Words by Naomi Newton-Sherlock, creative director, Domino Jewellery
I will not be the first or last person to state the obvious. We need to do more to invest in talent to protect the future of the UK jewellery industry.
It’s easy to nod sagely and agree with the theory; but if practice makes perfect, what are each of us doing as individual jewellery professionals to support, propagate and promote talent?
Yes, there is organisational focus with a number of manufacturers and retailers actively seeking out talent from jewellery schools across the UK and investing in development of existing team members through certificated training courses. However, I wonder how much each of us focuses on our own responsibility as individuals to pass on knowledge, skills and experience to those that we work with every day? Conversely, how many of us are stepping away from our comfort zone and taking the opportunity to learn from new entrants to the trade? From manufacturing to retail, I believe there is great scope for more mentoring and shared learning.
Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce in 2016; these digital natives bring exciting new perspectives and insights on everything from value sets to consumer shopping habits. How many of us are seeking to harness their insights and understand more about the driving forces shaping their world?
According to Gallup, 44% of millennials say they would be more engaged in their roles, if their managers invested in regular meetings with them; an investment in time could prevent talent from walking out of the door, given that millennials change jobs more than any previous generation.
There has been a clear shift in mindset and we are at a pivotal point. As well as investing in training programmes, consider the importance of providing structured mentorship to younger professionals within your business or across the trade. If we look to contemporary industries, such as FinTech, we have a way to go to empower younger generations to view jewellery as a viable career. From Silicon Valley right through to your local bank branch, there are schemes supporting coding lessons for children. What more could we be doing to spark interest in jewellery and then to harness those future talents?
Gone are the days when there was one traditional path into the jewellery trade. Self-taught jewellery designers and makers are now par for the course with digital retail revolutionising the way consumers interact with both messaging and product. Moreover, ‘outsiders’ with no prior jewellery background entering from other sectors have proven to be amongst the greatest disruptors of our industry.
Encouragingly, we are increasingly attracting talent from outside of the sector, from manufacturing industries like ceramics or automotive, and from professional services including legal and finance. These professionals bring lessons that we can learn, in exchange for our trade insights.
A focus on promoting diversity will also reap rewards; according to Forbes, truly diverse organisations are approximately 33% more profitable than those that are not. And given some of the commercial challenges that we have faced across the sector, we could all do with that boost to our bottom lines.