LVMH's Chantal Gaemperle: "Working in the luxury industry means accepting unpredictability"
On Monday, the LVMH group started its first Italian professional training programme in Florence, where it established a branch of the Institut des Métiers d’Excellence (IME), its vocational training institute. On this occasion, the French luxury group's Director for Human Resources and Synergies, Chantal Gaemperle, spoke to FashionNetwork.com about the new needs of the luxury goods industry.
FashionNetwork.com: Did you identify a shortage of certain professional skills, something which encouraged you to set up your vocational training programmes?
Chantal Gaemperle: Indeed, this is the reasoning behind our approach. But it isn't so simple. It all stems from a need we are trying to anticipate. However, when you're talking about human resource development, it takes time. We are convinced that the right man or woman makes all the difference. Through their work, our crafts people transmit not just the quality of their expertise, but also their pride in creating fine products. This sense of pride, of excellence, is something you then find everywhere. It's something essential nowadays, the level of the customers' expectations being so high.
FNW: Why is this kind of professional training so important for a group like LVMH?
CG: Our training is a way of passing on our expertise, of preserving crafts which risk being lost, and of educating craftsmen to deliver excellence. There are other elements too. There are many crafts that people aren't aware of. This kind of education allows young people to discover the richness these crafts possess and, for us, it can help unearth and nurture the passion in young apprentices.
FNW: Crafts people are at the heart of [luxury] products, and of the industry at large. What wage policy do you adopt for them?
CG: I believe we are a responsible employer. But before we talk about salary, we must stress we are offering a future to young people who don't have any. We give them a qualification which allows them to become independent. The latest promotion for the IME shows a 96% success rate, and 90% of our trainees have found a job, 65% of them within LVMH or its partners.
FNW: The training programme you have recently launched in Italy is dedicated to leather goods and jewellery, and will extend to footwear and sales. Nowadays, how important are salespeople for a luxury group?
CG: It is an essential profession. One of our challenges is to better explain the future of distribution and retailing. The competitive environment has become tougher, and in-store experience is increasingly necessary, hence the importance of offering top-notch training in the subject. We have already launched a sales course in Paris, and we will set one up in Italy too. We would also like to create a community for the retail [professions] within the group, as we have already done for example by creating a network of women, or at the regional level, as a way to encourage the sharing of experiences.
FNW: In today's digital environment, is tech expertise a factor in your hiring policies?
CG: Yes, of course, technology has become a very important factor. But the role played by technology mustn't eclipse the human dimension.
FNW: How have the professional profiles you are searching for changed in the last few years?
CG: We are experiencing major transformations and a high degree of uncertainty. We therefore look for people who are able to manage uncertainty and change. Working in the luxury industry means accepting unpredictability. This means embracing the uncertainty and ambiguity of things, because we are part of a creative process. The world of luxury is full of paradoxes and tensions. On the one hand, there is craftsmanship, expertise and tradition. On the other, worldwide transformations. We are looking for individuals who see in these tensions a challenge that motivates them.
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