The role of training and development in career progression
A Marks and Spencer case study

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Page 3: Identifying a training need

In a flatter organisational structure, many employees have bigger jobs. There are higher expectations that staff can contribute more to the organisation. Marks & Spencer needs to keep its staff well-trained and able to respond to the business needs. There is also a need for succession management. When individuals either retire or move from one job to another, managers have to plan their replacements so that experienced staff with the right skills and competencies are selected.

It is important to develop a career path for people that meets their needs as well as the needs of the business. To match its business strategy, Marks & Spencer develops existing staff from within the organisation. It also recruits managers at three different levels:

  • trainee managers with A-levels undertake 24 months of training
  • graduates who join the organisation from university have 12 months of training
  • experienced managers who have retail experience undertake up to 3 months of training when they join Marks & Spencer. This helps them understand how Marks & Spencer operates.


Each management post at Marks & Spencer requires a number of technical skills and business competencies. These are related to the job's level in the organisation. Marks & Spencer uses competency profiling to identify gaps in skills. Employees need these competencies and skills to be successful in each post. For example, technical skills are relevant to areas like team management, financial management and sales management. Business competencies include areas such as business leadership, decision-making, and communicating and influencing.

comercial manager  profiles

Marks & Spencer uses competency profiling to identify gaps in skills. In the example, Jane is a Commercial Manager in a large store. The standard profiles (figs A and B) show what technical skills and business competencies are necessary for that role. Jane's personal profiles (figs C and D) are compared to these standard profiles to assess what training and development she needs.

This example shows that, for technical skills, Jane needs to improve in most areas except Financial Management. In business competencies Jane's skills are a better match but she needs additional skills in People & Resource Management, Commercial Acumen, and Communicating and Influencing.

Reviewing performance

At the end of every 6 months a performance review or appraisal takes place. Employees discuss their progress with their line managers. Employees are given ratings for the skills and competencies they have shown over the past year. These are compared with expected skills profiles for these areas. This feedback helps employees identify how they are performing in relation to the expected technical skills and business competencies and reveals any gaps.

Personal development

The line managers and employee then discuss and agree on a plan for further development for the following year. All staff have a personal development plan in which they set objectives based on the feedback from their performance review. This helps them to construct a realistic and focused career path. They use training and development to improve the technical skills and business competencies they need in order to undertake particular management roles. This performance cycle helps Marks & Spencer to maintain an efficient, effective and motivated workforce.

Marks and Spencer | The role of training and development in career progression