Human Resource Management In Marks And Spencer Business Essay


Marks and Spencer plc (M&S) founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer is one of the top UK retailer with 730 stores in the UK and 361 stores in 40 countries in the world. M&S specialises in luxury clothing and food product. M&S was the first British retailer to achieve £1 billion tax free profit in 1998. As of 2012, M&S has 81,223 employees worldwide.

M&S operates in a competitive market lead by Tesco and ASDA. Customers of M&S has a wide range of choice on what they would shop for. Not only food and cloths M&S has electronic products, financial services and energy products. M&S has both stores and online presence where customers can buy their product 24x7.

Relevant HR Theories

In current years there has be wide range of research in organizational research management and HR is one of them. Importance of HR has never been so high. Employee development in organizational management has seen rapid growth in employee development practices. These came in form of continuous training, talent development program and cultivating a culture of employee satisfaction. Countries like Japan, Germany and Sweden were more associated with such robust HR practices which lead UK companies to adopt such rewarding practices to improve employee engagement in organization (Beardwell, 2007).

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Over the last decade M&S introduced several HR initiative that would provide state of the art staff training and thus engage their staff in quality work. David Ulrich developed 'BPM- Business Partner Model' which is commonly used in large scale organization like M&S to structure their Human Resource policies with respect to ever changing business environment (CIPD, 2010). In tradition HR model there are four elements they are:

Change agent

Employee champion

Administrative partner

Strategic partner.

The adopted model has three additional elements has:

Shared Services,

Centers of Excellence

Strategic Business Partner.

This report will link to appropriate models when needed. M&S HR department has transformed recently; the role of service and administrative department has be changed to a proactive role inside the organization. This change in strategic level ensures superior distribution of resources, training and skills which is needed to build up employees within different level of the organization. Management of HR in a strategic level enhances core competency, knowledge sharing within organization leads to intellectual capital and sustained learning culture which is essential for company's success (Mullins, 2006; Burke & Cooper, 2008). Porter and Smith (2006) states that continuous development of employee skills works predominantly to achieve wider business goals. David Ulrich's (2008) business partner model of 'Employee Champion' emphasized that HR department in an organization should listen to employees and provide them with adequate resources which will enable them to achieve company targets. HR plays imperative administrative expert role which delivers shared services to the company. This unit holds all basic transactional activities which includes payroll, attendance monitoring, maintain and allocating resources. Additionally this unit deals with employee relation related issues.

M&S has adopted strategy that would cultivate employee trust and loyalty in all segments of the business so that they are better engaged in company operation. These companywide engagement means each employee understand their role and responsibilities, they feel connected with all company actions moreover they understand how their participation makes a differences as a whole to company operations (Beardwell, 1996).

HR can engage with employees from the beginning of their job. For example M&S started doing induction program for the new recruits. This helped them to start developing their employees from day 1. Employees from different culture brings varied skills and aptitude. People have different learning styles and commitments which drives them.

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Figure : Employee Engagement (Source: CIPD, 2010)

Reddington et. al (2005) asserted that to make a successful business company needs to motivate its employee to provide excellent customer service by ensuring their commitment towards excellent customer service this enables company's core value to be integrated in day to day operations.

One of the important aspects of HR function is to allocate resources as per company budget remembering organization's sustainability in future. Allocating adequate resources where needed means employees will feel their need is well reviewed by the company hence they can be assured that company believes they are working at their highest level. Maintaining transparent employee relation is also important as this will mean sensitive data about company operations are dealt with within the boundaries of the organization (Wang & Swanson, 2008). This also means building trust among employees and management. HR department plays role of the bridging block among these levels. While connected in an emotional level employees will connect their emotions with company's success.

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When employees feel they are valued they will have higher commitment towards their job thus 'Employee Champion' will be created. As argued in CIPD (2010), the way organization treats their employees it reflects when these employees comes into interaction with employees. Organizational equity should be treating every employee with same care. Encouraging honesty and trust among employees, management and HR will ensure a natural customer centric environment is present (Guest, 2011; Samnani, 2012).

Recruitment of well skilled people and encouraging employee engagement in all levels of organization means it will foster innovative work environment, higher rate of employee retention, sustainable performance throughout the organization. Training employees at all level generates more talents within an organization who can later on lead a bigger segment of the business (Tissen et. al, 2010). These can be labelled as 'Centers of Excellence' as per Dave's adapted model.

People Planning in M&S

People planning is a process of analyzing people resources across the company and deciding on future need of the company as per location, skill shortage and number. As a futuristic company M&S has to think ahead to plan accordingly about its workforce. M&S business strategy is to expand both in domestic and international market. Its vast operation needs talented workforce who will bring the right level of knowledge, skills and aptitude.

In M&S job opening occurs because of the following:

As the company expands in domestic market with new stores or when it enters new market internationally.

Vacancies arises when existing people leaves the company or retires or even gets promoted to a higher position within the company.

In situations where company derives new strategy or introduces new lines or technology.

M&S always evaluates its workforce and trains employees with exceptional management capabilities. Employees with high performance is often selected for more challenging roles. In 2010/11 M&S trained 4000+ management staff to support their growth worldwide.

M&S needs people for various roles within the organization and they have both store based positions and non-store based positions.

Head office enables the company to operate efficiently by allocating resources. Role of head office includes managing company capital, human resource management, legal service, managing properties, marketing & PR, accounting and IT support.

Stores needs administrators, stock handlers, checkout operators, supervisory teams, senior management team and core assistants.

It's distribution depots requires skilled people for logistics and stock handling.

M&S ensures employees at all level work together to achieve company targets and objective. To do that M&S has to ensure they have right skilled people in a right number at the right job to do at right time. In a structured process recruitment is carried out to attract right level of applicants in managerial or operational level.

Bratton & Gold (2000) discussed one of best accomplishment of an organization will be to generate transferable skills in their employees. In today's economic situation no company now guarantees a job for life so people have to evolve in their job. Only top employees have the scope to make choice about scope of their job, have better job security, way of promotion etc.

In M&S this people planning process starts every year in February. There are continuous review process May, August and November hence M&S can recruit as per company's requirement. This continuous process allows the company enough time and flexibility to create demand for new staff and work on strategic goals. By doing this company can expand new store maintaining same service standard.

M&S's prime purpose is to maintain customer satisfaction by providing them excellent service. In the organization's structure customers comes top in the priority list. M&S needs right people at the right level throughout its operations. In the company there are six levels these six levels are there to manage and control people in the organization. Each level has definite set of skills and knowledge.

• Job Level 1 - This level involves directly facing customers. Various in store tasks involve stocking the store with right level of products. This position requires following company procedures and working accordingly. Enthusiasm is needed to interact with customers.

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• Job Level 2 - In this level employee needs to lead a group of customer service team members. These people are needed to maintain and manage resources. Also their task includes setting and achieving targets. Motivating team members to perform at their best is also an important role they have to play.

• Job Level 3 - In this level of operation it is required for the employee to run a whole unit. It will require higher level of management with running an operating unit. Requires management skills, including planning, continuous target setting and reporting to higher authorities.

• Job Level 4 - In this level support is given to the operating unit as well as recommending required strategic changes. This will involve sound knowledge of the company. In this position it is needed to have skills to analysis information to make decision. This level requires higher ability to lead the operating units.

• Job Level 5 - This level employee is accountable for the whole business operations. This level will require ability to make critical decisions, making strategic changes leading the company to compete with competitors.

• Job Level 6 - Creating the aim, value and targets for M&S. This position is the ultimate top level where excellent knowledge of retail environment in cross cultural market is essential. Building a vision for changes in future and how to differentiate from others is important.

M&S tries to fill vacancies from insiders of the company as it recognises the importance of doing so to motivate employees to progress to next level and make a successful career. M&S has 'Talent Planning' where they have annual appraisal scheme where existing employees can apply for 'higher rank' jobs. Employees identify what higher rank they want to go to then they explore possible ways to achieve that. Their line managers formulates necessary technical, appraisal, competency and behaviour skills demanded by the role. Senior management trains the employee and makes pathway for him/her to achieve the dream rank. This not only helps M&S to have success as a company by retaining talented staff but also promotes their company as a place to work for. People will be highly interested to work for the company as they will know they are with a good employer who takes care of their personal objectives.

To do this what is needed is perfect job description followed by person specification. A good job description clearly states:

Title of the position

To whom the person will report

Description of duties

Target audience (customers, buyers etc)

Person specification will state required skills, knowledge, attributes of the prospective employee for that particular opening. Task of HR is to clearly advertise both job description and person specification. This ensures right person is attracted to apply for the job ( Ulrich,2008) . While sorting out the CVs HR department makes critical decisions to decide who has the right skills. By targeting right people from the beginning sustained growth can be ensured.

Critical Analysis of HR Theories In M&S Operations

This section intends to compare current HR theories and its place in M&S HR operations.

There are different ways to HR planning. As Storey & Salaman (2009) discussed there are two ways to approach HRM: 'hard' and 'soft'. In hard approach very little thought is given on employee thus company success is the only measurement of performance. Contrast to this in soft version keeping business success on top parallel concern is given to employees too (Kooij, 2011).

With appearance of knowledge based economy companies have to deal with skills development to train its employees to retain them in the company. Continuous training empowers employees with current needs of the job. M&S has integrated strategically HR into its plans. Managers have to take into consideration HR functionalities in to decision making. All the time M&S communicates its objectives with its employees so that they know their objectives and HR department can work on it to take it further.

In recent time there has been change in the way training is provided in the company. Now the strategy is to take HR department more than administrative level. To make a proactive team to work in strategic level M&S has extended its training priorities. This way of managing encouraged growth in work force motivation with higher competence level.

Over the last decade Strategic HRM has seen popularity and it has been linked organisational resource management. In this style all employee are treated as a part of company's success. So even in the induction they get to know their importance for the company. The company led training ensures M&S embraces cultural differences and learning skills.

Jackson (2002) suggested to put higher value on employee performance to get best performance from them. According to Chanda and Shen (2009) any successful organization will keep employee issues in top of their decision making so that core values of the organization is carried by the motivated employees. As one of the largest private retail employer M&S demonstrated their involvement in talent resourcing. It has even surpassed govt. outlined initiative of creating a learned society.

For a successful HR it needs to take an active role in creating strategies. Strategic HR normally sets out the plan for organic learning strategies, developing intellectuals also enhancing companies core competencies (McGovern, 2002). These values are absolutely critical for companies success. Employers are now getting into training employees to create a highly skilful group of workforce.

As M&S operates in a highly competitive retail sector it is important for them to sustain its growth by retaining higher level of employees. To continue the growth company must acknowledge that employees need to achieve their operational goals at a regular basis, HR department helps M&S to reinforce it when necessary. In fact, HR is the central element in M&S organisational strategy to establish a highly skilled employee base for its operations.

Principal target of a for profit business is always to maximize shareholders' investment. To obtain this with limited resources available to them HR department has to use their skills and aptitude to save where it can and invest where it needs (Yarnall, 2008). By ensuring investing in right place will mean benefit for the company by increased profit.

HR theories highlights the importance of adopting a systematic scientific approach to maintain ongoing development of employee skills in order to achieve wider objectives (Christensen,2006). In M&S this systematic development includes identifying needs, planning and developing. Evaluation and appraisal is one of the challenging issues companies face (Armstrong, 2000). These recognition helps to formalize recognition and makes way for progression.

With job security becoming less these days employees are given opportunity to develop transferable skills. Your M&S slogan reflects the company as it echoes throughout the company operations (Reilly,2006) . M&S regularly surveys its employees to find out motivation level and identify potential changes that need to be brought. Also this leads to improvement of work environment and better performance in worldwide operations.


M&S essential should maintain their HR scheme. This employee focused, engaging and adaptive system means higher retention rate of the employees that saves M&S money. As an insightful futuristic company M&S needs to make sustainable changes in their recruitment policies. Preference should be given to long term planning. People who can serve the company for a longer period should get preference. HR has in-depth understanding of the operations of the company and they have to develop future leaders preferable from within the company.

M&S should use its global platform for recruitment and selection for its global operations. While company values remain same but in cross cultures procedures and values might differ. This has to be taken care of too. Behavioral characteristics and country profile wise employee selection will mean they have the best people for the job.


From the study various key point has been identified regarding HR practice of M&S. M&S has a great HR management practice in place which they need to carry on. Alongside this they can think of other development plans for their workers. By enabling greater resource availability for their workers M&S can be assured to be a market leader in near future.