Event: ESSEC Business School, Paris

June 2018

ESSEC Round Table: Managing Talent in the Luxury Industry

  • Marc Chaya, Co-founder and CEO, Maison Francis Kurkdjian
  • Grace Nida, Senior Client Partner & MD, Global Luxury Sector, Korn / Ferry International
  • Kellie McSorley, Founder & CEO, SILK Search
  • Michael Boroian, Founding CEO & MD, Sterling Consulting
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It was a pleasure to join Ashok Som, Professor of Global Strategy, ChairManagement Department and Founding Co-Director, ESSEC-Bocconi EMiLUX Program, on Wednesday evening in Paris to take part in the ESSEC Executive Education round table discussion on Managing Talent in the luxury industry. 

I presented to ESSEC-Bocconi EMiLux  program students + 60 luxury professionals (including MBA students) about the changing organisation structures at CEO -1 level and the relevance of the ever growing external talent market – independent consultants and interims driving key changes in some of the functions where talent is scarce.

We talked about some of the Consultants SILK Search works with – individuals running successful independent consultancy businesses – offering their services to multiple clients who gain from their subject matter expertise, independent view, and up-to-the-minute knowledge of what’s happening in the market – and most importantly what’s new…Their business lives and dies on them staying relevant and they win their next project based on the success of the previous one....so when they are hired, they enter the company and move fast to deliver results before moving onto the next project.

The static organisation structure is changing – with the rise of the gig economy and increasing number of highly experienced independent consultants – there are other options available to companies now, when it comes to building talent capability.

Companies like: Away to Mars and Not just a label are just a few examples of new company cultures and new ways of building teams of talent forming.

At SILK Search, we continue to challenge our clients thinking on whether the need they are describing is a permanent hire or an expert to complete a 6-12 month assignment? What are the possible outcomes of this approach vs the traditional reflex of making a permanent hire?

Granted this is not the solution for all senior roles, however those that are in a state of flux with an uncertain future are primely positioned for a new approach.

We then discussed what’s important to executive talent today, and although it’s always been the headhunters job to “sell” the career opportunity, it’s become a bigger focus in recent years.

Brands don’t sell themselves anymore – gone are the days when top talent immediately answers with a yes! I would love to work for that brand or that Luxury Group! The conversation almost always begins with a question about the culture or a rumour they have heard about the leadership style of the CEO, and a hesitation in whether the culture and values of the company in question is aligned to their own values, or indeed what they want/need in their life right now.
There seems to be an ever increasing resistence to move jobs for something “similar” – meaning a slightly more senior role in a competitor brand. Followed an increased appetite for smaller, disruptive businesses with purpose – even if it means a cut in pay!

Finally, I shared the top 3 things our clients – companies of all sizes in the luxury industry are looking for:

1.     Specialists.

  •  Deep subject matter expertise is winning, over general wide-reaching experience
  • Even at CEO level, expertise in Digital and Asia are specialist skills that set one potential CEO candidate apart from another

2.     Entrepreneurial, agile, curious minds

  • People plugged into what’s going on now and what’s coming up next.

3.     Commitment 

  • A vision for what you want to achieve and the ability to articulate it.
  • A commitment to the career opportunity on offer - and why it’s aligned to your career ambitions.


Clarity of purpose is just as attractive in an Executive, as it is in an Employer Brand.

kellie mcsorley