Craig Bolton

One of the topics on which PJ receives the most reader questions is staff training. What schemes are most effective? Which suppliers offer the best initiatives? And how often should you hold refresher sessions?

We listened, and every day this week will be speaking with a new industry expert to discover their most successful methods for staff training to aid employee growth and retention.

Today read how Watches of Switzerland has been working overtime during the pandemic to ensure its staff training programme could continue, as well as three top training tips from The Gem Academy.


The Watches of Switzerland Group is one of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious luxury retail companies, its roots dating back nearly 250 years.

It is partnered with all the big-name watch brands – Rolex, Omega and countless others – and offers a selection of jewellery through its other retailers.

Also under the Watches of Switzerland Group are names like Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths and Mayors in the United States.

So how does the unenviable task of training such a sizeable workforce get done at Watches of Switzerland?

Craig Bolton, executive director UK, explains that the company has an in-house training team, a well-oiled machine by this point, which supports all employees across the business.

The last 12 months have presented some challenges for the team, however. Bolton says: “Last year we launched our new e-learning platform which has been a fantastic tool over recent months for training and upskilling our staff.”

He adds: “We do value face-to-face training though, and during the recent lockdown period we have conducted sessions via Zoom for team members.”

Last year we launched our new e-learning platform which has been a fantastic tool over recent months for training and upskilling our staff.”

Bolton has nothing but praise for the retailer’s supplier partners and the work they put in to ensure Watches of Switzerland staff are sufficiently trained to sell their products. “Absolutely,” he confirms, “we are very fortunate to have such great supportive brand partners.”

As many businesses have revealed, training is not just something that ends in an employee’s first few weeks in the job. Instead, it is an open-ended process with unlimited potential for personal growth and improvement according to Bolton.

He says: “Our teams are continually encouraged to upskill themselves and develop both personally and professionally. We have a range of modules available for our teams, from watch brand training, health and safety, and IT skills.”

He also goes on to add: “We run various incentive programmes throughout the year for our staff. Our teams are well rewarded.”

Discussing the importance of making training and development a more permanent fixture of the employee experience, Bolton concludes: “Training your staff is a crucial investment. It upskills them and is only an asset to your performance as a retailer.”

Julia Griffith

The Gem Academy’s top training tips

The Gem Academy is a gemmology education service offering e-learning, podcasts and webinars. Here founder Julia Griffith shares tips for managers looking to up their training game as business begins to resume in the UK in the coming months.

Give a refresher on how to give tip-top customer service
After a long break, remind the team of the unique customer experience your brand offers and factor in modifications to customer approach and how to keep the store Covid-safe.

Remember that shopping for luxury goods in-person is an absolute novelty for all of us. Find a way to make it special – and keep it safe.

Show-and-tell with the inventory
Enthuse your staff about your products by showcasing your pieces with one another.

Whether your inventory is brand new or been around for a little while – discussing the benefits and appealing aspects of each piece can reignite the passion for the product and, ultimately, help to sell them to the ideal client.

Share online resources
The lockdown brought about a wave of online resources in gem and jewellery education. More webinars, articles and online courses are available now than ever before.

Take advantage of this plethora of knowledge by sharing interesting links with your staff. Encourage a culture of sharing information, which will help keep your staff at the forefront of consumer trends and attitudes.