Home Case Studies Marks and Spencer

Leading High Street Retailer Engages to Provide Online 360 Assessment Tool

Dual purpose in-house 360 assessment platform provides for both cohort-based ‘distance-travelled’ assessment projects, and self managed assessments according to organisational guidelines.

Marks and Spencer (M&S)  is one of the UK’s leading retailers with around 21 million customers visiting their stores each week. They sell high quality, great value clothing and home products as well as outstanding quality food. M&S employ over 78,000 people in the UK and abroad, have over 700 UK stores and  international business locations. They’re also known for their green credentials as a result of their five-year eco plan, which will saw them, amongst other things, become carbon neutral and sending no waste to landfill after 2012.

The Challenge

The HR team at M&S is tasked with creating the right conditions to support the business strategy by improving employee engagement, providing a cohesive talent management framework and ensuring all HR services are delivered efficiently. At M&S, it’s important that the people who work for the company should enjoy their work and have all the skills they need to do their jobs. To ensure everyone has the necessary support to achieve their potential, M&S offer in-depth training and performance coaching, and regularly assess their employees’ development needs. 

Mike Vinsen, Learning and Development Manager, explains that they noticed that ‘people behave differently with managers than they do with peers.’ They realised there was an opportunity to make M&S people more aware of their behaviour around their peers so that these relationships could be strengthened and performance improved throughout the organisation.

As part of their drive to build effective internal relationships, the HR team initiated a 360 degree feedback project aimed at helping staff to understand how their behaviour was viewed by the people around them at work. Specifically, they wanted staff to understand how they behaved differently with different groups of people and to start having more honest conversations throughout the business.

Although M&S staff were used to giving and receiving face to face feedback, the HR team recognised that the anonymity of an online feedback system would help them to unearth higher quality feedback that people were too uncomfortable to provide in person. 

The Solution

M&S worked to establish their 360 degree competency framework online and create a review process that focused people’s attention on behaviour.

Initially, we managed the whole process and technical infrastructure for the project, but after the successful completion of a pilot phase, M&S took control of their own interactive, self-managed 360 degree feedback system that is intuitive and simple to use. The custom system is developed and supported by us.

The system allows people to register for the programme and select their own reviewers. It then validates that the correct reviewer selections have been made and deploys questionnaires electronically via email. Candidates can log into the system at any stage to view progress and manage their participants. Weekly status reports are also sent to each candidate to show the status of their appraisals.

Responses are tracked and reminders sent automatically to participants who haven’t responded in the required time frame. Individual, team and department reports are generated automatically and sent to relevant stakeholders as per the instructions included in the system configuration.

In addition, a customised management information support module and back office facility make it easy to manage and monitor activity and cost. Admin users can see how many candidates have been approved in each month, how many assessments have been completed and a running cost based on the agreed scale prices. It also keeps track of all requests for new and repeat assessments.

“Much thought has gone into designing a system that fits our environment and the way we work. The system we have now includes all the right triggers, prompts, checks and balances. We’ve been impressed with the way the technology supports our processes rather than making life unnecessarily complicated.” –  Mike Vinsen, Learning and Development Manager, M&S

The Benefits

The biggest results have been seen from a development perspective, with people having much better defined development plans. The feedback internally highlights how easy it is to use and understand the reports. The trends are easy to see and the verbatim comments reinforce the message shown in the scores.

“Seeing their reports has provided the stimulus for participants to take charge of their own development.”

In terms of how relationships have developed in the organisation there has been a positive change in behaviour across those involved in the process. There are often ‘light bulb’ moments in the follow up coaching sessions. As the coaching process unfolds and people are encouraged to consider the feedback in a little more depth, initial discomfort with the feedback is replaced by recognition of the behaviours described in the reports. The process has definitely helped M&S managers to become more aware of the impact they have on the people with whom they work.

“Great new conversations are happening and we’re starting to see the positive impact of our people communicating more honestly, yet constructively, with their peers.”

The demand to use the process is spreading through word of mouth and the programme is developing strong momentum. Given the enthusiastic response, M&S have since commissioned an expansion of the platform so that cohort-based groups undergoing enhanced development can be assessed before and after any special L&D or training programmes. The new report developed in conjunction with this feature now shows the ‘distance travelled’, thus clearly demonstrating the benefit of the program and of course the ROI.

According to Mike, M&S have really enjoyed working with us.

The team is easy to work with. They’re responsive and enthusiastic – nothing is ever too much trouble. It didn’t take long for them to get to grips with our business and our challenges, and they’ve made a number of useful, time and effort-saving suggestions along the way. They’ve added a great deal of value already and we look forward to continuing our successful relationship with them.”

Contact us here to find out more about our 360 Degree Feedback Tool options.