Skills for today and tomorrow

As we transform M&S from a traditional British retailer to a leading international, multi-channel retailer, the skills and experience of our workforce must evolve too. This year we strengthened our leadership team with a number of senior appointments and almost two thirds of our top 100 managers now have international experience. In support of this, we introduced a ‘global mobility’ team to facilitate global working and help increase international exposure across the business.

This year we continued to build our pipeline of future talent; we continued our MBA programmes, recruited 150 graduates and offered 50 one-year placements to undergraduates as part of their degree course. Following the move to bring our software development in-house, the 2013 graduate scheme also included opportunities for specialist software engineers to drive our ongoing IT innovation and support our multi- channel ambitions.

We are focused on building robust succession plans, aligning the content of our development programmes with our business strategy. Over 90% of our senior management has now completed our flagship training programme – Lead to Succeed. This year we introduced a new development programme, targeting the next generation of emerging leaders.

In touch with our customers

Our new company-wide In Touch initiative is designed to equip employees with the insight and skills to connect with customers and help them discover more about M&S. We know our customers are looking for friendly, helpful, knowledgeable people when they visit our stores and through a combination of in-store learning and information sharing, we are helping employees better anticipate customer needs and deliver even higher standards of service.

Focusing on product knowledge, presentation, availability and service, over 65,000 colleagues have now participated in our In Touch learning programme. As we introduce more technology to our stores, apps are also becoming an increasingly popular communications resource and our Knowledge to Share videos are now available on in-store iPads, as well as our online portal. These short films from our in-house experts help employees share their pride and passion for our products and services with customers. We have also introduced social media portals into our offices, delivering a live stream of customer comments to M&S employees across our business.

Employee engagement

We know there is a strong correlation between engagement and performance, so in 2012/13 we introduced our new Pulse questionnaire – a shortened version of our annual Your Say survey – which increased the frequency of employee feedback from annual to quarterly. Results are shared via our new online Engagement Hub, which brings together resources including external research and practical tools to help managers address specific challenges and create a more engaged team. Despite a challenging environment, our Your Say survey demonstrated improved engagement, up 3% on last year.

Through our communication channels we ensure everyone understands how they can contribute to M&S’ success. This year we extended our popular BIG Idea staff suggestion scheme to our international businesses, starting with colleagues in our international sourcing offices. Through the scheme, we pose a quarterly question focusing on a key business issue to employees. Each question attracts around 2,000 ideas and the first question posed to the international staff attracted a response from over one in ten employees.

Providing an efficient service

As part of our wider IT upgrade programme, we are rolling out our new People Planning system to all our offices and stores. Designed to improve the accuracy and flexibility of our HR service, the new systems help deliver better resource planning, fewer pay queries and a significant reduction in paper usage. Employees are also enjoying the benefits – such as remote holiday booking, online payslips and a salary exchange scheme.