PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has put 30 million euros into a global support fund for employees facing difficulties, a move that comes as high-profile luxury companies double up efforts on social and environmental issues, which have gained increasing attention with the public — and consumers — since the arrival of the pandemic.
Open to all of the group’s 150,000 employees around the world, the “LVMH Heart Fund” seeks to offer help with urgent situations as well as daily issues, including a free, confidential hotline.
“This move is a good way to continue our long-term commitment — we have multiplied initiatives in the realm of social responsibility over the past 15 years, not because it’s fashionable to do so, but because we believe in the importance of having a company that is engaged — with society, with local and regional partners and employees. I believe this creates a virtuous cycle,” said Chantal Gaemperle, executive vice president, human resources and synergies at LVMH, in a Zoom call with WWD.
The executive explained that the idea was drawn up following a period of consultation last summer with employees about how they were faring during the pandemic. The exercise didn’t turn up urgent situations that needed to be addressed, but rather threw the spotlight on how much employees valued an employer that was involved in social matters.
“We conducted a survey with employees worldwide,” Gaemperle said. The “Pulse” survey was done in 14 languages over three weeks, with the goal of sending a “we care” signal to employees, the executive added.
“We would like to know how you are getting through this crisis, how you are doing,” she recalled asking.
“Learning happens during crises,” she said, noting that the group asked employees to relay to the group what had struck them at the time, and what they considered important.
“This survey showed us — once again— that subjects of social responsibility, of diversity and inclusion, and engagement in a larger sense — and the LVMH group had been exemplary early on, making hand sanitizer and masks, for example, showing a certain agility, too, taking part as a stakeholder during this crisis — employees confirmed they considered this essential and said they were proud to work for a group like LVMH,” she said. The executive added that this applied to the brand and group level.
LVMH jumped in to help the French government equip health care workers with surgical masks last year during initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak, drawing on its global distribution network to procure them.
The luxury goods group also repurposed perfume factories to produce hand sanitizer.
“The percentage of pride in being part of the LVMH group rose higher,” Gaemperle said. The executive added that the survey served as a concrete illustration that such engagement held meaning for employees and clients.
“This is the virtuous cycle that I mentioned — this is what encouraged us to launch the heart fund,” she said.
“The crisis also highlighted our fragility — it can hit anyone,” she said. Sometimes existing support is insufficient, she added, rattling off scenarios such as an emergency linked to the environment, a medical emergency or death, or psychological illness.
“We thought, how can we quickly help our employees — this was the idea behind the heart fund,” she said.
“We also think of LVMH being at the heart of the group,” Gaemperle added.
“The crisis — in a general sense, not just with LVMH — revealed the need for leadership with a caring approach,” she added, describing current times as a “soft-skills leadership era.”
“With Zoom calls, suddenly we were entering people’s homes,” she noted, adding there was exposure to personal and psychological considerations.
“I believe that the leaders who were followed during the crisis were ones that had an attitude that reflected interest in their employees, showing support and solidarity — this was very strong,” Gaemperle said.
“We discovered that employees had loads of things to tell us; we were told ‘involve us,’” she added.
Work methods changed dramatically during the pandemic, she noted.
“At the human resources level, we are also actors in this transformation in the way of working,” Gaemperle observed.
Asked if it could serve as a recruiting tool, she noted that beyond the realm of a group’s employees, consumers also pay attention to what companies do.
“It has to be an authentic approach — people won’t pardon you if it’s just corporate speech,” she said, ticking off a list of efforts at the group, like increasing the proportion of women employees in key positions from 23 percent to 44 percent.
“It’s important for our clients, for future talents of the group — people will look at the reputation of the employer, not just the reputation of the brand, but what is behind the brand, what are the values, the practices — human resources is very important,” she said.
The executive noted she has had hard questions from potential employees.
“I have often had senior executives asking me during an interview ‘There aren’t many of women on the executive committee, what are you doing about it?’ So it’s important for attracting talent, but it’s also important for keeping and motivating employees.
“The group counts 150,000 employees, if they’re all a bit more motivated and a bit more proud, it can have an important effect on performance,” she said, noting that stronger engagement from employees also adds to LVMH’s reputation outside the group.
“Luxury also means generosity, this is something that is personally important to me,” the executive added.