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Few generations in the workforce have inspired as much conversation as Gen Z, the designation given to those born between roughly 1996 and 2010 (ages 13 to 27 as of this writing). It’s a population that’s grown up with all things digital, a confident group generally defined as having entrepreneurial drive, firm demands for personal flexibility, and expectations about how things should run.

How does a salon or spa manager in their 30s or 40s (or, ahem, older) make it work for this unique set of employees? When do you give in to requests and when do you take a solid “old school” stance? Most important: How do you keep Gen Z working hard, feeling great, and charting a career path with your brand?

Fast fact: By 2025, Gen Z will make up 27% of the U.S. workforce.

As part of Innergize 2023, the premier beauty and wellness event presented by Zenoti, three industry leaders shared their experiences managing the Gen Z workforce. Their expertise yields a playbook of sorts for any leader or executive looking to cultivate careers for this essential group.  
The experts:  
Van Council, Founder, Van Michael Salon
Paul Trieu, Director of IT, founding family member, Evergreen Beauty College
Florence Gaven Rossavik, Co-founder, Fuzz Wax Bar

If you’re ramping up hiring for 2024 or looking for better ways to connect with a younger go-getter generation, these recommendations are for you.  

Ensure that Gen Z staff participates – and is heard.

Thanks to social media, Gen Z is used to immediate information exchange, with their opinions heard and responded to. Keep that in mind when developing onboarding, team training, and one-on-one conversations about performance and career growth.  

Van Michael founder Van Council promotes accountability and acknowledges all voices. “You’ve got to allow Gen Z employees to take ownership of their ideas and projects. We encourage ideas, brainstorming... let ‘em have a seat at the table, recognize ‘em, and reward ‘em.”

Embrace flexibility when you can...

The Gen Z workforce is known to ask for benefits that may paint them as entitled or demanding by older staffers – especially around work schedule management and time off.  

Listen to their proposals. Determine what works for your brand and business needs. Then, offer flexibility where you can and where it’s realistic to do so.

As an example, the Van Michael brand has evolved the traditional idea of a work week for the Gen Z set. “They don’t want to grind the way we did seven days a week,” says Van Council, who’s been in the salon industry for nearly five decades. “But they’ll do four days real hard. Four days on, three days off. That’s the norm now.”  

Fuzz Wax Bar leadership offers flexibility in ways that suit their business model. “About 40% of our staff are Gen Z,” says co-founder Florence Gaven Rossavik. “We’re a very niche business – waxing only. To validate Gen Z, we’re flexible.” For Rossavik, that flexibility has ranged from offering longer vacations to inviting staff with a skincare line to run a pop-up shop at a Fuzz Wax location.

“Gen Z is not lazy. They’re busy. They have side hustles and other things going on in their lives. We have to embrace that now and validate it.”
- Florence Gaven Rossavik, co-founder, Fuzz Wax Bar

… but draw the line when you have to.

For all the flexibility you can offer to keep Gen Z happy and engaged, make it clear when some rules need to be firmly adhered to. Paul Trieu, an exec and member of the founding family at Evergreen Beauty School, has a student body that’s 81% Gen Z. As Trieu says, “they don’t like to be told ‘no’.”

To establish or reset expectations with students, Evergreen teachers and trainers will provide options as a method of compliance. “That’s one of the hardest things our educators work with,” says Trieu. “You can’t just outright say ‘no’. The team has gotten very savvy at saying ‘you can do this or this... you can have that choice.’”

“Gen Z is super ambitious, and they have that entrepreneurial spirit. But they still need to mature a lot. That’s one of the big challenges we deal with.”
- Paul Trieu, director of IT, founding family member, Evergreen Beauty College

Consider Gen Z an essential knowledge base.

Your youngest staff members have their eyes and ears on things you probably don’t (think social media). Tap into their world. Ask what they’ve seen that’s relevant for your business – you may be surprised at what they have to offer.  

At Van Michael, Gen Z staff was checking out new hair color techniques online and then educating their colleagues. The brand took the “new stuff we wouldn’t know without ‘em” (hair coloring and new cutting techniques) and added them to training. This acknowledges the least-experienced segment of the staff as a key contributor to the brand, creating an open environment of learning and camaraderie.  

“Gen Z was born on the internet. They’re well plugged-in to what’s current. They’re always showing us new color techniques they’ve seen online. They bring it to us and they’re good ideas, so we implement them into the training program.”
- Van Council, founder, Van Michael Salon

Take full advantage of digital tools to engage and educate.

For lack of a better word, this is a no-brainer. The beauty and wellness industry is already moving quickly toward regular use of self-serve, tech-forward tools and strategies – just what Gen Z is familiar with and wants (not unlike your customer base).

At Evergreen Beauty School, a focus on technology serves students exactly what they’ve been asking for. Paul Trieu says offering online education and more digital tools successfully responds to student criticism that has popped up. The school invested in a student portal and uses Zenoti to give students access to grades, their educational progress, and their service history.  

Students got very specific with one point of feedback: At the end of the day, there was an unwieldy line at the front desk. Trieu and team dug into Zenoti features to activate self-check-out at the chair, via an iPad. With this convenience, staff “can walk around, talk to people, start checking them out,” and even get them rebooked.

Play into gamification.

A variety of studies have proven that adding a game or competitive element to learning and achievement often increases engagement, motivation, and even memory recall. For Gen Z, games have been part of their daily schedule – especially those on mobile devices. That’s one reason Florence Gaven Rossavik takes a gaming approach to important initiatives at Fuzz Wax. It starts with onboarding, which includes gaming elements along with shorter lessons.  

Gamification also recognizes a Gen Z habit that can’t be broken. “Even if we’re busy,” says Rossavik, “Gen Z staff will sit in the staff room actually watching Netflix on their phone.” Rossavik smartly figured gamification would easily work with the devices already in their hands. Enter micro learning – short videos or activities that have a reward system.  

“Gen Z is incentivized to do little 30-second micro learnings. Maybe they’ll get a couple points and a discount on a product you sell. There are so many things we can do to engage them.”
- Florence Gaven Rossavik, co-founder, Fuzz Wax Bar

Maximize mobile access and convenience for Gen Z service providers.

After 13 years, Zenoti has learned that service providers will make the most of tech-driven convenience throughout their day – like Paul Trieu’s students loving iPad checkouts instead of a long line at the front desk.  

With Zenoti software, providers can manage their entire day from their smartphones, and get insights related to their performance as well as the shop’s. This is the perfect offering for a generation of “digital natives” who would rather respond to a notification reminder than a person.  

Florence Gaven Rossavik says “They accept things way better from an app or a computer or AI than from a manager. Hearing from the Zenoti app – a ping that your client is ready for you – they'll probably get to it faster than if a manager comes and gets them.”

That implicit trust in technology also applies to the real-time product recommendations Zenoti software offers.

“Gen Z is very competitive. We have a Top 20 celebration and they’re very serious about that. They watch [the app], look at all the data, and work extra days and overtime to get in there. This is a very important tool for this generation.”
- Van Council, founder, Van Michael Salon

“They’re told what to sell through the app. They’re going to say ‘Okay, I get that. That’s from data.’ If a manager tells them ‘Hey, you should really push this product,’ they probably won’t do it as much.”  

Gaven Rossavik also points out the value of Gen Z providers having easy access to their commissions and tips via the app. It’s another element of gamification, but also irrefutable proof that high performers should be studied.  

Set expectations around scheduling and professionalism.

This one’s simple, but potentially difficult to convey. Not only is Gen Z likely to make demands for scheduling flexibility, but they’re also expecting it, based on cultural cues from their peers.  

“There is definitely this misunderstanding of what the workplace is for Gen Z, and it's going to get worse with the Covid era,” says Florence Gaven Rossavik of Fuzz Wax Bar. She explains that many of her staff’s friends work from home and have flexibility that she simply can’t provide.  

She is very clear that “they have to be there at the time they're supposed to be there.” To properly set the stage for what’s required at Fuzz Wax, the team has added a “what is the workplace” component to their onboarding and training. It details what happens in the shop, ways to deal with people, and the expectation that staff arrive early for their shifts.  

As a means of compensation for firm scheduling demands, Gaven Rossavik may offer providers a social media boost, make them a brand ambassador, or get involved with their favorite charity. The key is to make staff – any staff – feel appreciated and involved.  

The biggest expense we have is people leaving. If they want to work less and have done the time and training – they need to about three years full-time to get a clientele – they can start going down [number of days]. Once you have the clientele, people will come.
- Van Council, founder, Van Michael Salon

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Norm Schrager
Director of content
Norm leads content strategy and thought leadership communication for Zenoti. He has been part of the health and wellness technology industry since 2011.
Cullie Poseria
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Fitness
Coming from a healthcare family, growing up as a competitive athlete, and being trained as a filmmaker, and MBA, Cullie brings diverse experience to her storytelling and digital business-to-business product marketing. Her writing focuses on sharing trends and insights from her experience in software, entertainment, wellness, and fitness.

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