animal right there in your shop. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, it doesn't have to take up much time, but this shows you how they handle dogs and grooming tools.
4. Do some role-playing and cover a few "what if's"
Pet handling is critical in a grooming shop. Skilled groomers know how to calm a nervous dog and get them to cooperate through soothing talk and handling. Some dogs do better with rest breaks allowing the groomer to get started on another dog in between and groomers who can recognize this excel.
What's their process for handling dogs? What do they do in case of dog aggression? How experienced are they at reading canine body language? Do they know how to bandage an injured animal and when to call the owner in case of emergency?
And don't forget the human clients! Everyone knows that sometimes a pet parent doesn't like the outcome despite the groomer's best efforts. Maybe the dog was badly matted, and the groomer had to shave the dog. How do they address the pet parent's concerns?
Asking such questions will help you better understand their knowledge and approach.
5. Pay competitive wages
It's a worker's market these days. Between the growth of the pet industry and covid concerns, there's a shortage of skilled groomers and support staff. Offering an additional $1.50 or $2.00 / hour can make the difference between hiring a qualified and enthusiastic groomer or continuing to be short-staffed.
6. Consider an Incentive Program
You can encourage employee loyalty with monthly or quarterly incentives such as bonuses or gift cards. Have a contest where the employee who prebooks the most appointments or upsells grooming services wins the award.
7. Do they love animals?
Don't just assume they're applying for a pet grooming job because they love animals - ask them! The level of passion in their answer will be significant. Remember, you don't want someone in your shop who would rather be working with people or flowers.
What do they do for fun? Many groomers also foster animals, participate in agility trials or volunteer at the shelter. That's not to say you should only hire people who spend all their time with animals. Experienced groomers know working with animals can be rewarding but also exhausting. Additionally, some groomers may have other care-taking responsibilities like children or other family members at the current time. However, if they love animals, you'll know.
8. Develop a Company Culture
Teambuilding events (which can sometimes do double duty as training!) can spark camaraderie. Holiday and birthday celebrations also help employees feel part of a team.
One groomer has created a positive culture in her salon by hanging a sign near the employee entrance that says, "Hang your cares here. You can pick them up on your way out if you like." It's a visual reminder to staff to leave behind worries and frustrations and come to work in a positive frame of mind.
Another groomer trains her staff on grooming techniques and pet handling and encourages them to be "the groomer" for their pet clients. Each groomer can build their own book of business in her salon which gives them autonomy and maximum financial rewards without the demands of business ownership.
When people enjoy where they work, they're less likely to jump ship at the first opportunity for an extra dollar or two an hour. It starts with feeling appreciated, which starts with you as the employer.
Hiring well is part art and part science. Of course, they need to have a great attitude, know how to handle dogs (or be willing to learn), and show up on time. But there are other aspects to hiring well that start with you and your expectations for your grooming salon. What kind of groomer do you want? How much grooming latitude are you willing to give them, and how well can you pay? Do you want to start new hires as a bather and train them on grooming techniques yourself?
Define your vision for your grooming salon and you'll make better hires for your grooming staff. Here's to your grooming growth.