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

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Page 3: The process

Marks And Spencer 3 Image 3Marks & Spencer began by highlighting the recruitment drive in the media of each country. This was particularly beneficial as it provided Marks & Spencer with high public awareness of store opening announcements and expansion plans, but at a lower cost than advertising. Although the objective was the same in each country, the approach was different. With few store announcements in the Netherlands, it was difficult to interest the press in Marks & Spencer activities. On the other hand, the trebling of the number of stores in Spain (to 12 by the year 2,000) and the employment opportunities this would create, was big news for the Spanish press.

Other problems arose. For example, 13.9% graduate unemployment in Spain meant that job advertisements could attract up to 10,000 applicants! The first stage in the graduate recruitment process is the completion of an application form. This form is then carefully checked to determine whether to invite the applicant for an interview. Before attending an interview, candidates must be prepared to answer probing questions. They may also be asked to carry out some research for discussion at the interview.

Marks & Spencer uses a structured behavioural interviewing format. This means that interviewers seek evidence of predetermined selection criteria. At the initial stage, these are:

  1. leadership
  2. planning and organising
  3. assertiveness
  4. analytical consideration
  5. job motivation.

However, for continental Europe, assertiveness and analytical consideration were replaced by teamwork and adaptability as these were identified as particularly critical skills for success in a cross-cultural environment. Interviewers explore, in depth, candidates’ experience in activities drawn from education, social life or work (including placements) to determine the degree to which they possess these skills. Throughout the interview, interviewers will be looking for positive reasons to move the candidate on to the next stage of the selection process.

The next stage of the selection process is an assessment centre. This was a new concept for applicants from some countries. Having discussed what they have done in the past at interview, candidates are given the opportunity to actively demonstrate these qualities by performing a series of business related management exercises over a 24-hour period - in which both group and individual work is involved. Assessment centres measure candidates against all seven selection criteria – they have been proven to be the most effective method of predicting successful performance on the job.

After the assessment centre, successful candidates will be offered a job. Before they accept, they are invited to spend a day with Marks & Spencer to find out more about their role and to make a final check on whether they think a career with Marks & Spencer is suitable for them. The considerable evidence gathered at the assessment centre enables a ‘development needs profile’ to be drawn up. This is fed back to the trainee on starting work and forms the basis of his or her individual development plan.

Marks and Spencer | Training and development for cultural diversity