Training and development for cultural diversity
A Marks and Spencer case study

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Page 5: Developing communication

The research helped to identify the appropriate attraction strategies for each country. This included:

  • the design of the application forms
  • how to publicise the company and the careers offered
  • the nature of presentations to undergraduates on campus
  • the development of materials for careers fairs
  • the generation of interest in the media.

Information packs were sent to universities providing a basic understanding of Marks & Spencer. Presentations were then made on campus, often after liaison with Business Schools. Interviews were conducted with journalists which focused upon Marks & Spencer’s expansion in Europe and the recruitment of European graduates. This was easier in some countries than others. The response from the media was better in Spain, France and Germany than it was in Belgium and the Netherlands.


Marks And Spencer 4 Image 4Marks & Spencer received around 1700 application forms for the 100 posts required for five countries. Importantly, however, Marks & Spencer was attracting a low volume of applications from high calibre undergraduates, with 70% going through screening into the interview phase.

This contrasted directly with the high volume of applications in the UK (8500 forms are received for 200 posts) with a greater variation in graduates and only 35% going through to interviews. Research into targeting graduates in other countries provided experience that Marks & Spencer could transfer back to recruitment in the UK.

The assessment centres provided a fascinating insight into cultural diversity. Two experienced UK assessors were used for the assessment process along with two assessors from European management. Notable differences between groups of candidates were soon identified. Although it is difficult to draw generalisations about national characteristics, candidates from the Netherlands were more direct in their approach. In contrast, candidates from France were seen to be more analytical in style and were reluctant to make quick decisions. In fact, they felt that decisions were made too quickly in the UK. They wanted time to rationalise and explore detail before making decisions. The Spanish sessions were characterised by strong team-working skills.

Current research by Marks & Spencer focuses on the extent to which candidates from certain countries have had the opportunity, through their education system, to develop some of the skills necessary for success. So far, it has shown that good candidates from different cultures possess the skills, although they may display them differently. For example, assertiveness is displayed differently by individuals from different nationalities. Training assessors to recognise different cultural characteristics has therefore become a key feature of the assessment centres.

The degree to which successful candidates possess the different criteria is also important in identifying where development needs might lie. A critical criterion, however, is adaptability. Successful candidates, from early on in their career, have to learn to operate across borders and adapt the management style for the different cultures.

Marks and Spencer | Training and development for cultural diversity