As we surge out of lockdowns around the world, extreme staff shortages are being experienced across a large number of industry sectors, including spa and wellness.
The US Chamber of Commerce is reporting around 11m open vacancies, for example, while the UK government says job vacancies have broken the 1m mark for the first time since records began.
During lockdowns, many staff who were let go took work in other sectors, found the grass greener and are not returning. This is increasing the competition for talent and seeing the spa and wellness sector at a disadvantage due to low pay.
The ‘quit rate’ is also soaring in some areas of industry, as people realise jobs are plentiful and move on if they’re not happy, giving good employers a clear advantage.
The spa and wellness industry has had a chronic challenge with recruitment for the past decade, with staff shortages commonplace even before the pandemic. This layering on of post-lockdown staffing pressures is simply exacerbating a fundamental weakness in the sector and bringing things to crisis point for some operators.
Lack of staff means turnaways and empty treatment rooms, reducing margins, dissuading investors and disappointing customers who are unable to get treatments.
This systemic problem has been undermining profitability for years. PricewaterhouseCoopers – in its profitability research studies for ISPA – has regularly flagged up the fact that the industry has not been optimising its capacity, due to operators’ failure to hire enough staff, with this putting the brakes on growth.
In 2017, I wrote an editorial for this page highlighting the existence of a range of poor employment practices in parts of the sector – from modern slavery to bad pay – and calling on industry leaders to make a commitment to building the sector’s reputation as an excellent employer.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made and this situation has now escalated to the point where we must recognise this isn’t only a recruitment challenge, it’s an existential and reputational crisis.
Until we can establish the industry as a great place to work – across the board – with fair pay and good working conditions, the behaviour of unethical operators will continue to harm the prospects of the entire sector