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

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Page 4: The aim

In the past, Marks & Spencer used up to 34 different criteria when recruiting graduates in Europe. The danger was that in using widely different criteria and recruitment methods, both the quality and consistency of candidates might be affected. Marks & Spencer’s goal was to recruit a truly European manager who could assimilate and work in different cultures, use different languages and be mobile - so that they could use their skills across national boundaries. For this reason, it helped if graduates had:

  • been on an Erasmus programme
  • undertaken part of their studies in another European country
  • lived and worked abroad.

They also needed to understand Marks & Spencer and its operations. For this reason, successful candidates spend up to twelve months training in the UK.

Although it was clear that Marks & Spencer could not impose a single approach on candidates from different countries within Europe, Marks & Spencer wanted broadly similar selection processes, particularly as research within and outside the company had validated Marks & Spencer recruitment practices.

In the UK, Marks & Spencer ranks as one of the top five companies that graduates want to work for. A recent survey in Europe showed that Marks & Spencer did not rank even in the top 120. Thus a different type of problem began to emerge. Marks & Spencer could not simply lift what it did in the UK into Europe because of the different local factors. For example, Marks & Spencer wanted to recruit assertive people but there is no literal French translation for 'assertiveness'!

Research and consultation

Marks And Spencer 3 Image 4It was important that the UK Head Office was not viewed as imposing its recruitment practices insensitively upon other regions and countries. Marks & Spencer managers therefore talked to Human Resources Managers from companies such as Barclays, United Distillers and Tesco, who had recruited graduates from around Europe. They also talked to recruitment consultancies and efforts were made to understand the comparative differences between educational systems and practices.

Marks & Spencer also consulted widely in continental Europe, using a series of focus groups to ask local managers what they would do if they wanted to recruit high quality graduates.

Marks and Spencer | Training and development for cultural diversity