BE­HIND LVMH’S START-UP INI­TIA­TIVE

THE LUX­URY GROUP CHAL­LENGED ITS EM­PLOY­EES TO THINK OUT­SIDE OF THE BOX.

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY KATHRYN HOP­KINS

With 70 brands and 150,000 staff world­wide, there’s no doubt­ing that LVMH Moët Hen­nessy Louis Vuit­ton, the par­ent com­pany of brands in­clud­ing Louis Vuit­ton, Dior, Guer­lain and Bul­gari, is a global giant.

But even a fash­ion force like LVMH can’t rest on its lau­rels when it comes to re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing staff, es­pe­cially at a time when un­em­ploy­ment in the U.S. is hov­er­ing at a near 50-year low of 3.7 per­cent and sales as­sis­tants are among the top-five hard­est roles to fill.

“Re­cruit­ing right has al­ways been dif­fi­cult. You can ask gov­ern­ments. You can ask any type of com­pany. The num­ber-one ob­ses­sion or

con­cern of lead­ers is find­ing the right tal­ent,” Chan­tal Gaemperle, LVMH’s group ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources and syn­er­gies and ar­guably the most pow­er­ful re­cruiter in fash­ion, said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

“From store level up to ceo’s, hav­ing the right peo­ple trans­lates im­me­di­ately into good re­sults. So, yes, it’s an ob­ses­sion and of course we are try­ing to not only find, but then help keep our em­ploy­ees mo­ti­vated and of­fer them a jour­ney. A ca­reer which could be a jour­ney thanks to the size of the group — the fact that we have over 70 brands.”

It’s for this rea­son that LVMH is sharp­en­ing its fo­cus on re­tain­ing and cul­ti­vat­ing tal­ent, in ad­di­tion to its plans to hire an­other 35,000 em­ploy­ees this year, and why a raft of its top brass — in­clud­ing group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­to­nio Bel­loni and chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of LVMH Inc. Anish Mel­wani — de­camped to Brook­lyn last week, set­ting up shop at trendy Brook­lyn cowork­ing space Camp David.

The gath­er­ing was for the launch of the group’s in­ter­nal start-up style ini­tia­tive DARE LVMH, short for Dis­rupt, Act, Risk to Be an En­tre­pre­neur, in the Amer­i­cas to en­cour­age its staff to think like en­trepreneurs.

DARE be­gan as a pi­lot in France and af­ter it proved to be a suc­cess, LVMH took the pro­gram to Italy and Shang­hai, with the U.S. mark­ing the sixth event. While some­times they are gen­eral in theme, the ini­tia­tives have also in the past fo­cused solely on a cer­tain topic such as sus­tain­abil­ity and di­ver­sity in the work­place.

The em­ploy­ees were in­vited to sub­mit ideas “to rein­vent the fu­ture of lux­ury.” Based on real chal­lenges within the com­pany, the hope was that by bring­ing to­gether peo­ple with dif­fer­ent back­grounds, ex­pe­ri­ence and per­spec­tives, they would pro­duce dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions.

“We are ba­si­cally telling our em­ploy­ees dare. Don’t re­frain from ex­press­ing your ideas, your so­lu­tions, the ex­pec­ta­tions and that is very im­por­tant as some­times groups be­com­ing too big tend to lose this edge,” Gaemperle said.

“It is also in a group like ours, which is grow­ing, which is the leader in its sec­tor, that we don’t want to be­come com­pla­cent and we be­lieve in keep­ing the soul of the group, which is that of Bernard Ar­nault, which is that of an en­tre­pre­neur.”

Once all sub­mis­sions were re­ceived, they were whit­tled down to just 60 and those em­ploy­ees were sent to Brook­lyn to par­tic­i­pate in DARE. The lion’s share of those work­ers were based in the U.S., but there were also some from Canada and Latin Amer­ica.

On ar­rival, they were di­vided into 12 teams and spent three days de­vel­op­ing their ideas into busi­ness plans with the help of men­tors in­clud­ing Marc Ja­cobs ceo Eric Marechalle, Ben­e­fit Cos­met­ics ceo Jean-An­dré Rougeot and pres­i­dent and ceo of Belvedere Vodka, Rod­ney Wil­liams.

Once they had their i’s dot­ted and t’s crossed, the teams pre­sented to a jury that in­cluded some top ex­ec­u­tives from LVMH, as well as out­siders such as Rent the Run­way’s Jen­nifer Hy­man and The RealReal’s Julie Wain­wright, who put them through their paces.

Ad­dress­ing the crowd of eager em­ploy­ees at Camp David be­fore the win­ners were re­vealed, Bel­loni ex­plained: “We pride our­selves on re­ally at­tract­ing and giv­ing room to in­no­va­tion. It’s a chal­lenge and so we are try­ing to find new ways and this is a new way to make sure that we open av­enues for ideas to come and to emerge.”

While the de­tails are hush-hush as the win­ners’ ideas are set to be im­ple­mented by LVMH, the group did di­vulge that the pro­pos­als were fo­cused on how to im­prove the travel-re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence, op­ti­mize vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing through an app and up­cy­cle waste from the wine in­dus­try into the cos­met­ics sec­tor. The jury also of­fered a spe­cial prize to an app im­prov­ing the em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence and skill-shar­ing at LVMH.

This is un­likely to be the last DARE as LVMH doesn’t want to be­come com­pla­cent, added Gaemperle, who is fully aware that while its staff has unique op­por­tu­ni­ties, peo­ple have choices.

“I think it’s re­ally a con­tract, so this is why it’s very im­por­tant to be lis­ten­ing to the tal­ent’s ex­pec­ta­tions and mo­ti­va­tions and try­ing to ad­just our way of work­ing to en­sure we will re­main at­trac­tive as a sec­tor first of all and as an em­ployer,” she said.

“When you ask peo­ple what mat­ters to them, I think this sense of be­ing able to con­trib­ute to some­thing and un­der­stand­ing how their job — what they do ev­ery day — con­trib­utes, too, is an im­por­tant fac­tor and I think in our in­dus­try it is some­thing we can pro­vide,” she added.

Ed­i­tor’s Note: On Staff is a new stand­ing fea­ture in WWD that will ap­pear pe­ri­od­i­cally and fo­cus on the in­dus­try’s ef­forts to at­tract, train and re­tain tal­ent, as well as re­lated hu­man re­sources is­sues.

“You can ask gov­ern­ments. You can ask any type of com­pany. The num­berone ob­ses­sion or con­cern of lead­ers is find­ing the right tal­ent.”

CHAN­TAL GAEMPERLE, LVMH

Toni Bel­loni and Chan­tal Gaemperle

Teams pre­sented ideas to a jury that in­cluded some top ex­ec­u­tives from LVMH, as well as other com­pa­nies.

Twelve DARE teams spent three days de­vel­op­ing their ideas into busi­ness plans dur­ing the ini­tia­tive.

Pas­cal Jou­vin, di­rec­tor of LVMH House, ad­dresses the DARE au­di­ence.

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