Making more of a career
Jane has worked in retail since she was 16. She joined M&S just over three years ago to help with our busy Christmas period, before joining us permanently and moving around in a variety of roles. Jane had always looked to broaden her horizons and give her career prospects a boost, so when she saw that we were launching Level 2 Apprenticeships for Customer Assistants, she jumped at the chance.
Jane’s application was successful and she was one of the first to benefit from the Apprenticeship’s mix of theoretic and on-the-job learning. So how has she found it?
“To be honest, I didn’t expect it be so in-depth, so knowledge-intensive, and probably the most challenging thing for me was accessing the social portals such as Yammer. It’s also meant managing and prioritising my time so I can do justice to the Apprenticeship and do my job,” she explains. “But the first module gave me a really good all-round picture of M&S. I learned about how we source our products and our Plan A sustainability strategies; it really brought home to me how, as a business, we always strive to do the right thing.”
As well as taking Customer Assistants beyond their role, we’ve designed the Level 2 Apprenticeship to help them do what they do on a day-to-day basis even better.
“I believe that M&S customers visit our stores because they know they’ll get personal service. I’ve always had a strong relationship with customers and have regulars who I see every day. What the Apprenticeship has done is helped me build on this in line with our values. ‘Inspiration’ comes in the form of my acting as a role model for others. By being more commercially aware and spotting an opportunity to sell additional products, I’m demonstrating ‘Innovation’. By listening to customers and passing on their comments, I show I’m ‘In Touch’. And I’m a first aider, which is my way of showing ‘Integrity’”
Jane’s been grateful for the help she’s received during the Apprenticeship. “I’ve had loads of support from managers who’ve made sure I’ve had time to learn. All I have to do is message or email and I’ve got a response straight away. And it’s been great being able to share experiences with other Apprentices.”
And now it’s all paid off…
“I’ve recently been appointed Section Coordinator in Foods and I’m convinced the Apprenticeship gave me the knowledge to land the role. I plan to continue in this role and hopefully take the Level 3 Apprenticeship and progress further in the business. I really would recommend this path to any of my fellow Customer Assistants; it’s a great stepping stone.”
It’s been a busy period in her life, so does Jane have time for anything else?
“My family – they will always come first. And I always make time to enjoy my favourite M&S product: our Millionaire’s Dessert, it’s simply irresistible!”Inside M&S
A new Engineering Apprenticeship opportunity, fresh from M&S
Engineering Training and Planning Manager, Nick, worked as an aircraft technician in the Air Force before joining M&S. Originally Nick came on as a multi-skilled engineer, before progressing to Shift Manager and finally to his current role at our distribution centre in Castle Donington.
In his day-to-day Nick’s job involves leading the maintenance of the hi-tech equipment on-site, as well as managing personnel within the engineering division. Now Nick is getting ready to take on a new role as direct Line Manager for the new Maintenance Engineering Apprenticeship programme. This is no small addition to Nick’s already significant job when you consider the sheer scale of the distribution site.
Castle Donington is a state-of-art logistics hub offering a wide number of roles. Mainly, it’s where we pick and pack customer deliveries that have been ordered online. It’s fully automated, packed with the latest advanced machinery to keep products moving and flowing throughout the site. It’s here that we handle orders from the whole of M&S.com, which total around two million orders a week at peak times.
The Maintenance Engineering Apprenticeship programme was introduced by M&S to provide future engineers with the skills to cope in an ever-changing and developing environment.
“Personally, I am thrilled to be part of looking after M&S’s future. This programme is about preparing people and passing on important lessons to the next generation. The idea behind the programme is to arm Apprentices with the skills to adapt to the needs of our business, and to empower them to further their careers.”
Nick also believes that Apprentices will feel pleasantly surprised by the working culture in the Engineering department.
“It’s a large facility and it’s fast-paced. At first it may feel overwhelming but we’ll be there to support them every step of the way. I think they will love the work environment because it’s positive, it’s safe, it’s friendly and it’s fair.”
The apprenticeship will last for 44 months and Nick believes that in that time Apprentices will be offered plenty of excellent opportunities to grow their skillset and acquire expert knowledge and experience.
“Apprentices will get to visit and spend time at the Toyota training facility which has some of the highest engineering standards in the industry. That’s on top of learning the fundamentals of our business, developing a deeper understanding of our systems and operations, and not least important of all, growing as individuals. At the end of their apprenticeship, they’ll be fully-qualified Maintenance Engineers.”
And for dedicated Apprentices the opportunities don’t end with the programme. They will have plenty of opportunity to progress into other positions in the engineering department, such as Lead Engineer, PLC Controls Engineer or Shift Manager. Even further, there is the possibility to do more training and get an even higher qualification.
Becoming successful within the Engineering division at M&S takes commitment and a keenness to learn. Nick gives a few handy tips for future candidates.
“All you need is to have a positive outlook on life, be driven and serious about your work.”
Find out about the new Maintenance Engineering Apprenticeship programme and other opportunities on offer at Castle Donington here.Inside M&S
The importance of the 50:50 split, from Sharon's' perspective
Sharon joined M&S as a Business Placement student and against tough competition, got a job in one of our stores. After a spell away from M&S, she returned to the fold as a Sales Developer. Sharon is now four weeks into her present job in Foods IT.
I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster in my career, but I’m the kind of person who gets stale without a new challenge. After working in M&S stores for two years one of which being Marble Arch, I tasted life with another retailer where I got the opportunity to move into IT as a Project Manager. I then worked for a consultancy before returning to M&S as a Sales Developer in the Lingerie business unit. I then moved into the Retail Programme Delivery team as a Programme Manager before heading the team up. I then spent two years in a business broadening role within International Supply Chain where I set up a new function with a team to embed operations.
Now I’m in IT. I’ve only been in my job for four weeks, but that’s long enough to know that it’s right for me. I love delivering and fixing problems, but the best thing about my role is working with people to drive change. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to shape my own career, but I have to acknowledge the role of people in my network who I’ve been able to bounce things off – particularly my mentor, who I’ve always trusted as a sounding-board.
I had a five-year career plan, which I achieved before I turned 30. Now I focus on three goals: family security, flexibility and challenge. I have two young children and a husband who are my life. I love running – one of my proudest moments is completing the New York Marathon. I read as much as I can and Yammer some interesting articles to the network. And I give a mean dinner party for family and friends, usually with M&S Prosecco!
Turning back to work, I’ve found it hard to fit in study with my day-to-day job, but I have completed my PRINCE2, MSP and APM qualifications. I was also selected as one of 12 women for the Inspiring Coaching Programme. This proved to be a turning point for me in understanding how we can really get the best people into our jobs, regardless of gender – if we don’t, we limit our talent pipeline and the business suffers. Not exactly rocket science.
I’ve learned that women do need support and encouragement, but a ‘for women, by women’ approach isn’t the answer; we need to get the guys involved. I was honoured to be nominated as co-chair when M&S wanted to set up a Gender network. This role has been an incredible opportunity to make a difference across M&S, a journey my co-chair Simon and the network board are now well underway with. By working together I’m really confident we can make M&S the best place for women to work. I’m a mentor to other women both at work and outside, always ready to support, encourage or offer a shoulder to those who need it.
I’ve never thought that, as companies go, M&S has a particular gender issue. There are more opportunities than barriers, but we should aim for a 50:50 gender split and everyone should take unconscious bias training – it’s incredible how influential this is. My team have started to tell me where there are meetings where this isn’t the case – so word is getting around! We have a solid base from which to make change and drive opportunities at all levels across the business. There are initiatives we can look at, solutions we can exploit. We have the data and facts and we should use them.
But I have to say, M&S is a great place for energetic, motivated and focused people. I’d also say to anyone thinking of joining us, talk to colleagues, pick their brains and understand your goals and motivations for work. Don’t wait for others, life is too short!Inside M&S
Gender equality and its significance to new dad, Matt
Matt Rogers is a Senior Adviser in our Social Media team. This sees him interact with our customers via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Gender equality has a special significance for him as he identifies it as a fundamental building block in all his relationships. The part it’s played in influencing our own policies has enabled him and his partner, Jess, to raise their daughter, Lyra, in line with their shared values.
It was the proud history of the business, and its reputation as a great place to work for all its employees, that initially drew me to working for M&S. It hasn’t disappointed. My day-to-day role is full of pace and challenge as it involves communicating directly with customers through our various social media channels. I’ve always felt supported here in all kinds of ways, be that through monthly one-to-ones and feedback sessions or training and supported learning opportunities. But it was when I first became a parent that the culture and approach of the business really came into its own.
Being a parent to my daughter, Lyra, is without doubt, my proudest achievement in my personal life. It’s a wonderful thing: challenging, exhilarating, exhausting but, ultimately, hugely rewarding and fulfilling. Managing this without the support of my employer would, however, have been a much tougher proposition.
My partner, Jess, and I discussed long before Lyra was born that we would try to find a way to work flexibly if at all possible. (Jess teaches English at a secondary school in Wrexham). Traditionally, in a partnership like ours, it’s perhaps been the view that it’s the woman who takes full maternity leave and then applies to work flexibly on her return to work. Fortunately, we weren’t bound to go down this particular path as M&S enables men to take full paternity leave and then apply for the same kind of flexible working arrangement on his return. So, when Jess returns to work in May after eight and a half months, we’ll both be able to spend one day a week at home with our daughter.
This is hugely important to us. We both feel strongly that it’s vital for Lyra’s development, resilience and emotional wellbeing that she spends an equal amount of time with both her parents, as well as the additional time she’ll have at nursery. We’ve chosen not to raise her as gender neutral per se; however, we both place equal value on co-parenting and our individual roles as mum and dad. Jess and I agree that we can each provide the love and support that Lyra needs while, at the same time, giving her a different perspective on things as she grows up.
Gender equality has enormous significance to me as it’s the foundation for every relationship I have; be that with Jess & Lyra; my colleagues at work; or my family and friends. Viewing everyone I meet as my equal is something I’ve never had to think about; we want Lyra to grow up with the same ideas and values.
Gender inequality only exists because men and women sometimes view and respond to each other differently. I try to approach every situation and every person I meet in exactly the same way. Identifying one another as human; seeing the person first and foremost, irrespective of gender, should be how we interact with one another in my view.
Throughout my 12 years at M&S, it’s been great to see a fantastic gender balance. There’s always been a more or less equal amount of men and women in all the different roles across our department; which is as it should be. While we’re multiple teams working as part of one large customer service operation, our strength lies in our differences, our individual abilities, our versatility and our diversity.
In an ideal world, we would all view one another as equal, but we’re not there yet, sadly. We just need to keep celebrating what makes us all unique, share our values of equality and inclusivity with one another and continue to spread positivity.
Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from the people around me. My partner, Jess, is a diligent and inspirational mother, loving co-conspirator and creator of boundless joy and energy. My parents and my brother, whom I’ve worked alongside for many years, have helped shape and mould me as a grounded human being. And, of course, Lyra, whom I cannot wait to introduce to the little girl from ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy who inspired her name.Inside M&S
M&S and #IWD2017 – #BeBoldforChange
As women represent 72% of our employees and 62% of our customers, they are pretty important to our business success! Not only that, but extensive research shows that diversity, in all its forms, leads to better business performance. International Women’s Day is an important day in the year for us – we are really proud of how far we have come in terms of gender balance at senior levels, but we still have work to do.
Solving the gender gap is a complex and challenging puzzle, but one piece of the puzzle involves women backing themselves more and doubting themselves less. On International Women’s Day we’ll be kicking off a series of professional development seminars, all designed around topics that research shows are helpful for women to progress, and the first of these is all about Beliefs and Confidence, delivered by our partner Talking Talent. Over the next few months, we’ll be running professional development seminars about strategic networking, personal brand, career planning and coaching.
We also know that men are really important in helping us achieve a more gender balanced business, and that’s why for International Women’s Day our women’s network is re-naming itself to GEN (Gender Equality Network). During the week we’ll be profiling our GEN Heroes – people around M&S who are championing gender equality. Not only that but we’re launching an internal mentoring programme for women – this is so that women, at all levels, can access mentors around M&S to help them progress in their careers.
We’re excited about the future of our Gender Equality Network and with the sponsorship of our chairman, we know we’ve got lots to look forward to.
The official theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange, that’s why we’re hosting a series of professional development seminars focused on helping women progress in their careers, but open and designed to useful for everyone at M&S.
The seminars will kick off on March 8 with a talk from the Inspiring Speaker Series titled ‘Beliefs and Confidence’, delivered by Rob Bravo from Talking Talent in Waterside Restaurant.
Following this, the seminar schedule is:
- Personal Brand – Talking Talent
- Strategic Networking – Talking Talent
- Career Planning – Debbie Emery, M&S
- Coaching/Mentoring – Sofia Mendes, M&S
These are just some of the exciting highlights we can expect this year. At M&S we believe that by being brave and driving change, we can create a fair work environment where everyone can be their best and both women and men can fulfill their career ambitions. That’s why we’re inviting you to join us and #BeBoldforChange.Inside M&S
Supporting gender equality, from Carl's perspective
Carl is our IT Director, accountable for the delivery and operation of all systems across M&S. This is no small task, considering the size of our business and how driven we are by technology. In his role, Carl works with many different people, and believes that gender does not determine ability. He has worked in IT for 25 years, has been married to his wife, Michelle, for just as long and the couple have two daughters.
What brought me to M&S was the opportunity to make a difference at such an iconic and admired company. Whilst sometimes very challenging, my time here has been exciting and inspiring. I’ve worked in all areas of technology and M&S has given me the opportunity to bring that experience at a very exciting time for both retail and technology. With the growth of e-commerce, smartphones and all forms of digital devices now present a great opportunity for experiences for both customers and colleagues.
I’ve worked with a lot of people during my career, learning from them along the way. I strongly believe that great teams are made up of a good mix of talent and experience. It seems obvious to me that if that’s the case, it should mean that gender is irrelevant. There should naturally be both men and women on every team. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with many brilliant people through my career and my experience it that both genders can be very successful.
I strongly believe that we are all equal, we all have a right to be here, to contribute and to progress. Individuals should be rewarded based on their skills, experiences, values and the contribution they bring to the team. That’s why I think M&S has some of the best people of anywhere because there is a real equality when it comes to career opportunities here.
However we can’t rest on our laurels. We have a long way to go. In retail, we have a very good gender mix, however, in my own department, the representation is not as balanced. When I first joined the company my whole leadership team was male, I quickly made clear that we needed to change that. We’ve made some progress, we now have three of eight members of the team who are female, but I still think we can do better.
I don’t believe in hiring people just to get the right gender balance. What I do want to see is more prominent female talent receiving the support they need to rise to the top. Arming good people with confidence and developing their skills. I see that as part of my responsibility as a Director and part of why I’m proud to be at M&S. I know that the words, thoughts and feelings I have expressed here are not just my own, they’re shared by the whole company.Inside M&S
Be more with an M&S apprenticeship
Is going to university the right choice for school leavers today? Sometimes it is, if you need to gain a specific qualification for a particular job. But a degree is not the be all and end all for young people as it once was – far from it.
That’s because apprenticeships have emerged as an increasingly popular alternative. Not only do they equip young people with core skills and knowledge, the fact that they are learning in the workplace offers valuable ‘live’ experience that a university course can’t usually provide. And while graduates face being saddled with debt, apprentices are earning while they’re learning.
We at M&S have wholeheartedly embraced apprenticeships as a means to build our talent and capabilities. As Recruitment Manager, Future Talent, Helen is ideally qualified to comment: “The journey we are on to incorporate apprenticeships into key areas of our business is an exciting one. Apprenticeships are a unique opportunity to bring talent in early and develop people to take on fulfilling roles in the future.”
So if you want to be more, do more and achieve more, an M&S apprenticeships is a fantastic opportunity to develop skills for life. You’ll be doing a real job from the start, learning from experienced people around you and studying for a nationally recognised qualification – which you can complete in normal working hours.
In recent years, we have developed our apprenticeship offering on two fronts: Retail, in other words working in one of our stores, and Engineering – if you find this surprising, all will be explained! This means we are in a unique position to accommodate very different talents, interests and ambitions.
Our Level 4 Retail Management Apprenticeship evolved from our Management Scheme for School Leavers. This one-of-a-kind scheme has run for some 40 years and we’ve harnessed all this experience to create an apprenticeship that delivers for young people.
Over 12 to 18 months, you’ll get to experience every conceivable part of your store. Helen explains what this entails: “You’ll get to manage £multi-million budgets. You’ll learn the art of leadership and people management. And there will be plenty of coaching and mentoring throughout. At the end of the programme, you’ll be ready to take on the role of Commercial Manager, with responsibility for an entire department.”
In addition to the Level 4 qualification, we offer Level 2 Retail Apprenticeships. These are exclusively for our existing Customer Assistants who work at least 30 hours a week and want an opportunity to grow their careers. Whilst they start out at Level 2, our internal career path can see our promising colleagues climb the career ladder, to Level 3 (Section Manager) and Level 4 (Commercial Manager).
For those that are more technically minded, they can consider a Level 3 Maintenance Engineering Apprenticeship at our Castle Donington Distribution Centre in Derbyshire. You might not think that engineering is our ‘thing’, but the 900,000 sq. ft. centre is packed with the very latest technology which is vital to distributing over 2 million M&S products every week. Apprentices develop the skills to carry out both reactive and preventative maintenance of the equipment.
“We’ve teamed up with Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) to offer the apprenticeship,” says Helen. “The scheme lasts 44 months, the first part spent at the Toyota Academy in Burnaston covering both practical and theoretical engineering, and the second 22 months in a practical, hands-on role at Castle Donington. You’ll also study at Burton & South Derbyshire College. At the end of the scheme you’ll be a fully-fledged, multi-skilled engineer.”
Is that all? “The feedback from both apprentices and managers on the programmes already running has been overwhelmingly positive,” Helen enthuses. “We’re now going to look at creating new programmes in other areas. It’s an exciting time for us here and very much a case of watch this space.”
You can view our apprenticeship opportunities here.Inside M&S
Get to know Jo, Head of Customer Service
Jo first joined M&S on our Graduate Retail Management Programme back in 1989. She has since risen through the ranks via a range of in-store and Head Office roles to become our Head of Customer Service. She describes her role as challenging, inspiring and fun.
My career has been quite a journey. After starting out in our Southend store 28 years ago, I became a Commercial Manager before spending five years in our International Franchise Group. From there, I took on two senior store management positions and roles in our Customer Insight Unit, Store Operations and Change Programme before landing the Head of Customer Service job 10 years ago. I think it’s been testament to the emphasis M&S places on equality and seeing talent rather than gender.
I think I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the support of some great line managers and I cannot overstate the influence their leadership and encouragement has had on my progress. The business has always been incredibly supportive too. I took a part-time MBA course back in 2000 and that was hugely beneficial. I’ve learned by example and I like to give back accordingly.
My proudest moment was leading a programme called the Power 92. This was aimed at engaging our 4,000 Section Managers in the importance of their role. I was working three days a week at the time and was given loads of freedom by my boss to just get one and deliver. The results were outstanding and this gave me the confidence I need to just have a go.
About 4 years ago I was struggling to balance working full time with being a good mum. My eldest son was about to go into year six and transfer to secondary school. I really wanted to be there for him. I looked at lots of options, including leaving, but finally had a very adult conversation with my boss who was brilliant and very supportive. I moved to working three days a week for about three years which gave me a much better balance and perspective on life. I delivered some great things at work too. Both my sons are now at secondary school and I now work four days a week, so I still have that important feeling of balance. Having a plan and taking control were critical to my being able to progress.
Now more than ever before, I think that people want a much better balance in life and the days of bowing to the company are long gone; it needs to be a partnership based on honest, open dialogue if we are going to attract and retain the talent we need to be a successful business. My advice to anyone in this situation would be: have a plan; but be flexible and talk to those you trust.
During my time with the business, the overall number of women in senior positions had increased. For me, it’s about skills not gender. If I were able to make some changes, I’d make it easier for people returning to work after maternity or paternity leave to explore the options available. I’d probably have a few less chiefs too.
Whoever you are, if you’re the kind of person who’s keen to learn about the brand and loves to explore different opportunities, you’ll thrive here.Inside M&S
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A new lease of life for Bracknell
In 1949 the sleepy, ancient town of Bracknell was declared a ‘new town’ in the aftermath of the Second World War. Over the next couple of decades the once sparsely inhabited area steadily grew in population. In 2008, it was decided that due to Bracknell’s age, the town should undergo major renovation, which would include redeveloping the town centre to create new homes and provide new services. The result includes the Lexicon where you’ll soon be able to find the brand new M&S store.
Today all of us at M&S are proud to be at the very heart of this restoration with the opening of a two-storey 80,000 sq ft store in the town centre. The site is perfectly situated between Reading, Maidenhead and Windsor and with plenty of local parking and good bus and rail links, it’s easily accessible for the surrounding towns.
“Bracknell is a fantastic and diverse community, it’s surrounded by forests and green fields and it’s often easy to dismiss its potential. I grew up just a few miles away and it’s been amazing to see the town come back to life with the arrival of The Lexicon. I’m really excited for M&S’ return to Bracknell, I can’t wait to get to know our customers and cement a new relationship with them.” Tom, Store Manager
The new store will feature the complete family of M&S products and services from our perfect food to contemporary fashion. That means we’ll be recruiting for all levels (from Customer Assistants to Section Managers) in various departments, both full and part-time. We have something to suit everyone’s lifestyle so it’s a great time to join us.
“We are delighted to welcome Marks & Spencer back to Bracknell. Its reputation for quality products and service excellence is exactly what we are endeavouring to cultivate within our new town centre,” says Helen Barnett, Marketing Manager at BRP.Inside M&S
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Don’t just be a Colleague, be a Buddy
The Buddy Network is an employee-led group, set up to give those of us managing health conditions alongside our work the opportunity to share our journeys and support each other’s wellbeing.
This is done primarily through our Buddy Network Yammer group and face to face ‘Coffee and Chats’, which we’ve hosted in all our London offices and our HR Shared Service Centre in Manchester. We recently tried our first conference call, as over half of our 160 members are based in stores, which was a great success. It’s an inclusive group so anyone is welcome, whether you’re dealing with a mental or physical health condition, are a line manager, a carer or just interested in wellbeing in general.
I co-founded The Buddy Network with Lorna 18 months ago, who like me is living and working with a health condition. The idea grew from the coffee and chat that Lorna and I had every six weeks or so to support each other. After six months of meeting up, we decided to see if we could grow the concept to others in the business like ourselves.
We contacted Beth Ryder, the Wellbeing Manager in HR, for her help in starting the network. Lorna and I decided to stick with the Buddy concept. We designed posters to advertise the Yammer group and our ‘Coffees and Chats’ which we displayed throughout our local offices, as well as on our employee intranet site. The word started to spread.
Last September we were nominated for the Pride of M&S Awards which led to a series of meetings with the senior team to discuss how we can best support colleagues throughout M&S, including influencing our business where necessary. We took part in M&S’ Diversity and Inclusion Summit in September - this has led to monthly meetings supporting the business to affect change and sharing best practice between the five employee led networks - LGBT@M&S, BAME@M&S, Gender Equality@M&S, ParentsNet and The Buddy Network. We’ve also enjoyed engaging outside of M&S, attending events around Disability in the Workplace – for example those run by Purple Space.
Our next steps are to make the Buddy Network part of the wellbeing landscape, available to every employee. That means communicating to every site and store in the business. And we’ll continue to simplify the process for affected employees and line managers to easily locate the resources available to support them in their working life. Our mission is simple – we want to encourage colleagues to not just to be a colleague – but to be a buddy.
Written by Suzie KingInside M&S