2 September, 2016

M&S Pedal to Paris for The Royal British Legion

Team M&S is currently taking on the gruelling 460km Pedal to Paris ride; setting off from London on Thursday to reach the Arc de Triomphe in just four days. This isn’t the first time M&S has tackled Pedal to Paris to support the Legion, but this year is a record-breaking year for its team with more than 90 employees taking part.

Scott Fyfe, 42 and Director of Menswear and Kidswear, is spearheading M&S’s Pedal to Paris effort this year.

“At M&S we have family members and friends who serve in the Armed Forces and we really value their dedication. I think we have all been touched by the amazing work that those who risk their lives do for us on a daily basis, so I was really keen for us to get involved in Pedal to Paris this year to support The Royal British Legion.  

“I know that the charity does a huge amount of work to recognise serving men and women, veterans and their families. We all owe a lot to those who serve our country and it’s really important to me that we give back to the Armed Forces community.

“For our team, Pedal to Paris is a really great way of bringing people together to take on a challenge and help a fantastic cause. It’s great to see so many people take part.

“I love getting out on my bike whenever I can and I’ve participated in a few cycling challenges in the past few years. Although four days straight cycling will be tough, especially in the fast category, so I’m hoping my regular cycling training will get me through Pedal to Paris!”

Team M&S has already smashed its fundraising target of £120,000 and is still raising more. If you want to add to this incredible achievement, visit the Team M&S Pedal to Paris 2016 JustGiving Page.

M&S has supported The Royal British Legion for many years, donating £3.1 million since 2009 predominantly through sales of The Poppy® Collection and donations from its Sparks card.

Interested in taking part in next year’s challenge? Register your interest for Pedal to Paris 2017.

Inside M&S
31 August, 2016

Only the best for the people of Biggleswade

We’re very excited about bringing the largest M&S store for 2016 to Biggleswade and offering our customers an extensive collection that we are very proud of. M&S will be at the heart of the A1 Retail Park, creating 130 new jobs. Biggleswade is a thriving community where we can play a key role in its continuing growth. We are working closely with the local community, including our Local Charity of the Year, St John’s Hospice. Alongside a food waste collection partner and the local Job Centre Plus. We cannot wait to be a part of the Biggleswade community and welcome our customers into the store.James, Store Manager

The good people of Biggleswade have had to travel further than most to get to their nearest M&S. But that’s about to change, as we arrive in this growing town with a bang. 

Our new fully featured store in Biggleswade will be the biggest M&S store opening of 2016. Customers can expect the full selection of clothing lines and our ultimate food choice offering – with an in-store bakery, 130-seat café and a Food Hall packed with our widest choice of delicious products. And bringing all of this together will be some true continental influence – a look and feel inspired by our stunning new international store on the Toison d’Or in Brussels.

That means shoppers will be able to experience our newest, most stylish shopping environment with the latest visual equipment. M&S will be the anchor store in an exciting new development on a heavily redeveloped retail park. And with 130 new jobs arriving in the area, there are plenty of opportunities for Customer Assistants throughout the store, including roles in the Bakery and Café. We also expect to have roles for Visual Stylists and openings within Operations and Admin. And with shifts starting from 6am to 10pm finishes, there’s plenty of flexibility to fit with busy lives. 

If you’re interested in joining our brilliant store team, why not apply for one of our roles here. 

Inside M&S
26 August, 2016

The perfect package

Sally is the Recruitment Manager at our distribution centre in Castle Donington. Her main role is to make sure the site is fully staffed with the right talent. She’s just getting ready for the busiest time of the year, when the business takes on many staff for the run up to Christmas.

Throughout the year it is a 24/7/365 operation handling orders from the whole of M&S.com, which totals around two million orders a week, with 350,000 items to be sent out per day during our Christmas period. We’re at our busiest when the festive season approaches as people shop for presents and all the things they need for a fabulous Christmas.

Mark & Spencer partners with Staffline to bring in the volume of people needed. For anyone living nearby and looking for a temporary role, Sally believes the centre is a great choice.

“There’s fabulous team-spirit, we operate as one team – especially at peak times when the pressure’s on. It’s still a fairly new site that’s had huge investment and there’s a real sense of passion and loyalty to the brand – everyone wants to see the site succeed.”

Sally’s looking for people who care about the job they do, “It’s all about the customer here, and that’s what we look for in new starters. When a package leaves here, the next person to touch it will be the customer, so our team focus on making sure everything is perfect. It’s about delivering the right product to the right quality at the right time, and we need people who have the commitment and energy to work to these high standards.” 

Find out about the temporary opportunities on offer at Castle Donington via our Agency partner, Staffline here

Inside M&S
25 August, 2016

10 minutes with Marcus East

We all have big ideas and passions; what do you think was unique about yours?

My passion for technology was born at the age of 8 when a fantastic teacher brought a computer into school and taught me to code. I realised straight away that the ability to turn code into images and functionality was something magical. My own first computer was a ZX81 – I don’t know how many people would remember that.

If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I'd say be prepared to take risks and grab hold of opportunities as they come your way, but make sure you fully understand them before you commit. I ventured into start-ups at a young age and luckily, that worked out well for me, but I have friends it didn't happen for. Looking back, there were chances to do things that seemed crazy at the time, but could actually have been great. So, be sure to understand the perils and think about your future… but don’t let them hold you back too much.

Have you had any formative failures? What have you learned from them?

I've been involved in start-ups that didn't quite deliver the billion dollar return that I was hoping for. I learnt how important it is to appreciate the skills of others, like a great accountant to help manage your cash flow. I also didn’t understand how sharp you have to be when you’re negotiating, because you can't assume that the other party has the same integrity you do. You've got to surround yourself with people who have the technical and business skills you need, as well as being people you can trust.

The other thing I've learned is that I'm resilient – there's not a lot in life that's going to stop you. So when I speak to young people I tell them, 'Hey, what's the worst that can happen? Failure isn’t a bad thing. If it goes wrong, you'll have learnt a lot and you'll be a stronger person'.

Which trends excite you at the moment? What keeps you engaged?

A number of things; the increasing reliance on smart phones and mobile devices is one. We're already at a point where we use a lot of technology for entertainment, but it's going to start going beyond that. The internet of things means our lives as consumers can be further enriched. With more connected devices doing the mundane tasks for us, our fridge will be able to tell our computer that we're out of milk; we’ll never have to refill toothpaste again... these things are all going add value to people's lives on a daily basis, and give them more time to enjoy the fun things in life.

What’s one thing that you hope to achieve in 2016?

In 2016, I want to have a happy, motivated and high-performing team, that are working towards building the most incredible digital, customer experience – both in-store and online.

Do you draw a sharp line between your work and personal life, or does it all blend into one?

I try to keep the two separate, but in reality they often blend into one. Especially working in technology – you need to learn from other people's experiences, so it’s important to connect with others. That means the people you socialise with are often the people you'd connect with for work too. But it's important to protect weekends as time to recharge your batteries; you can't be effective in the workplace without that head space.

How do you navigate modern workwear, where there’s a lot of flexibility between formal and casual?

I generally like to look smart, so how I dress for work and how I dress at home is similar; a pair of jeans, a nice shirt and a blazer thrown on top. Previously, a pinstripe suit, white shirt and tie was the norm, whereas there's more flexibility these days. But I think the image you project and your mind-set is reflected in your clothing, so I like to look professional.

Have you ever accidentally over or under-dressed for a meeting?

I once turned up to a school charity event in a pinstripe suit which didn't feel quite right. But I think usually read it really well.

Inside M&S
25 August, 2016

Life in the fast lane

Our HR Shared Services (HRSS) Contact Centre in Salford Quays, Greater Manchester is a hive of activity. The centre provides support to our retail colleagues and line managers who have an issue with any of our systems, need a pay query resolved or want to know how to access our HR processes. That’s potentially 60,000 colleagues who can contact the centre at any given time!

Lisa has been with M&S for five years and is currently an Operations Manager in HRSS. So what does that involve? “I currently look after four Team Leaders and around 30 Advisors and I’m constantly poring over call stats to make sure we have the resources to answer around 1,100 calls a day. On top of that, I’m looking for ways to improve our service to colleagues and working on various project activities.”

A current task is to administer pay reviews for retail colleagues, which inevitably generates a huge range of queries, as well as providing support to colleagues who are booking their holidays for 2017.

And that’s not all. “It may be the height of summer, but the centre is already supporting our stores to recruit their temporary Customer Assistants for Christmas – obviously our peak time of the year,” Lisa explains. “We can take up to 13,000 extra staff in the festive period and the centre will field the recruitment calls, help candidates through the application process and also deal with pay and leaver queries as the season gets going.”

Just as our stores are renowned for giving shoppers outstanding service, the HRSS Contact Centre prides itself on providing internal customers with great service. And with Lisa at the helm, that happens. “Every job I‘ve had has been customer focused. I first worked in the hotel industry before joining a debt solutions company. I left as Customer Service Manager after eight years to join the HR Shared Service Centre for a big supermarket, where I began to understand the demands of the retail environment.”

Now she’s at M&S, Lisa really enjoys the changing priorities in the business and finding solutions to issues to keep us where we are in retailing today. “There’s a great feeling working as a team to meet our targets ad look after our customers – and the Christmas discount is a wonderful incentive to do just that.”

So, having worked in retail customer service before, what’s so special about M&S? “I really believe that as colleagues we make a difference; M&S really is a great place to work.”

Inside M&S
25 August, 2016

Knowing her onions

People love talking about M&S food – and when they do, it’s often Kelly they talk to. She’s part of the Food Team at Retail Customer Services Chester where she responds to phone calls, emails and sometimes letters about anything related to our food products. Do we stock it? How do you cook it? What does it go with? And when you think that we have so many different food items in our stores and online, Kelly really has to know her stuff.

“I love my job,” she says with enthusiasm. “Every query, every contact, every day is different. We receive lots of positive feedback from our customers about how much they enjoy our food. Occasionally though, a customer has had a bad experience and I work my colleagues to get to the reason why – it’s really satisfying when I can put M&S back into people’s hearts by turning a negative experience into a positive one that the customer will share with friends. It’s also my job to let my colleagues in the Food Business Unit know what our customers are saying and I talk to them on a daily basis – it all adds to the variety of my role.”

M&S food continues to grow in popularity and Kelly is busy all year round. “So many customers visit our stores and website, but Christmas is extra busy as people treat themselves. And, of course, the more food we sell, the more contacts we receive.”

Retail Customer Services in Chester fields queries on everything from the availability of a jumper to the safety of skincare products. Kelly shares information with colleagues across the centre. “Within our office, there’s often a food-related call or email which a colleague is unable to answer. We then step in and point them in the right direction.”

Kelly spent five years working at a bookmakers before she joined M&S initially on a temporary basis before going permanent.

“In Retail Customer Services Chester we have a great team spirit, and I work with so many lovely people. We always have fun along the way; we recently celebrated the Rio Olympics 2016 by holding our very own ‘Lolympics’ and everyone in the office had the chance to take part.”

Inside M&S
25 August, 2016

HR Shared Services: Our rapid response team

Faye joined M&S back in 2007 on a fixed-term contract to help out with our Christmas peak recruitment. By her own admission, she didn’t really know what to expect but nine years later she’s never looked back.

“I’ve worked in various roles including Learning & Recruitment administration, answering front line calls in our Contact Centre, Team Leader roles, and most recently I did a stint as a Retail Service Manager. Now I’m an Operations Manager leading the Reward Administration & Executive HR teams. Working in HRSS gives you a real opportunity to move around and learn different skills such as problem solving, stakeholder management and people management,” she says. 

Faye loves the fast pace of the industry and the challenge of responding quickly to changing priorities. “You can never rest of your laurels. Although I’m not based in store, and we are a support function to the business, we have to react to business needs. We aim to keep things simple and make life easier for our colleagues and line managers so they can focus on sales and the customer.”

The pace is even faster as the Christmas peak period approaches. “We have a tight turnaround to ensure we administer new starters so they are they paid correctly and also have access to the relevant HR systems so they can hit the ground running from day one.”

Taking responsibility for two teams means that Faye has a stretching role. Reward Administration looks after remuneration and benefits administration for colleagues across the business. This could mean administering maternity or paternity leave, setting up a welfare or season ticket loan or planning the celebrations for a long-serving employee. The Executive HR Services team is like a mini HRSS centre, delivering a high-quality and bespoke service to M&S executives. 

Faye’s day begins with checking in with her teams, reviewing the day’s activity and tracking performance against Service Level Agreements. And after that? “I could be doing anything,” she says. “I could be involved in projects and business change activity, holding one-to-ones with team members, engaging with stakeholders, resource planning, problem solving following a system incident... I absolutely love the variety of the role.” 

Inside M&S
25 August, 2016

The perfect judgement call

Initially, I was attracted to M&S by the attractive pay and benefits. This was back in 1981. I can still remember my first day. I was 16 and I’d just left school to enter the big wide world of work. From the moment I started at the Brent Cross store, I was put at my ease and felt confident of the support of those around me in the Menswear team. In fact, I’m still friends with one of the girls that I started with.

Four years later, I left to concentrate on bringing up my children. I was sad to leave but I wouldn’t have missed out on these years with my family for anything. 

I came back to M&S in 2003 as a temp and, in between, I owned my own café from 2000 to 2004. Having worked at M&S previously, I’d developed an in-depth understanding of customer service and what customers expect. These were invaluable learnings and undoubtedly helped me to run my business. 

If I had to sum up my role in three words, I’d choose troubleshooting, people and challenge. Being responsible for 85 stores and line managing 31 staff certainly accounts for the last two; fulfilling my role to the very best of my abilities most definitely relies on the first. What I do is demanding but I’m the kind of person who thrives on this; problem solving is in my nature and my job constantly requires me to think differently.

What I enjoy most about my current role is the ambiguity it entails. I’m constantly called upon to make judgement calls. Making the right ones calls for solid commercial awareness, a deep understanding of our values and the ability to analyse the information at hand. There is definitely an M&S way of doing things and this helps guide what I do. What’s more, every day is different. I travel between two hubs and my line management responsibilities add an extra dimension of interest. As the Switchboard part of the business continues to change, my role evolves with it, so we’re constantly innovating.

It’s not just the variety in my role that I like either. The people I work with our just great. We hire people because they share our values; this doesn’t mean their clones, far from it. We’re all signed up to a certain way of working but this is never to the detriment of our individuality. New joiners quickly learn what’s expected of them and I make a point of talking through the standards and level of service we expect. The most important advice that I give them is to be human, to care about what they do and add a little bit of sparkle. They say it takes all sorts and we definitely have all sorts of people at M&S. It makes for a richer work experience. The job security and emphasis on a healthy work/life balance are big plusses too.

My second life at M&S began in Foods at our London Colney store. I then moved on to work as a Coach to M&S Café staff before quickly stepping up to Section Co-ordinator. A year later, I was promoted to the first of my two Section Manager roles; the first being a six year spell in Foods, followed by two years in Homeware. These were the idea preparation for stepping up to become Regional Switchboard Manager. My on-the-job learning has always been supplemented by classroom-based courses to support my knowledge of M&S processes.

In terms of what make me tick, I think I’d say it’s my ability to work well under pressure. As a manager, I believe I’m fair in how I treat people and communicate well with all levels of staff, whether it’s with managers or advisors.

Inside M&S


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