Shifting Business Models, Tight Labor Markets Demand New Emphasis On ‘Soft Skills’ For Top Talent, According to Luxury Client Experience Board

NEW YORK, May 24, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Major luxury and retail brands face significant challenges from both structural and cyclical forces combining to create a scarcity of human capital that is throttling the ability of businesses to grow. The May 16 meeting of the Luxury Client Experience Board (LCEB), hosted by Luxury Institute and the Brobston Group, focused on the timely topic of how to cultivate human capital during times of profound disruption in channels of commerce and the nature of work.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 3.9%, the lowest since 2000, labor shortages are forcing companies to look harder and pay more for qualified workers, if they can find them at all. Once hired, companies risk turning new employees into dead weight, or losing them, if they fail to provide the proper training, support, and motivation to help them to flourish, both professionally and personally.

“If you don’t train them well and make them happy once you hire them, the odds are uncomfortably high that anyone you hire will soon become disengaged, lacking the interest or skills to do their jobs effectively, and the ones who succeed despite the environment will soon be heading for greener pastures,” says Luxury Institute and EIX CEO, Milton Pedraza. “Recruitment, training, and development of human capital should be the top priority of any company interested in long-term survival and success.”

Pedraza kicked off the group discussion among top executives from major brands in luxury fashion, retail, watches & jewelry, and hotels & resorts, outlining the evolution of organizational structures to adapt to changing needs, referring to the model introduced by former McKinsey consultant and Belgian executive coach Frederic Laloux in his book, “Reinventing Organizations” (2014). The most primitive extreme of the Laloux Culture Model is the “the wolfpack,” a tribal form of human organization marked by a powerful leader who inspires fear among enemies and demands obedience within the group—a paradigm most appropriate for basic survival. At the other end of the spectrum is the “living system,” a high-performance organization without hierarchical structures that relies on distributed decision-making by enlightened workers who act intelligently in the best interests of the organization. In the world of luxury brands and retail, this is the ideal state, but one that is imperfectly realized by most companies.

Based on engagements with hundreds of companies over the past two decades on behalf of Luxury Institute and EIX, Pedraza identified an opportunity for brands to think of “soft skills” as “hard skills” in concrete, measurable, and actionable traits and behaviors that can be taught, measured, and practiced daily.

“The most important skills for a luxury brand are those that form the foundation of emotional intelligence — expertise, deep empathy, trustworthiness, and generosity,” says Pedraza, adding that manager inspiration, empowerment, coaching and follow-up are non-negotiable success factors. In addition, simplicity and adaptability are essential for achieving high-performance results on a broad scale.

William Brobston, fashion industry veteran and Brobston Group principal, addressed the group and cited fresh results of the company’s April 2018 survey including 6,000 fashion professionals to show that soft skills and emotional intelligence go a long way toward creating happier, more productive employees.

“Creating a culture of appreciation can cause a trickle-down effect, where each team member understands the importance of their counterparts,” says Brobston. “Everyone can see when their brand is listening to their team and that adds value across the organization in terms of employee happiness and thus, top-talent retention.”

When asked what made them happy about their work, popular answers from fashion industry employees included emotional responses like having a great team, achieving work-life balance, and feeling successful. Compensation was a factor in happiness but secondary to more humanistic needs.

LCEB attending guests in roundtable workshops identified referrals, both internal and external, as their favored avenue for identifying and recruiting talent. Additionally, the vast network that executives and professionals develop throughout their careers is a fundamental resource for identifying and recruiting top talent. Tools such as LinkedIn and other social and traditional networking methods were also identified as effective methods for understanding the background of a candidate. Regarding best practices, the most sought-after improvement, according to members, was the ability to leverage the multitude of tools at a company’s disposal to improve the process of identifying and recruiting qualified candidates.

For more information on recruiting, training, and developing top talent in luxury and retail brands, visit or You may also contact CEO Milton Pedraza directly with questions and information about becoming a member of the Luxury Client Experience Board.

About the LCEB: The Luxury Client Experience Board (LCEB), founded by Luxury Institute, is a membership association of luxury industry practitioners. The association was founded to enhance the education and development of leading luxury brands. LCEB members receive ongoing education opportunities in industry best practices through original research and interactive events. Members come from diverse industries, united in their goal to build long-term, high-performance relationships with clients by delivering exceptional, seamless, and measurable omni-channel client experiences daily.