APPRENTICESHIPS AT THE SHARP END OF RETAIL MANAGEMENT
Jamie completed the M&S 12-week A-Development Programme. After he was appointed to a live role as a Section Manager, the next step was to take the M&S Retail Leader Level 3 Apprenticeship. Over the programme’s 18 months, he’ll be in the thick of things and taking real responsibility to develop the skills to be an effective and inspirational team leader.
Ashbourne is a large format Food Hall and Jamie is Finance & Operations Section Manager. “I lead a team to deliver a smooth store operation and manage costs to protect profitability,” he says. “I could be hands-on with my team in the warehouse, undertaking personal development reviews, probing sales figures or looking at stock or till losses.”
What Jamie loves about his job is that every day brings a fresh challenge. His role can be quite technical, with responsibilities ranging from cash management and warehouse operations to food safety. This gives both Jamie and his team the scope to stretch themselves – but his role can evolve beyond finance and operations.
“At any given time, I could be duty managing the store,” he explains. “That would mean taking responsibility for the safety of customers and colleagues and responding to incidents, which can range from the routine to the more serious.”
No-one is better placed to weigh up the merits of taking an Apprenticeship or going to university than Jamie. “As it goes, I did attend uni and worked in the field in which I trained. However, I had to change my plans to care for my family and took a part-time job at M&S, which really sparked my interest in retail. Now, I love the flexibility of my Apprenticeship and how it allows me to work, earn and learn. It gives me access to the career I want without doing a degree.”
Jamie was attracted to the pace of retail, and to M&S in particular because of our history and culture. “M&S was always the brand I associated with quality when I was growing up, whether I was buying my first suit or a dine-in to impress a girlfriend!
When I joined, my expectations were linked to my experiences as a customer. I’ve discovered we’re not just about turning a profit. What counts is that we do business in a way that is ethical and sustainable, putting the customer at the heart of everything and delivering amazing service.”
Jamie’s grateful for the support he’s been given on his M&S journey, whether that’s encouragement from his managers on the A-Development Programme, time away from the shop floor to focus on his Apprenticeship, mentoring, coaching or workshops. Now he’s giving his time to others.
“I try to inspire my team to develop themselves and I’m really pleased that two of my direct reports have successfully applied for advancement in the business. I’m proud that my passion for M&S has rubbed off on others.”Inside M&S
THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR ON-THE-JOB LEARNING
Sarah originally wanted to be a primary school teacher. So she chose the right A-levels and won a place to study for an Education degree at Nottingham Trent University. Sarah loved the teaching placements, but found the pace of the course very slow.
In sharp contrast to the part-time job she was doing to fund her studies. “I started working as a 24-hour-a-week Customer Assistant at our West Bridgford Simply Food store. It was a big store, so fast-paced, a fantastic first retail experience,” she remembers. “So I made the decision to leave uni, took a Section Manager Coordinator role, passed my assessment for Section Manager and then started my Level 4 Apprentice in Retail Management to climb further up the ranks.”
It was a big decision to leave uni and change her career ambitions. So does Sarah have any regrets? “Uni is expensive and doesn’t always lead to a ‘graduate’ job,” she muses. “Work-based skills and experiences matter increasingly these days. If an Apprenticeship provides training tailored to your needs, you’re in a win-win situation and fortunately my training is relevant and applicable day to day. But a word of warning: you need the commitment and drive to see it through, plus the time management and organisational skills to meet deadlines, especially at Level 4.”
Sarah loves the intensity of retail and the ever-changing environment of M&S. As a Customer Assistant, she found there was lots to get her teeth into – and if uni is supposed to be a hotbed of learning and development, so too is M&S especially with the number of stores and store formats, products and services. “I’m lucky to have experienced five different stores and three different store formats, working with around 800 colleagues on both the food and clothing sides of the business,” she says.
Sarah’s now Relief Commercial Manager at our Lincoln store as she completes her Apprenticeship, acting as ‘No.2’ in the store and as Foods & Hospitality Commercial Manager. It certainly keeps her on her toes. As ‘No 2’, Sarah duty manages the store: “I do a full store walk to check we’re safe to open, meet managers to discuss priorities, plan commercial events, liaise with my team and support the service proposition – after all, we’ve always been known for quality products and exceptional service, and I’ve had a customer make a special return visit to thank us for finding her an outfit for a special occasion. But I’ll even roll my sleeves up to help out in the café if needed!”
Sarah sees herself as a future Store Manager – either in a Food Hall or on the high street, she’s open to ideas. She’s learned lots on the job and seized opportunities to gain new experiences, but she’s appreciative of the help she’s been given to help her achieve her goals.
“Managers have been so supportive in making sure I have my 20% study time each week and there are lots of experienced colleagues to learn from. The M&S culture is very people-orientated, so if you’re hardworking and passionate about excellence, everyone will help you to get on.”Inside M&S
Meet Naomi, Head of Insight
As women represent 72% of our employees and 62% of our customers, they are pretty important to our business success. No one knows this more than Naomi, our Head of Insight.
"When I was asked for this interview ‘what makes you tick’, I asked my husband. His reply was ‘difficulty’. And he’s right. I’m a do-er and will get done whatever it is that needs to be done, irrespective of the circumstances that it needs to be done in. So, in my last role, when I needed to speak to a Chinese retailer at their convenience, I did so via Skype in business dress from the waist up and pyjamas from the waist down. From my kitchen. At 4am.
"Before I joined M&S, I’d worked with several major UK and international retailers, as well as brands and telecommunications companies, so the transition to M&S was an obvious next step. Customers are at the heart of everything we do at M&S. It’s an approach I believe in wholeheartedly. I’ve built customercentric capabilities for many companies – and customer data and insight have always been my starting point.
"This wasn’t the only thing that made us a good fit. There was huge appeal for me in the complexity of working for a big retailer and the diversity across food and clothing & home with the multi channel aspect of how we engage our customers both here and in our international business.
"My team and I are here to find out what customers really want and need. We analyse what they tell us, interpreting data from an array of sources such as shopping transactions, online browsing, social & digital engagement, research as well as sourcing market data which helps us understand the context for how people live, where they spend their time and money and how our competitors are executing their strategies. Bringing the picture into focus calls for analysis using multiple analytical disciplines ranging from data science, to data analytics to research but also some judgement and our experience. It’s about providing market and customer insight while also keeping a close eye on the broader strategic projects that deliver competitive advantage.
"We are structured to align each member of my team with a specific Business Unit and function since all this insight is no use to us if we don’t use it to improve our decisions. We’re involved in most big initiatives and in supporting teams day-to-day. The best thing about Customer Insight is that our work is extremely varied and meaningful – we all have a direct impact on customers’ experience of M&S. It’s very rewarding work and I consider it a privilege.
"In Food, for instance, we helped to evaluate the impact of changing decor in stores. The results of our trial told us we could remove decor, and customers and sales were not adversely affected. We also support Food with strategies for specific groups of customers we want to protect from competitor threat.
"A great Customer Insight professional must have a number of strings to their bow. You need to be a commercial thinker who understands what the broader business priorities are and how you can support them by asking the right questions. Once you’ve identified what these are, being a strong capability specialist comes into its own. This means knowing how to analyse data and deploy the most appropriate methods to produce the most useful, informative answers.
"Insight specialists are one of the few teams to benefit from a genuine overview of total business performance. Knowing how to pull all the levers that drive customer loyalty is an invaluable skill, particularly if you make every effort to hone it to perfection.
"My advice to a new joiner would be to keep an open mind. Don’t be so fixated on what you think you want that you miss what you really want. Some of my worst career experiences – horrible locations, terribly dull work, painfully long hours – taught me tenacity and I did end up learning skills that I’m grateful I now have. The more variety of experience you have, the more authentic you’ll be as a leader. You can spot issues, side step risks and be more helpful to everyone if you have personal experiences you can draw on.
"As for what I do in my spare time, in all honesty, I don’t have a great deal of that. But that’s probably more to do with the fact I have three young children and a fairly chaotic household. However, when I do, I love to run and I’m currently training for the London Marathon, which is the first time I’ve attempted 26.2 miles in one go! I also bake. A lot. My children will tell you that I never (ever) buy a cake. That being said, when my children were very little, the M&S café used to be a godsend. It was the only place where I could comfortably feed a baby – whom the other customers loved to entertain whilst I had a coffee and the cake was pretty good too!"Inside M&S
SEEING THE TALENT, NOT THE GENDER
At M&S, we have always been a fervent supporter of International Women’s Day, which this year is issuing a global call to #PressforProgress towards gender parity. That’s something we’re passionate about, and we’re proud of our record of supporting women on their career journeys and the way we promote on ability alone. Alice is a case in point.
Interested in retail since she worked in her local post office while at school, Alice originally embarked on a retail consultancy career. That is, until she took on an assignment with us – and decided to ‘go native’. “In my six years at M&S, I’ve enjoyed a very exciting and varied range of roles,” she says.
Always interested in ‘the next big thing’, she joined our start-up New Channels team. “The team was doing such exciting things in the tech space. Like developing our first mobile phone app, designing the touchscreen order points for stores, trying out new technology such as AR and VR. I wanted to be part of this hugely promising frontier of retail.”
But after 18 months Alice had a hankering to work abroad and was seconded to Mumbai to work with Reliance, our joint venture partner in India. There, she launched a new store concept called ‘Lingerie & Beauty’, took our brand to a major online fashion marketplace – “and did a lot of travelling, exploring and eating amazing food,” she adds!
On returning to the UK, Alice headed up the Operations Development team within M&S.com, which focuses on cost reduction, strategic planning, project governance and financial control. After taking a year out to have (and get to know) her first child, Edith, she took on the new cross-functional role of Head of Customer Experience. Alice provokes conversations about how we can put the customer even more at the heart of our business, and looks at how we can become more digitally minded and work in an agile way to deliver step-changes for customers.
“My new role has given me a chance to work at a strategic level – writing board papers, examining our operating model and reviewing business-wide governance structures,” she says. “I’ve also had the chance to deliver a customer experience pilot project called ‘Fit & Style Studio’. This was designed and delivered in a very agile way. It’s given us useful insight into future opportunities for our business around styling services, in-store technology, and online and offline customer journeys.”
Alice has her own way of balancing the competing priorities of looking after her family and having a successful career. “I know my limits. I work a four-day week and rarely do any events in the evening. I pay my cleaner more than the minimum wage and she helps me out twice a week. My daughter is in a super nursery school, and my husband and I share the drop-offs and pick-ups evenly.”
So, Head of Customer Experience and a mother. Does Alice have time for anything else? “I’ve always enjoyed long distance running, open water swimming and travelling. Fine wine and black coffee have always been passions, but not any more… not when I have another little one on the way!”Inside M&S
It’s a family affair
There are a few people with family connections in our store. So myself and my family aren’t especially unusual in this regard. We all work in different areas of the business but all of us feel that M&S has family values at its core. I’m the Section Manager for the Children’s Wear, Lingerie and Beauty department and I love working with the public across these three distinct areas. It gives myself and the team a great opportunity to ensure that every customer interaction is special. It also means that no two days are the same.
The variety in my role is what I love best about it; there’s always something new to learn and I enjoy developing my team's knowledge too. This enables them to pass it on to our customers. I’d say that we’re a pretty close-knit store and we’ve forged great ties with the local community. I’m in the process of setting up a link with the local MacMillan Centre to allow us to give the right support and advice to our customers as they go through a challenging time in their lives.
We like to get involved in fundraising too, for example, and we’ve decorated a local women's refuge and lent a hand with beach cleaning. We’re also keen supporters of the Plan A waste initiative, which is a company-wide drive to minimise our impact on the environment.
There is a genuine passion and friendliness about the store. We pride ourselves on giving a warm, welcoming experience to our customers. For Mother’s Day, for instance, we’ll make sure that all mums visiting us on the day are wished a happy Mother's Day and we’ll be giving out a few treats to make them feel special. This extends to our own staff too. We’ll have an afternoon tea in Café Refresh for all those mums who are working. At home, many of us will be treated to lunch or dinner on the Sunday.
Inverness is such a beautiful city, it’s great for bringing up your family and has seen such growth in the last few years. It really is the place to be. After 26 years here, I can honestly say I have never had a single regret about joining M&S. The core values that we represent have ensured that it’s a great place to work and your ambitions can be realised from the ground up or through the graduate scheme.Inside M&S
Giving Chelsie the tools to grow
At M&S we believe that apprenticeships are the future. Not only are they a great way for people to get on the right career track and progress quickly but they present an amazing opportunity for businesses as well. They allow companies like ours to attract and develop diverse talent, nurturing the skills we need to for future growth. We place significant value on our apprentices, supporting their professional development and ensuring they have a clear and direct career path ahead of them, in order to create the leaders our business will require in future.
Take Chelsie for example. She first joined M&S Bath in 2012, starting as a summer temp working in the Café. Seven months later, she was put forward for a section co-ordinator assessment which led to a role in the menswear team. In 2017, Chelsie was keen to further develop her role, and enrolled on our Level 2 Retail Apprenticeship programme, which provides colleagues with the ability to grow their careers in the business by undertaking modules that include everything from learning more about running sections in-store through to marketing, merchandising, sales promotions and team management.
“I have found the apprenticeship so interesting. It’s given me the tools to grow my career in retail, which I hope will inspire others to try to get an apprenticeship when they leave school. I’ve received enormous support and have managed to develop my skills across a range of disciplines from visual merchandising, clothing and home, food, and head office. So far I feel like I have learnt so much that I am excited and confident about the next step in my apprenticeship journey,” says Chelsie.
M&S offers apprenticeship positions in retail, distribution and head office. On all the schemes, participants have the opportunity to learn from people who have been there, seen it and done it, alongside formal coaching and training to give them the skills that will set them up for the rest of their careers.
Interested? M&S apprenticeship opportunities are open later in the year. Keep an eye on our careers website and follow our social channels for regular updates.Inside M&S
Why an M&S apprenticeship works for Tia
With National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) in full swing, employers and apprentices from across the country celebrate the success and importance of apprenticeships for both people and businesses. At M&S we strongly believe that apprenticeships are a great way to progress in your career and an equally amazing way for our business to attract and develop diverse talent with the skills we need.
That’s why we are proud to introduce you to Tia, who is currently doing her A-Levels in mathematics, psychology and sociology. And in September 2018, Tia will begin her Level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship with us. The Level 7 Apprenticeship is a first for us – increasingly as our apprenticeship offering grows, we’re able to offer a broader range of opportunities. Over the next six years, as a solicitor apprentice, Tia will gain training and experience across all areas of the in-house Legal Department. But why did Tia choose an apprenticeship at M&S? We think this question is important to ask in order to understand the true value of apprenticeships and the role they play in the future of our business.
“I chose an apprenticeship because I wanted to get more real-world experience and I wanted the freedom for personal growth. I didn’t want to just jump into the academic world only to come out of it and be told I don’t have enough real working experience to get a job. I think the advantage of an apprenticeship is it gives you a lot more experience, not just in actual day-to-day work but with people in a professional environment. I think university can’t teach you that.
“And why I chose M&S? I saw the advertisement for the application on CILEx Law School, so I did a bit of a research. Obviously M&S is a big household name, so immediately I liked that. I also looked into the initiatives of the company, like the Plan-A strategy. It just felt like M&S spoke my language and shared my values.
“I was shocked when I got the offer. I went through the online assessments and then the assessment centre. There were a lot of applicants and just one spot. I was so happy and so proud of myself, because I'd wanted it so badly and I knew that if I got it, I would work hard.
“I’m so glad things worked out this way for me. I just thought from day one that an apprenticeship was a better route in terms of experience and lessons that you learn. The one thing I would say to people who are in my shoes is to stay motivated. Even if you don't hear back from places for a long time, stay motivated. Also, work very hard in school to get the best grades you can because it opens up so many doors. Finally, don’t compare yourself to others. Someone might seem like they’re better than you but you need to believe in your own unique skills and value. If you do, others will see it too.”
M&S apprenticeship opportunities are open later in the year. Keep an eye on our careers website and follow our social channels for regular updates.Inside M&S
Apprenticeships: Good for People, Good for Business & Good for the Future
“My name is Hazel and I’m responsible attraction and recruitment for all our Future Talent programmes at Marks & Spencer. I’m here today to talk to you about something very important to us all as a company: apprenticeships.
“Each year, National Apprenticeship Week brings together employers and apprentices from across the country to celebrate the importance of apprenticeships to people, businesses and communities. But why are they so important?
“Employers are increasingly worried about finding and holding on to quality, skilled individuals. At the same time young people leaving school are worried about their next move. For some, gaining real world working experience is more important than going to university. What’s more, for others, full-time study might not be an option or they might feel they’re not ready to do it yet.
“Apprenticeships are a brilliant alternative that allow employers to bring fresh new people in, nurture their skills and shape them to fit the needs of the business. It’s proven that apprentices are the best way to build our future workforce and bring on more dedicated people who will make a positive impact on our business. On the other hand apprenticeships give individuals the opportunity to earn while they learn. Not only that but there are many other benefits, like learning new skills, meeting new people, and gaining the confidence and capabilities that come with working with those who are older and more knowledgeable than you.
“That’s why at M&S we have invested a lot of time and thought in the apprenticeship opportunities we offer and we take our responsibilities towards young people seriously. An M&S Apprenticeship is designed to give you the best of both worlds. Our programmes develop the skills needed to forge an amazing long-term career with one of the UK’s favourite retailers, as well as to gain a nationally recognised qualification – and, of course, earn good money while doing it.
“We have a range of external apprenticeships on offer. This year we welcome our 2018 intake onto our longstanding Level 4 Retail Management Apprenticeship, as well as on our programmes in Engineering, Data Analysis and for the first time this year, our Level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship. We’ve also gone the extra mile and created an internal apprenticeship route for Level 2 Customer Assistants and Level 3 Section Managers who really want to advance their career.
“Through these all of us at M&S hope to give aspiring new talent a fast-track to an outstanding and very happy career with us, as well as to ensure that one day we’ll be able to hand over the future of our business to a passionate, highly skilled and dedicated workforce.”
Interested? Explore our apprenticeship opportunities today and join us in building a successful and bright future for our business and for each other.Inside M&S
St David’s Day at M&S
David is an M&S veteran, having worked in many of our stores over the last 20 years, and in a variety of different roles.
“I’ve grown up with Marks & Spencer as many of my family members have worked for the company over the years. So I’ve always felt the need to be part of such a formidable company. Marks & Spencer is, and always will be in my view, an iconic British brand.”
David’s progress through the company was supported not only by our learning and development programme, but by the mentorship of other managers over the years.
“I’ve been very lucky over the years to have been inspired with valuable advice and regular feedback on my progress. It helped me to think differently about my leadership style.”
One of the best things about working at M&S is the buzz that happens around key dates in the calendar, be it Christmas, Easter or Valentine’s. And in stores across the region, everyone’s looking forward to promoting the very best of Wales this St David’s Day. It’s just another way for the team to make every moment special for customers, and to showcase some fantastic regional products.
“We proudly wear a daffodil, and many of our male colleagues will wear a leek. Days like this are important to our heritage.”
But what does David have to say to those thinking of joining us?
“If you’re passionate about working for such an iconic British brand, and thrive on leading a team within retail, M&S has all the tools to support you.”
So get your daffodils on and sample some of our fantastic Welsh produce. And if you’re also called David, try asking for a free pint in the pub later.
Find out more about our opportunities here.Inside M&S
CELEBRATING THE BEST OF WALES
Matt’s been at M&S for over 4 years. Having studied Business Management at university, he decided to get some work experience with us before graduation, and never looked back.
Llandudno is a high street store with a wide range of customers, many of them regulars. It’s a quality that Matt thinks really helps his branch stand out. And the team can’t wait to get started on the St David’s Day celebrations, with plenty of competitions and tastings to look forward to.
“The more fun colleagues are having, the better the service being delivered to customers. This year, we’ll be promoting some of our locally sourced products, like Welsh cakes from Village Bakery, or beers from Conwy Brewery.”
And what of the rivalry between the English and Welsh?
“Driving competitions between Welsh and English stores works really well for us, particularly during the Six Nations Championship. It not only generates a fun atmosphere but drives sales for the stores too.”
National rivalries aside though, there is a shared culture at M&S that unites everyone. For Matt, it means doing what is right for both customers and colleagues.
“It’s the knowledge that you are fully supported by the business, and have everything you need to become high-performing and successful at whatever you do.”
So what does Matt say to those looking to join M&S?
“Get ready to work at a fast pace, keep the customer your number one priority, and make people your focus.”
But the main priority for St David’s Day will be judging the bake off competition. After all, those welsh cakes aren’t going to eat themselves.
Find out more about our opportunities here.Inside M&S