While the world seemingly becomes more casually dressed by the day; there are certain industries that follow a stricter dress code – the last bastions of a tailor’s dreams. You almost never encounter lawyers or financial service professionals without their corporate ‘uniforms’ of suit and tie, and certainly clothing choices dictate the direction of one industry in particular – the fashion industry.
‘The fashion industry in a product of the modern age,’ as referenced in Wikipedia, ‘since prior to the 19th century most clothing was custom made.’ The rise of new technologies in the 20th century, most notably, the sewing machine, made it possible to mass produce clothing in standard sizes at fixed prices. ‘Although the fashion industry developed first in Europe and America, as of 2015 it is an international and highly globalized industry;’ making it even more imperative that firms incorporate the latest technology has to offer to provide a competitive edge – such as HR Shared Services Solutions.
Success in the fashion industry means acquiring top talent since their designs and creative output are the engine that drives these firms. And as Helena Pike writes in her column ‘Fashion Companies Need to Rethink Their HR Function’ as posted on businessoffashion.com, “Fashion’s ‘race for talent’ continues. In an industry where success depends on a company’s creative output and design talent, personnel are powerful advantage. And yet, Human Resources — the department responsible for recruiting, developing and retaining that talent — is not enough of a priority within a fashion business.”
The talent gap was identified as the greatest challenge businesses in the fashion industry will face over the next decade in a 2014 report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Business of Fashion on fashion and luxury brands’ race for talent. “Fully fifty percent of the 60 global fashion and luxury companies surveyed believed they lacked access to the best creative talent, while 67 percent said it was impossible or very difficult to find top-notch creative directors,” according to the report.
Stressing the strategic importance of HR in the industry, Pike notes, “while most fashion companies are lagging behind in the “race for talent,” a few are getting ahead by investing in innovative HR strategies.” Case in point, Andy Dunn, the co-founder and chief executive of Bonobos, a menswear e-commerce company, looks to the technology sector for ‘inspiration to improve his business’ employee engagement and working culture.’ As Pike writes, “Indeed, technology is widely regarded as the industry with the most forward-thinking approach to human capital.”
“What we try to do is build a Netflix-like culture on recruitment, and what I mean by that is being really aggressive about the recruitment,” says Dunn. His HR team places a heavy emphasis on feedback from multiple members of the Bonobos community, using specially designed technology to allow current employees to feed back detailed comments on their potential colleagues.
“I think it’s comical how little time is invested traditionally in the mutual evaluation of a job… getting it wrong for both the employee and the company is a major problem, because it tends to take you at least half a year to figure out that it’s not going well. A more rigorous recruitment strategy, results in employees who are better qualified, more enthusiastic and, crucially, more loyal, because they’ve worked harder to get there.”