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

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Page 1: Introduction

Marks And Spencer 3 Image 1Organisations that wish to be successful in the increasingly competitive markets of the 90s must consider how to provide rewarding roles which allow their employees to develop. In the UK, a career with Marks & Spencer is widely regarded as one of the most interesting opportunities for newly qualified university graduates.

There are always two sides to an employment relationship. Marks & Spencer wants the training and development of knowledge, skills and attitudes of its employees to fit corporate goals, while individuals will want their career to develop to meet their own personal expectations and aspirations. Throughout their working lives, an evaluation process takes place in which individuals constantly ask themselves:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • How will I get there?

The Marks & Spencer brand name evokes a strong, positive public image. Image is a combination of an individual’s personal experience of a company or product, plus what they have read or heard from other sources such as family or friends. Many applications for graduate positions at Marks & Spencer are based upon what the applicants have heard from other people as well as their own experiences.

Image has helped Marks & Spencer attract high calibre people who reflect the organisation’s core values of quality products and service. This is particularly important as creating the right opportunities for employees is about empowerment and trust.

The situation is quite different as Marks & Spencer expands into other countries. Many individuals have not heard of 'Marks & Spencer' and do not associate it with the positive image which has been consolidated by over 100 years of trading in the UK. This case study therefore focuses upon a new experience for Marks & Spencer! As the growth of overseas business accelerates, Marks & Spencer faces two key issues:

  1. how to recruit high-quality graduates from other countries
  2. having appointed such graduates, how to then cater for the cultural differences in order to provide them with scope for progression which meets their personal requirements?

At the start of the process, other cultures were recognised and strategies were developed, taking into account, as appropriate, the culturally different requirements of both candidates and employees.

The need to build momentum across Europe

When organisations sell their goods in the UK, they are selling to a market of around 58 million consumers. As they extend their horizons further, the opportunities are greater.

In today's rapidly changing markets, it is essential for ambitious organisations to develop their competitiveness on an international level. Organisations cannot sit behind geographical barriers, complacent in the belief that their product and market share is invincible. For organisations to compete successfully, they must learn to adapt and develop different methods of doing business which provide them with a cost advantage and the ability to differentiate their products from those of their rivals.

The European Union is a large economic region of almost 400 million consumers who have a relatively high annual expenditure on clothing, home furnishings and food. Although Marks & Spencer may be a household name in the United Kingdom, this is not the case in many overseas markets. The ‘internationalisation’ of Marks & Spencer has moved at a cautious pace so far, with developments in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Eire and the Netherlands. The new stores have been groomed for success by adapting to local markets, business practices, cultures and consumer preferences.

One of Marks & Spencer’s current objectives is to accelerate the growth of its international business in order to increase market opportunities. The key to this expansion is to offer outstanding value for money and good customer service. The organisation, which demands a lot from its staff, needs to offer plenty in return. It needs to take its responsibilities to the community seriously and value innovation. The objective of accelerated growth can only be met successfully if Marks & Spencer attracts and retains the best available staff.

Marks and Spencer | Training and development for cultural diversity