By Adriane Lee Schwartz, President, Style Search & Consulting LLC
In what can be construed as a sign of continuous improvement of the jewelry and accessory markets, Style Search & Consulting LLC, a recruitment firm specifically servicing the jewelry and accessories industries, is adding new locations, staff, resources and technology to meet the high demand for talent, from the senior most levels to entry level.
Style Search has experienced a mass influx of assignments at all levels, mirroring the growth of the different segments of the jewelry and accessories markets. “Our company has always been a barometer of the marketplace, and its unique staffing needs at different economic intervals,” says Adriane Lee Schwartz, President of Style Search. Citing “Accessories magazine/The NPD Group, Inc. 2010 Census Report,” and predictions for 2011, jewelry and handbags will have the greatest market share of the accessories industry, with jewelry taking 30.09% of sales and handbags 28.05% of sales; small leather goods, belts, cold weather, hosiery, hats, watches and slippers comprise the remaining parts of the market. Accessories Magazine predicts that fashion, costume and bridge jewelry are expected to reach $11.1 billion in sales, up from $10.6 billion in 2010, while handbags will reach $10 billion in sales, over $9.7 in 2010. “It is uncanny how our business reflects this prediction,” says Schwartz. “Our assignments reflect that balance of percentages almost exactly.”
According to Career Builders 2011 Job Forecast, their annual survey shows that more employers plan to grow jobs and increase salaries than last year, indicating a stronger overall employment picture for 2011. According to the Costume Jewelry & Fashion Report 2011 “the global downturn contributed to a 3% fall in retail sales in 2009 to 30.7 billion. However, the report further indicated that “the jewelry and fashion market has remained reasonably buoyant throughout the last two years despite the global downturn.” Furthermore, the report points to new entrants into the industry and continued growth of online sales as further catalysts for worldwide consumer spending. According to Accessories Magazine, retail sales of women’s accessories were $33.6 billion in 2010 and are projected to rise to $35.8 billion in 2011.
Schwartz cites that the increase in market share has changed the equation in terms of the number of openings versus available talent. “During the recession, there were fewer job openings available and an extremely large pool of avid job seekers,” says Schwartz. “Now we are seeking a market of greater openings versus a smaller pool of available talent.” Schwartz further explains: “The market activity has greatly impacted the hiring needs of our clients and catalyzed a much higher demand for talent; we now have to employ much more sophisticated sourcing and hiring strategies to locate and attract optimal talent in the marketplace.” For Style Search, this meant the addition of additional seasoned recruiters and management-level staff, implementation of a more advanced database system and putting in place plans for expansion into NY, RI and other regions of the United States where their clients are based.
Major areas of growth for the organization have been a demand for sales-savvy creative talent to produce saleable product, seasoned production people who can work at accelerated speed with high volume product, highly effective salespeople (or “rainmakers” as Schwartz calls them) with strong retailer relationships to bring to the table, and overseas staff to ensure proper manufacturing. “We continually receive a large number of requests for proven salespeople,” says Schwartz. “Because of the compromised economy, a very large number of salespeople were let go if they were not high achievers who could see the company through and beyond the downturn.” This resulted in a pool of salespeople who were unable to reenter the market because of loss of contacts with buyers, as well as losing their pulse on the accessories industry. Furthermore, if already properly incentivized and entrenched in their current positions, salespeople are not as readily open to new opportunities if the change to a new position does not offer significant financial gain on top of improved quality of work life and better benefits. This leaves a shrinking pool of candidates, and the need for more creative and aggressive sourcing and recruitment strategies; Schwartz has been actively putting those types of strategies in place as well as acquiring numerous talent resources in order to capture a greater pool of qualified applicants for all areas of recruitment.
Style Search is now factoring into their recruitment strategies the challenges their clients face in terms of locating, attracting and retaining employees of high value. “Employers are quickly realizing they need the best talent available to remain competitive in the marketplace,” says Schwartz. “We face these challenges in partnership with our clients, not only locating the best talent possible but advising them on hiring and retention strategies to keep those employees firmly in place.”
Job seekers are no longer seeking just a job to pay the bills but a home where they can see themselves long term. To overcome the hiring challenges that companies face today, several key factors need to be addressed by companies: 1.) analyzing the kind of work environment that is in place and any improvements that can be made so that new and existing employees feel positive about the business and environment 2.) offering enhanced competitive benefits 3.) defining specific roles for new and existing employees that tie directly to the strategies and goals of the company, and last 4.) offering compensation that improves upon prospective employees’ present packages, and properly remunerates existing employees. Gone are the days when cuts and lateral moves were commonplace. Employers now must sweeten the pot, ensuring that their environment is a positive one, their benefits are attractive and competitive, the roles of their employees are directly tied to the smooth operation and growth of the business and last, but perhaps most importantly, compensation is placed at or above market value to attract and retain the best candidates in the marketplace.
Benefits should encompass much more than healthcare. In addition to offering affordable comprehensive healthcare of minimal contribution from employees, it is recommended to offer life and disability insurance. Second, employees are much more savvy about the value of long term investments, so it is highly recommended to offer some sort of investment plan, whether a 401K (preferably a match situation), pension or other investment product. Tuition reimbursement is now a highly desirable perk of mutual benefit: employees can further develop their value to the company by building knowledge bases and skills that are directly advantageous to the organization. Increases in vacation time based on seniority and tenure should also be looked at as negotiation tools during the hiring process and retention strategies to keep long term employees incentivized to stay. Last, additional benefits to offer can include vision coverage, dental coverage, transit passes, gym memberships, employee assistance and other creative perks and benefits that are of minimal cost to the company but maximum value to the employee.
As far as compensation is concerned, bonuses are an important part of an employee’s package. Upfront sign-on bonuses, payable after a certain period of time, can be used to attract employees at higher salary levels but enable companies to keep internal parity in salary structure among existing staff. Incremental bonuses and increases tied directly to performance are also vital elements to put in place to incentivize new and existing staff to not only stay on board, but work toward, and even exceed, personal and company goals.
Companies, in return, should expect performances that are directly tied to achieving company goals and competitiveness in the marketplace. Although a valuable commodity at this juncture of the economy, employees have the responsibility to achieve higher levels of performance, to not only cover their own expense but advance the companies they work for. “My clients commonly request candidates who are fast learners and workers, possess diverse skill bases, and are willing and able to juggle and wear many hats while keeping a positive, willing attitude.” The economic downturn resulted in companies needing individuals who were value-added; this raised the bar for hiring during and beyond the compromised economy. Furthermore, prospective and existing staff members must align their personal goals with company goals. “It is vitally important that employees understand their role and goals in the context of company goals, and to seek to fulfill or exceed those goals to the maximum benefit of their employer.” Gone are the days when companies catered to the career aspirations of their staff; now staff needs to cater to the needs of their employers.
The change in the marketplace has also had bearing on searches for senior level staff and officers. Companies are recognizing that in order to be competitive in the marketplace, their organizations must be lead by individuals who understand the nature of the market and the place of their business within in. Generally speaking, leaders must be market savvy but possess out of the box and risk-taking thinking that is tempered with realism, to introduce new ideas to strengthen and expand the businesses they run. They must also be able to form and lead a team that is required to perform at higher levels as well as fulfill responsibilities that are greater in number and diversity. For this reason, leaders must be able to effectively hire, train and motivate staff members; no longer are leaders expected to run the ship in its present state, but drive the boat to compete for higher market share and growth.
Style Search has formed an internal “Leadership Recruitment Team” to ensure the key attributes required of officers and senior level staff, as well as the goals of their clients, are assimilated into the searches it conducts at this level. The company offers a unique pricing plan for these types of searches: it does not require an upfront retainer – all searches are conducted on a contingency basis (i.e. the company is paid only if a client hires one of their candidates) with reasonable rates attached to enable clients to locate and hire key staff members at a reasonable price. “Our process and timing remains the same whether we are paid an upfront retainer or contingency rate. I see no reason for my clients to have to assume up front charges when we will produce a pool of on-point candidates under any circumstance. This enables my clients to locate talent at these levels that will directly affect the success of their businesses, and my role is to help them accomplish that.”
Last, Style Search provides consultation and counseling, free of charge, to its clients, to provide them with all of the information and tools they need to recruit, hire and retain top talent in this new marketplace. As Schwartz says, “The emerging needs of my clients have put the “consulting” in my company’s name; no longer are we just assigned a search, but we are regularly asked to weigh in on decisions regarding compensation, benefits, job descriptions, succession planning and a host of other variables that affect a successful hire. We believe that our expanded role, coupled with our advanced recruitment capabilities, allow us to be our clients’ secret weapon in an increasingly competitive marketplace. We ourselves have become value-added.”
The company is also offering a “Discounted Introductory Fee” for new clients, to enable companies to try their services at a nominal cost.
For more information, please contact Adriane Lee Schwartz at 860.434.1905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.