09/10/2013 04:48 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2013

LinkedIn's Question on Spa Training

Do esthetician receive enough training in schools to practice at spas?

This was the question posed by industry expert Melinda Minton on the LinkedIn Group
For Estheticians and Skin Care Professionals. The response has been immediate and enlightening. Comprised of opinions from new graduates to experienced veterans to spa managers, no one feels as though basic esthetic curriculum prepares an esthetician to hit the ground running, much less to lay hands on face or bikini area.

Spa training was recently the topic of international discussion as well. In March at the first Hotelier Spa & Wellness Forum in Dubai, top decision makers from leading hotels bemoaned the lack of therapist skill at selling retail. Only a few weeks ago Hotelier ME magazine published an article entitled Lack of Trained Staff a Concern for Regions Spas.
Training has also been an omnipresent issue for the past few years at major spa conventions in the U.S.

So why exactly is it so difficult to resolve this problem?

I believe it is simply a lack of foresight. Many spa directors will say that a training budget has not been allocated. But that is rather like owning an expensive sports car without the means to take it for a yearly maintenance check or purchase new tires when needed. As time goes on, the possibility increases that an accident will happen because of failing parts. And it will be more costly than the scheduled maintenance would have been.

If you operate a popular hotel it is inevitable that without training updates, mistakes will happen. At some point the wife of an overseas dignitary will decide to have a facial service and the therapist will damage her skin. Or a regular client from your base will book a spa party for her blond teenage daughter and posse of multi-ethnic friends only to discover later that their experience was sub-par due to a cultural or ethnic gaffe. Perhaps a well-known celebrity will be assigned the same apathetic, retail challenged therapist that I encountered at a Five-Star hotel in Philadelphia and choose to mention the poor service on a nationally syndicated morning talk show.

All of these situations have the potential to become social media nightmares which will require thousands of dollars in damage control. They are all avoidable (and cheaper) through training updates.

At the end of the day the reasons and justification for staff training is so simple anyone should "get it."

1. Your staff represents your brand.
2. Performance excellence is a learned skill set reinforced by training and feedback.
3. Changing demographics are resulting in new revenue streams.
4. Broader knowledge of skin allows for broader customer outreach.
5. Greater client engagement yields more product and service sales.

In today's climate it's important for spa directors to recognize that education on a wider range of skin types, cultural diversity, social media influence and customer engagement is what will differentiate one spa from another. Clients always spend their money where they get the best bang for their buck. And that is worth investing in.