18 May, 2018

CELEBRATING THE NEIGHBOURS’ WEDDING

The Royal Wedding’s taking place in Windsor, of course. But after the bunting and pageantry, the celebrations and the honeymoon, Prince Harry and his bride Meghan are moving into a new apartment in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London.

M&S High Street Kensington is just down the road from the Palace. Martyn is the Store Manager. “My store is on a busy, vibrant street and attracts locals, commuters and tourists as our valued customers,” he says. “In fact, we welcome some 100,000 customers each week, and being so close to Kensington Palace, there’s a special feel. We have always offered the very best of M&S, but we’re currently working to make the store even better by expanding our range of childrenswear and introducing a new hot food offer.”

But maybe that will be put on hold for a few days. Naturally, Martyn is keen to raise a glass or two to mark the nuptials of his neighbours. “People will want to celebrate in style and we have everything they need – from fizz to fairy cakes and even commemorative biscuit tins, it’s all here under one roof. There are special display windows and welcome zones to get customers into Royal Wedding mood. And there’s even be a red, white and blue-layered cake in our Café.”

Martyn’s in for a busy few days, so will he have time to celebrate with his team? “We’ll make time!” he laughs. “On Saturday, there will be a special royal menu in our canteen so team members can make it an occasion to remember. I’ll personally be having a party with friends who love all things royal. No doubt it will involve a glass or two of our Prosecco!”

Should Harry and Meghan decide to pop into their local M&S for food or clothing, they will be guaranteed a warm welcome. “I work with an amazing team of people and the way they strive to make every moment special for our customers never ceases to impress me. It’s also great to get feedback from our customers. If the feedback is good, it motivates me to continue to get things right; if it’s not, I look for ways to make things better,” Martyn says.

Kensington Palace is not the only royal focus for Martyn’s store. Because of its location, it’s also heavily connected to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, which has traditionally been a highlight in HM The Queen’s calendar. We’ve exhibited at the show for several years running now, always looking to come up with new theme to showcase a collection of beautiful blooms.

Martyn is not a born-and-bred Londoner. He joined M&S in Newcastle some 15 years ago as part of a placement programme. He then worked in stores across north-east and north-west England before arriving in the capital. He loves being part of the local community and doing something for it, highlighting his store’s donation of unsold food to the Felix project to provide meals for those down on their luck.

And he loves London. “It’s such a vibrant city and really does have something for everyone. I particularly enjoy all the green spaces we have, absolutely perfect for when I want to switch off and relax for a while.”

M&S. A store near a Palace. And London itself. No wonder Martyn says he’s never looked back.

Inside M&S
16 May, 2018

MAKING THE MOST OF RISING TALENT

It’s Deaf Awareness Week – a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our deaf colleagues right across M&S. This year we spoke to Zofia: an undergraduate currently based in our Food PR team on a 12-month placement. This inspiring student talked to us about her life, how she came to be at M&S and what her plans are for the future.

“My love of food started at an early age – I’ve always really enjoyed baking and my favourite subject at school was Food Technology. My teacher became my role model - she was very strict and could be scary sometimes but she really believed in me and knew I had the drive to succeed. As part of the A Level course I took an internship at Rhokett, one of M&S’ main dessert suppliers. Here I saw some of the amazing food that M&S creates. The team were making our ‘famous’ Belgium Chocolate Jaffa Sphere while I was there. Yum! I have an M&S store near where I live and I always get excited every time I go in and can’t resist trying anything new, especially chocolate!

“While I loved Food Technology at school, I did struggle academically and people often doubted my ability – this spurred me on to prove them wrong. I worked so hard and achieved really high grades for my GCSEs (A* to Cs) – this was a turning point for me. Before that I didn’t see myself as an academic person and never envisaged I would go to university. But now after three A-levels (A* A* B), I’m at Sheffield Hallam University studying Food Marketing Management. I’m really proud of myself and how far I have come.

“I’ve always had incredibly supportive family and friends but being deaf has obviously been a challenge for me, particularly when I was younger. I do feel that young people can misjudge people with disabilities because they don’t understand and don’t know how to act normally with them. After doing so well at school, I decided to have a break and take a gap year and spent an amazing four months in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. This made me more confident, independent and sociable and helped me at university, where I met wonderful people and was in a very supportive environment with friends and tutors.

“As part of my university degree, I chose to do a 12-month industry placement. I applied to several places but was so thrilled when I was accepted at M&S as a Food Press Assistant. It’s a busy role that sees me regularly liaise with journalists and organise events like press shows. It’s a buzzy environment and I love the fact I’ve been given so much responsibility. Every day I work with lots of creative people and learn something new. I’ve grown a lot as a person while working here and I feel that I will have achieved so much by the time I leave. I’ve always worked hard and have become very career driven – I’d absolutely love to come back to M&S. Save me a chair in the new smarter working set-up!

“If I could give anyone advice with hearing loss I’d say be positive and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you are deaf, because you can! Carry on, even if it’s a long ride, never give up.” When asked how having hearing loss has shaped Zofia as a person, she said “I feel I do stand out in a positive way. I love a Richard Branson quote about his own disability, dyslexia: ‘It’s a gift, not a disability but your greatest strength’”.

Inside M&S
11 May, 2018

Maureen celebrates 50 years at M&S

It was 1967 when Maureen started working at M&S in her home town of Kirkcaldy. 10 years later, she was promoted and started working in Dundee where she’s worked ever since.

“I first joined M&S as a sales assistant in Kirkcaldy, starting out work at just 15 years old. I then was given the opportunity to come up here and become a Section Manager 10 years later, at just 25 years old,” she said.

Maureen describes M&S Dundee as a family, and soon her own family grew too. “I’ve got my husband who works here full time, he’s been here about 20 years now,” she said. “We have two daughters and they both worked here while at university. So, at one point there were the four of us in here working.”

When Maureen was pregnant she thought she wouldn’t be able take care of her daughter and continue working full time. “The manager at that time said, ‘you can’t leave, how are we going to manage without you!’,” Maureen said. “So, she essentially said ‘when you come back, there will be a job here for you’. We worked together to find what worked best for me and decided on 12 hours instead of the 39 that I was previously doing.”

It was the M&S culture and the people who worked here that kept Maureen going. “I think it’s just the spirit we have in the company, which comes right from the top.”

Maureen’s 50-year milestone was marked with a large staff celebration in store, before a first-class trip with her husband to London at M&S’s expense. “It was fabulous, it made me feel so special,” she said.

On behalf of everyone here at M&S, we would like to thank Maureen, for all the years she’s dedicated to us. And hopefully many more to come!

Find out more about Section Manager roles HERE.

Inside M&S
9 May, 2018

My M&S Favourite campaign is launched

My M&S Favourite, which recently launched in over 1,000 of our stores across the country, sees M&S colleagues donning new, personalised badges declaring their favourite M&S products. It will also be supported on shelves with call-outs highlighting colleague recommendations to customers.

The campaign comes as a result of research showing that personal recommendations matter more than anything else when it comes to influencing purchases.

Sharry, our Food Marketing Director, said: “From our much-loved Percy Pigs through to our famous Cornish Cruncher Cheddar, M&S sells amazing food and everyone has their favourite.

“Our colleagues are really proud of the products we sell and, in an era of personalisation, when nothing matters more to our customers than a friendly recommendation, this gives us a real advantage.

“We want to have some fun with customers over the summer with this campaign and we’re kick-starting it by using the influence of our people to get the nation talking about their favourite M&S products. And just for the record – mine is our Toffee Shortbread Petticoat Tails which are truly delicious!”

Inside M&S
4 May, 2018

ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER TRIBUTE

We’re delighted to have made the list yet again. It says everything about the steps we have taken to champion individual female employees and embrace a more enlightened and progressive approach to gender equality.

Becky is our Diversity & Inclusion Manager, having originally joined M&S as an A-level school leaver on our Commercial Management training scheme. “It’s imperative that all our people feel included whatever their background, wherever they’re from or whatever their gender or sexuality, and are able to pursue their goals – no-one should be held back because of something they cannot change,” she says. “Diversity and inclusion thinking is ever-evolving and it’s great to know that we’re moving forward sufficiently to gain this achievement for the eighth consecutive year.”

As part of her role in driving our D&I initiatives, Becky is heavily involved in our Gender Equality Network. “GEN has made great strides in developing different opportunities for middle managers to mentor and support women looking for promotion at M&S – speed mentoring is just one example.”

GEN runs regular events, particularly around International Women’s Day, which are always well attended and generate positive feedback. These have included Inspiring Speakers events and a series of professional development seminars designed around skills that research shows help women to progress. “These are open to everyone, but our next focus is to further involve men in the discussion and events!” Becky says.

Making the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list involves a comprehensive submission process managed by the gender equality campaign of Business in the Community. We’re convinced that a number of our policies had a bearing on us making the list.

For a start, there is the flexibility and choice of our working arrangements on which so many women place a high premium. Our part-time hours, job sharing and term-time working arrangements are tailored to helping working mothers return to the workplace.

The opportunity to take an unpaid career break of up to nine months comes in handy for our people at many different stages in life, whether they’re wanting to see more of the world, get more in touch with themselves, pursue a passion or fulfil a lifetime ambition.

We provide paid time off work for women undergoing IVF treatment and those being assessed to become foster or adoptive parents. Then there’s our 24-hour confidential helpline that they can call so they have the peace of mind in knowing there is always someone there they can reach out to, in whatever circumstances they find themselves.

Together, these reveal the degree of thought that goes into making sure the support we give all of our female colleagues is as comprehensive as possible.

Inside M&S

For Section Managers why do you offer video interviews rather than telephone interviews?

Video interviews can be done at your convenience 24- 7. This tends to fit in with our candidates who work a variety of shifts. The process is easy and can be completed on an Ipad or PC. Also, as you know M&S Section Managers also use a great deal of technology at work, so we do expect our candidates to be able to navigate through HireVue (the video provider) as it is very easy to use.

Why has my confirmation email for the Section Manger role I applied for pulled through a different name?

With Section Manager roles as they are advertised under a cluster of stores the confirmation email only pulls through the name of the store that the vacancy was created under. Don’t worry at the assessment centre they will have a discussion with you regarding your mobility and if successful you will be offered a vacancy within the required mobility of one hour and fifteen minutes from your home. You will typically start at a training store for up to 3 months, so that you can get the best training and then move to a permanent store.

25 April, 2018

CHAMPIONING OUR CUSTOMER-FIRST BELIEFS

Lisa started her career as a Cashier at a building society in the early ‘90s, progressing to Manager – the youngest in her region. After taking time out to start a family, she saw that M&S was looking for Christmas temps. She’d always loved our brand and saw it as a great way to return to the workplace. Three months later she became permanent Beauty Advisor, then worked her way up from Customer Assistant to Section Manager in Ladieswear. For the past two years, Lisa has been Lingerie & Beauty Section Manager at our Thurrock Lakeside store.

So what’s Lisa’s priority when she comes into work? “Service is at the top of my list,” she says without hesitation. “When I’m on the sales floor I welcome customers into the department. If the team’s under pressure in the fitting room, I’ll host and offer advice to waiting customers. I’m also present around the till area to make sure we have enough people serving our customers.”

Despite being hands-on, Lisa knows the importance of team leadership in making every moment special for our customers. “I engage my team every day to talk about service: how we should focus on customers rather than the task to deliver what’s right for them. I make it my job to understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can develop their skills and bring their personalities to work – customer needs are individual, but so too are the needs of my team members.”

It all starts first thing when Lisa walks the floor, greets her team, assesses standards and celebrates achievements – whether that’s a nice comment from a customer or sales results. We recently ran a Bra Fit campaign, surveying every customer fitted. With 85 of 90 comments being ‘outstanding’, Lisa’s team was placed in the top 20% across M&S. She says, “I’m proud to lead a team of women who put customers at the heart of everything and I was delighted to pass on these results.”

After that, it’s the management morning huddle when Lisa helps to share service scores and update the service board. Any risk areas to the store are identified and discussed, and resourcing might have to be adjusted to take into account staff absences in any part of the store. Then Lisa often takes part in a commercial walk round. “I have my sales figures, and along with our Store Manager and Lingerie Commercial Manager, we discuss commercial opportunities and potential improvements to visual displays and layouts; I then talk to the relevant team as soon as possible.”

Lunchtime is Lisa’s favourite part of the day, working with her team on the sales floor, setting the example. “I overheard a customer telling her friend that she could never buy bras from M&S as they don’t make her size. I showed her where she needed to look for her size and style. Then I explained that we offer a free service to fit her into a bra that would suit her shape and needs. She was so pleased after her fitting that she wanted to keep her new bra on and paid for her items on the till that we have in our fitting room.”

Early afternoon can be spent in individual departments looking at sales performance, before a department meeting. “This is follow-up from our earlier walk round. We see how our action plans are coming along, discuss our own development and decide what we want to achieve as a management team,” Lisa explains.

It’s a busy life, but Lisa doesn’t think it will last forever. “I would love to live in the country one day, have my own smallholding and be self-sufficient,” she says.

From store life to ‘The Good Life’!

Inside M&S
24 April, 2018

Flying the flag for women in Engineering

Engineering Assistant, Magda, came to Castle Donington on the recommendation of a friend who told her M&S was the best company to work for. We have not let her down.

Before I joined M&S, I worked as a machine operator for a cake factory. I was keen to develop my career further in Engineering, and after a friend recommended M&S, I knew this was the right place to do it. I am always learning new things and thus developing my skills further. I can still remember my first day here. The warehouse was so impressive, packed with lots of state-of-the art technology.

I started out as a Warehouse Operative before being promoted to First Time Fixer in the Engineering Department, which in turn, allowed me to progress into my current role as an Engineering Assistant. At the moment, I’m using lots of different technology and automation, it’s very exciting and no two days are the same.

I had a lot of support here during my early days from my more experienced co-workers. The team and management also pushed me to achieve my goals. They even allowed me the flexibility to attend college to study for my Engineering qualifications.

My position has a lot of responsibilities and I always need to be prepared to take action. My main aim is to keep the machinery in motion. Ultimately, this ensures our customers receive their orders on-time. Values are very important at M&S and these values have given me the courage and push to make my dreams of a career in Engineering a reality.

Landing this role is my biggest achievement; I see it as an opportunity to fly the flag for women in Engineering. The working culture here is very fair and professional and you can always count on your co-workers and the management team for support. But if I could change one thing, it would be to encourage more women to consider a career in Engineering.

Someone who enjoys being part of a team would love it here. I can always rely on my team and we really support each other. There are always new things to learn and I’m a quick learner so I hope there’s more in store for me here career wise.

Inside M&S

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