French luxury giant LVMH has put 30 million euros into a global support fund for employees facing difficulties since the arrival of the pandemic. Open to all of the group’s 150,000 employees around the world, the “LVMH Heart Fund” seeks to offer help with urgent situations as well as daily issues, including a free, confidential hotline.
“This move is a good way to continue our long-term commitment – we have multiplied initiatives in the realm of social responsibility over the past 15 years, not because it’s fashionable to do so, but because we believe in the importance of having a company that is engaged — with society, with local and regional partners and employees. I believe this creates a virtuous cycle,” said Chantal Gaemperle, executive vice president, human resources and synergies at LVMH
The executive explained that the idea was drawn up following a period of consultation last summer with employees about how they were faring during the pandemic. The exercise didn’t turn up urgent situations that needed to be addressed, but rather threw the spotlight on how much employees valued an employer that was involved in social matters.
“We would like to know how you are getting through this crisis, how you are doing,” she recalled asking. “Learning happens during crises,” she said, noting that the group asked employees to relay to the group what had struck them at the time, and what they considered important.
“The crisis also highlighted our fragility — it can hit anyone,” she said. Sometimes existing support is insufficient, she added, rattling off scenarios such as an emergency linked to the environment, a medical emergency or death, or psychological illness.
“We thought, how can we quickly help our employees — this was the idea behind the heart fund,” she said. “We also think of LVMH being at the heart of the group,” Gaemperle added. “The crisis — in a general sense, not just with LVMH — revealed the need for leadership with a caring approach,” she added, describing current times as a “soft-skills leadership era.”
“I believe that the leaders who were followed during the crisis were ones that had an attitude that reflected interest in their employees, showing support and solidarity — this was very strong,” Gaemperle said. “We discovered that employees had loads of things to tell us; we were told ‘involve us,’” she added.
Asked if it could serve as a recruiting tool, she noted that beyond the realm of a group’s employees, consumers also pay attention to what companies do. “It has to be an authentic approach — people won’t pardon you if it’s just corporate speech,” she said, ticking off a list of efforts at the group, like increasing the proportion of women employees from 23 percent to 44 percent.
“It’s important for our clients, for future talents of the group – people will look at the reputation of the employer, not just the reputation of the brand, but what is behind the brand, what are the values, the practices — human resources is very important,” she said.
“The group counts 150,000 employees, if they’re all a bit more motivated and a bit more proud, it can have an important effect on performance,” she said, noting that stronger engagement from employees also adds to LVMH’s reputation outside the group. “Luxury also means generosity, this is something that is personally important to me,” the executive added.
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