A Flexible Approach

As appears in the September 2022 edition of Retail Jeweller Magazine where leading voices in the jewellery sector share their views.

Building a team has always been hard. If you ask any business owner today, they will tell you that it is now one of the most challenging tasks they face. The largest global experiment in home working forced on us during the pandemic has led to permanent changes in attitudes.

Having tasted the advantages of working from home, many in the jewellery sales workforce have reorganised their priorities and decided the five-day commute and office-based life is not for them. In jewellery craft workshops, work stopped during Covid, but some jewellers were able to set up a work bench and take tools home to work flexibly.

A recent study by King’s College London revealed that almost two-thirds of Londoners are hybrid working in a post-Covid world. This solution seems to be the current mode of choice for existing employees in jewellery sales and design, and also for those that a business may be looking to hire. The jewellers that created accessible work space at home during lockdown are now able to split working life between their home and in the-office workshop. So, what does a business have to do to find great people and retain the stars that are already within the company?

Think outside nine-to-five

The days of an office-based, five-day week, nine-to-five job are over and will never return. Every recruiter, client and business owner that I have spoken to agrees that if you want to attract or retain staff you will have to offer flexibility. If not, the available talent pool will be significantly restricted.

This is where hybrid working comes in. Every person I have employed recently has wanted to work from home a minimum of two days a week, a desire that a few years ago would have caused internal concern but today is expected. There are some businesses and areas, such as retail shop floor staff, where this may not be feasible but given the desire to achieve a work–life balance those potential employees may seek to switch employer or even sector if their needs aren’t met.

Flexibility may not solely be around the days in the office but also hours worked. I have seen employers offering the ability to work flexible hours so that members of their team can do the school run and we recently offered a role to an exciting prospect on flexible terms so that they can work reduced days during school holidays and more during term time. If you want the person, think creatively! This also demonstrates that you appreciate your team and their circumstances.

Consider technology

Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and WhatsApp have all meant that we can communicate and collaborate in ways that were science fiction a short time ago. Using technology will enable companies to think further than before in terms of the talent pool. Geographical restrictions have been reduced dramatically.

Our firm has our managed services helpdesk in Glasgow and the manager of our bookkeeping team based in Manchester. Technology has allowed us to work closely together and build a team that does not have to be located in the office catchment area.

Technology has delivered significant advantages but also additional challenges. Digital burnout caused by long-term exposure to online platforms is on the rise. We are all guilty of struggling to draw the line between work and home life when working from home. Companies have a responsibility to ensure the health of their team both physically and mentally by managing the potential effects of working from home and over-reliance on technology.

Build a work culture

Undoubtedly the single biggest challenge of hybrid working is the ability to build the culture and train a team that are working remotely. I have been asked numerous times how you get your team to understand your passion and vision if they are working from home. Honestly, it’s really hard!

Every business I have built has been with a team in the office, so this is a new challenge for me as well. The key has been and will remain getting the team together in the office as often as possible, making sure that social events are organised and the team can get together, ensuring that team members working from home are not forgotten and that we are inclusive and do all we can to make them feel part of the business. In the jewellery world, slotting in times for sales and crafters to meet is a key element that needs to be scheduled into a working week.

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