Breaking down barriers
The success of a 23-year-old man who works at our store on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, is proof that disability is no barrier to a retail career. Ashley is in line to be a supervisor and his success is inspiring the store’s latest recruit to aim just as high.
Both Ashley and recently-appointed Sheridan were born with hand disabilities and are determined not to let anything interfere with their commitment to undertake all the usual duties associated with working in a busy city store. Ashley has recently celebrated his third anniversary working for us and, whilst Sheridan’s career is still in its early days, he has similar ambitions to make progress.
Ashley and Sheridan have both been supported by disability employment specialists Remploy, which helped them prepare for work after frustrating periods of unemployment. Both really wanted jobs but felt their disability had become a barrier.
“When I left school I studied art and design at college but left full time education without a clear picture of what the future might hold,” said Ashley. “During my year of looking for a job, I qualified as a fork lift driver. Although I knew I was physically able to take on a range of jobs, employers were reluctant to give me a chance. Remploy gave me the opportunity to show I was just as capable as anybody else and although working in retail had never crossed my mind, I’m delighted to now be part of the M&S family.”
Sheridan, 22, from Manor Park, successfully completed two apprenticeships after leaving school but his self-esteem remained very low. With Remploy’s support, he embarked on a work placement with us. Through our Marks & Start initiative, we offer job opportunities to those who face complex barriers to employment, including people with disabilities and health conditions. Sheridan emerged with a job and has recently started work alongside Ashley.
“Remploy had belief in me and Marks & Spencer gave me a great opportunity,” added Sheridan. “Ash has shown that by working hard -the opportunities are there and he has made me determined to succeed too. My confidence is growing daily, along with my determination not let anything get in the way.”
“We have a really positive relationship with Remploy. Ashley and Sheridan have shown great drive and commitment and we are thrilled to have access to such a fantastic pool of talented people through Remploy's direct hire recruitment service and our Marks & Start programme.” said Store Manager Hedley Corney.
Remploy Business Manager Sally Lockwood added, “It’s always extremely satisfying to see the success of our candidates. Through work, they gain skills, independence and confidence. Remploy works alongside a number of positive-thinking employers who are willing to disregard disability and concentrate on the contributions people can make to their business and Marks & Spencer is certainly one of them.”Inside M&S
Former Saturday boy is an inspiration to us all
Today we’re excited to introduce our new CEO – Steve Rowe. Steve himself has had a long history with our company and his career journey is a truly inspiring one. You might say that working at M&S runs in Steve’s family, as his father worked in Food for many years.
Steve joined us in 1983 as a Saturday boy. From there he progressed in a variety of roles within store management. He’s been a Merchandiser for Menswear; Category Manager in the Furniture Department; Director of Home; Director of Retail and a member of the Executive Committee among other things.
In October 2012, Steve was appointed to the Board as Executive Director of Food before becoming Executive Director of General Merchandise in July 2015. After a career at M&S spanning 26 years, in January 2016 it was announced that Steve was taking on the mantle of Chief Executive Officer.
“I am very proud and privileged to be leading M&S – a business that has been built on the support and loyalty of its customers. In fact, without our customers, we don’t have a business, so you’re going to hear me talk about customers – a lot. We not only need to listen to them, we need to learn, and adapt.
One of the things that I have learnt during my time at M&S is that we have a tendency to over-complicate things. I’m a big believer in keeping things simple. Doing things simply means we serve customers better, manage costs, and work more efficiently.
I wholeheartedly believe in the growth of this business. We need to work together and work smarter in order to do it, but I know that it’s achievable and that we can achieve it in a profitable way for our shareholders.”
All of us at M&S welcome Steve in his new role and wish him well. With him at the helm we’re confident that the future holds a lot of success for our business.
Our very own 'Dessert Doctor' does us proud
Well done James Campbell, our Dessert Product Developer - whose team topped the bill in Tuesday's professional spin-off of Great British Bake Off.
“Bake Off: Creme de la Crème” is presented by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, with fifteen teams of professional chefs competing to produce the most impressive miniatures and showpiece desserts.
Team Captain James helped his side overcome a sticky start to come from behind and top the points total, and progress to the semi-finals. You can see their challenges on BBC iPlayer.
James is the influence behind some of our most innovative and iconic desserts, including the Billionaire Shortcake and Jaffa Sphere, and says that it was a great experience.Inside M&S
Retail from every angle
If you’re keen to see retail in all its glory, M&S is the place to be. Ali was selected for our graduate programme but instead took a Sales Advisor role. Since then, we’ve supported her development by allowing her to change roles frequently and giving her exposure to all parts of the business, from Finance to Food, Clothing to Hospitality. Ali’s career has taken her from our stores to field roles to head office. So what keeps her here?
“If I was asked, ‘what are the best three things about working for M&S?’ I would have the say, the people, the people and the people! I feel privileged to have worked with such a fabulous bunch of colleagues over the years – people who are proud to be associated with the M&S brand and live its values to the full. And many of them have been with us for as long as I have.”
In her present role, Ali is responsible for the retail operations side of our Café business.
“I visit our stores and see the tremendous work people in our Cafés do to keep our customers happy. There is some real talent helping to shape the direction of our Hospitality business. The pace is always fast in our Cafés. Customers come in for some refreshment and then want to be on their way. That suits me. I’m a bit of foodie, so I’m in the right environment, but I’m also the kind of person who likes to get things done. It’s hard work, and you have to be able to perform as part of a team, but it’s also really enjoyable.”
M&S colleagues in our Cafés regularly get together for a variety of social events and they also show their caring side. Our Cafés have a special partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and many of our people have thrown themselves into a host of fundraising activities.
“I’ve been so proud of how much we’ve achieved with Macmillan over the past couple of years,” says Ali. “But as well as supporting their vital work, it’s also given me one of my most memorable M&S moments: preparing many of our senior managers to win a Tug of War competition in aid of the charity!”
So what’s does Ali get up to outside work? “Spending time with my family comes first, but I also play the double bass. And I always make time to enjoy my favourite M&S product… the scrumptious fruit scone with clotted cream and jam from our Café, you can’t beat it!”Inside M&S
Switchboard Customer Assistant
Customer satisfaction doesn’t start and end at our store doors. As a multichannel business, we pride ourselves on delivering the perfect customer experience whenever, and however, our customers contact us. This is where our friendly Switchboard (Telephony) Customer Assistants come in – doing everything they can to solve queries and get the right information to our customers, so they can continue finding and enjoying our perfect products.
About the role
When our customers choose to contact us by phone, you'll be there as part of a close-knit team to ensure they get the quality customer service they deserve. Using leading industry technology, you'll answer day-to-day problems and queries, aiming for first time satisfaction, every time.
What’s more, because you’ll know more than anyone about what our customers are thinking, feeling and doing, we’ll see you as a knowledgeable resource. We’ll regularly ask for your opinion based on the discussions you’ve had with our customers and ask you to share the insight you’ve gained.
Working as a Switchboard Customer Assistant
When people contact us, they want to speak to someone who can swiftly deal with their query so they can get on with their day. Our friendly Switchboard Customer Assistants know the ins and outs of every business area – so they can deliver the right answers, right away.
Where you'll work
You’ll be working in one of our 12 switchboard hubs around the UK
A step in the right direction
Dave, Food Manager for Tamworth store in Staffordshire, was attracted to working for a business which had a quality brand for both General Merchandise and Foods.
“Before joining M&S, I’d spent seven years as a Deputy General Manager at a rival food retailer. I immediately warmed to the fast-paced working culture, meeting new people and the day-to-day interaction with customers. I pride myself on providing great service. After all, this is what keeps our customers coming back – time and again.
“If I had to sum up my role in three words, I’d say it’s rewarding, demanding and challenging – which is fortunate as this is how I’d describe my ideal role. Working for such a reputable company is reward in itself, however, being recognised for doing a great job and having a healthy work/life balance helps too.
“For me, Monday mornings are the favourite part of my working week. This is when I collate my sales figures from the previous week and analyse how we’re doing versus the rest of the region and the wider company. It’s a good motivator and I like to stay on top of our performance. Welcoming new joiners is always interesting too. I start by giving them a tour of the Food Hall and give them the chance to introduce themselves to the team. It’s also a good opportunity to talk about service and the high standards we expect here. I remember feeling quite nervous on my first day, so I do all that I can to put people at their ease and help them find their feet.
“My career has evolved massively since joining the business. Meeting new people and making new contacts has helped me to develop as a manager and also as an individual. There is so much talent and a wealth of expertise. People are always happy to share what they know; we really do work as a tight unit. I’ve also had the chance to go on some fantastic courses in London and visit some of the flagship stores down there.
“I think my proudest career moment would probably have to be getting through the online application, assessment day and interview to join the company. Making the move to M&S was definitely a step in the right direction for my career and I have been made to feel very welcome since joining the company.”
Find out more about our Section Manager roles here.
Food Internships: A taste of life at M&S
Our newest food innovation is actually a food careers innovation. We’ve recently launched an all-new trio of Food Internships for first and second year undergraduates. Starting in June, It’s an opportunity for talented students set on a future in food to gain valuable experience from a truly inimitable food retailer.
Learning from a pioneer
Food has always been an integral part of the M&S story. We’ve masterminded an array of industry firsts, from sell-by dates in the 1970s to our headline-grabbing Melt in the Middle Chocolate Puddings in 2004. And with delectable new arrivals like the runny Scotch egg, orange wine and red bananas, we're still very much first for food.
Three recipes for success
We’re introducing the new internships to connect with future food leaders as early as possible in their careers. There are three programmes: Food Buying, Food Technology and Food Product Development. On each, students join us for eight weeks over the summer after their first or second year of study to learn on the job from some of the brightest minds in the industry. Interns will also head back to university with newly acquired management training, some useful contacts and, if all goes well, the prospect of a place on one of our graduate programmes.
If you’re interested in spending the summer with us, please note that each programme has particular degree requirements. More broadly, we’re looking for students who show real passion for a career at the pinnacle of the food industry, and who are eager to make the most of all the learning opportunities ahead.
A job for life; not just for Christmas
You can build a career within M&S. Wherever you start out, there are so many opportunities within the business you can get involved with. It comes down to being vocal about where you see yourself on the career path and driving your own development.”
After completing an Electrical Engineering degree, Fiona had worked in retail for some other businesses before joining us as a Christmas temp way back in 1994. Things have changed a lot since then, and so has Fiona’s role – seeing as she’s now our Islington Store Manager.
“From starting as a Christmas temp at the Brixton store, I feel that M&S has really allowed me to flourish. Within six months of joining I was given the opportunity to be a supervisor on GM. I then moved to Walworth Road to become a Section Manager on Foods. Having a passion for fashion and the commercial side of the business, I then decided to apply for a programme which helps individuals to become Commercial Managers. This then opened doors for me to become a Store Manager.”
Seeing how opportunities arose in her own career, Fiona’s keen to pass on what she’s learnt to everyone she works with.
“Overall, my job is to excite and inspire my customers. But I need my team to help me do that. So I also look to create energy and enthusiasm through my leadership. Helping my Customer Assistants to further their own careers and become Section Co-ordinators and Section Managers; I see that as one of my biggest achievements.”
Obviously, what it comes down to is drive, determination and willingness to work. But sometimes you do need some support. So how does she feel that M&S has helped her get to where she wanted to be?
“The company provided various courses and tools to support my development. But the key to my success, I believe was building a network of peers who you can pick up the phone to and spend some time with.”
Just time for one last question. With 21 years’ experience under her belt, who does she see as being a good fit for M&S?
“Someone who is passionate, enthusiastic about their role, willing to be self driven in their development and motivated to demonstrate our values. Don’t let being a “Parent” stop you achieving your goals. I certainly didn’t.”Inside M&S
A light at the end of the tunnel
Despite growing up with parents who were seriously ill, Stacey, 23 from Swansea, achieved five GCSEs at school and a place at college to study an NVQ.
However, when her father’s bowel cancer became terminal, Stacey left college to care for her mother, meaning she had to grow up very quickly and missed out on many things that typical teenagers take for granted.
By the age of 18, Stacey had tragically lost both of her parents, throwing her whole world into turmoil, and leading to depression and a breakdown. Despite being offered anti-depressants by her doctor, Stacey was determined not to be dependent on tablets and made a vow with her brother that they would get through things together.
It was then, while claiming Job Seekers' Allowance, that Stacey was introduced to Make Your Mark, our four-week employability programme run in partnership with the Princes Trust, and life began to change.
“Before the course nobody would give me a chance and I felt worthless. I was terrified but knew I had to give it a go and, with the help of The Prince’s Trust and M&S, I’m pleased to say I did just that.”
Working in the Swansea store’s food department, she quickly learned how to deal with other people again and, as the weeks progressed, she began taking more initiative, faced up to new challenges and saw her confidence return. After impressing everyone with her attitude, she was offered a temporary contract and was delighted to be made permanent in June 2015.
“Without this chance I’d still be claiming benefits, too scared to try anything new. With my new-found confidence, my aim is to give others the boost they need to show they can get through the worst of times, just like I did.”
This article and image originated on the Princes Trust website.
10 minutes with Sarah, Head of Organisational Development
As International Women’s Day approaches, we meet Sarah Findlater, our Head of Organisational Development, to find out our position when it comes to gender diversity at M&S, what we’re doing to celebrate IWD and how we’re planning to improve.
Hi Sarah, so tell us a bit about what you do.
I head up organisational development for M&S. That covers recruitment, learning and talent development, employee relations and engagement and also includes responsibility for diversity and inclusion.
So, as part of that, what have you got lined up for International Women’s Day (IWD)?
Well, we’ve got a panel discussion scheduled in, titled “What I wish I knew then”, which brings together five inspiring M&S women – our HR Director, Director of Womenswear, Lingerie and Beauty, Head of the Property Strategic Programme Office, Head of Technology for Fresh and one of our retail managers. They’ll talk about their career journeys, share their best and worst moments, what's helped them, and give their thoughts on what more we can do to improve our gender balance.
What is the gender balance like at M&S?
In the UK our general workforce is 74% female. When it comes to senior leadership, 38% of our board are female. Globally the general workforce is 72% female* and senior leadership is at 40%*. This is obviously something to be proud of but we know we can do more. This is partially why we’re organising more events around IWD.
What other events have you got planned?
Our Inspiring Women’s network is hosting a couple of roundtable discussions under the title of “The Gender Debate”. The aim here is to have some open, frank conversations about our business – answering questions like ‘why are there fewer women in senior roles?’ and ‘what is the role of men in gender equality?’ - and use that to focus the network’s role in the future.
Tell us a bit about the Inspiring Women’s Network.
We set it up around two years ago. We essentially wanted a way to inspire, support and enable women to reach their full potential, and encourage more women towards senior roles in the company. It also was a great way to raise awareness of the gender debate within our company.
And how does it do that?
Through a series of speaker events (we’ve had people like Jo Malone, Ruby Wax and Bonita Norris talk to our people), a dedicated coaching programme that’s sponsored by our CFO, Helen Weir and, with a new network board just about to start work, we’re also pushing forward with a female mentoring programme. This is in addition to our existing ‘30% club’ mentoring programme.
It’s an initiative that looks to achieve a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards. Our Chairman, Robert Swannell was one of the first Chairs to sign up. One of the activities that we’re part of is their cross business mentoring programme which means we provide mentors, and people who want to be mentored, with the ultimate aim of improving career prospects for women and increasing the understanding of the challenges they face.
So, it sounds like you already do quite a lot of work towards gender diversity.
Yes, we do. I mean, we try to give our employees all the support they need to do a terrific job. For many women that means solid female-friendly policies. We offer enhanced maternity and paternity policies, for example. But more than that, it’s about being open to the individual needs of everyone who works with us. We’ve had some real successes with flexible working trial periods – tweaking work arrangements and keeping an open dialogue in order to get the best result for everyone.
We just want to try and do everything we can. We know that lots of women develop brilliant careers at M&S but, if you look at the numbers, there’s still some imbalance when it comes to senior leadership. There’s obviously something stopping some talented women progressing into these roles. And we’re just working hard to fix that.
*stats correct as of global data, April 2015Inside M&S