Empowering 26,000 Colleagues: A spotlight on M&S’ Digital Essentials upskilling programme

This year, M&S took a firm step forward with our 'Digital Essentials' program, investing further in colleagues digital and data capabilities. Principal Strategist, Conor, explains more in his latest blog.

In a world where the digital landscape is ever-evolving, it's crucial for businesses to ensure their teams keep pace. This year, M&S took a firm step forward with our 'Digital Essentials' programme, investing further in colleagues digital and data capabilities. The road ahead is rich with opportunities for growth, and our dedication to navigating the digital landscape with confidence and uplifting our colleagues along the way will play a pivotal role in our transformation.

A Significant Milestone

This year marked a significant milestone for M&S as we embarked on our 'Digital Essentials' programme - a venture that, to date, has upskilled over 26,000 colleagues. The programme, focused on equipping our teams with essential digital skills and the right mindset to lean in further, was brought to life through in-person, practical sessions held across the UK. The content covered essential data skills, wellbeing focused digital routines, confidence on customer-facing experiences such as the M&S App & Sparks, and embracing ever-changing digital experiences with confidence.

Listening to Our Colleagues

The approach to this programme was centred on listening to our colleagues. We hosted bespoke sessions tailored to store, support and distribution colleagues; with the ‘what’ and ‘how’ shaped through collaboration with over 2,000 colleagues. Together, we identified key digital and data skills and ways of working that could empower our colleagues to be more capable, confident, and productive.

We launched the programme in our support centres with half-day, interactive sessions for 3000 colleagues covering essential data skills, product-led ways of working and omnichannel experience workshopping. This brought colleagues together from across the business – from our Exec team, to Food Buyers, Merchandisers and Retail Operations – with the target of further catalyzing their individual journeys.

Then, our bespoke Store Management, store colleague and Distribution programmes began covering the right mindset to embrace ever-changing digital at home and at work, plus best practices and hands-on testing of digital devices. Even more importantly, working through customer experiences on the M&S App and Sparks to ensure our colleagues can best support customers. For our managers, more on utilising data and reporting to make faster, better decisions in running their stores, and wellbeing tips to make the most out of digital while maintaining balance with their home lives for them and their teams.

Celebrating Progress

The results have been promising. Colleagues who participated have reported a significant boost in digital confidence, and we witnessed a remarkable increase in submissions to our CEO suggestion programme, 'Straight to Stuart,' with colleagues sharing innovative ideas influenced by their newfound digital proficiency.

Teams across M&S have further embraced digital solutions, streamlining processes, and leveraging data for better decision-making. Colleagues are engaging more with digital services and experiences, such as Scan & Shop Mobile and the M&S App and opting into further upskilling initiatives. It’s amazing to see the impact on so many colleagues. For me, having delivered many of the Data 101 sessions on stage to our support colleagues has been a specific highlight, covering the beginning of anyone's data literacy journey: asking the right questions of data through forming relevant problem statements - encouraging data to play a part in every conversation and decision at M&S in the right way.

A Continuing Journey

While we celebrate our achievements, we also recognize that there's more work to be done. Our digital transformation is far from complete and our 'Digital Essentials' program isn't the final destination but a stepping stone in our journey. As we push forward, we must convert our colleagues into our best digital champions, ensuring they're well-equipped to support our customers and their teams. Ultimately, empowering colleagues through digital and data to ensure our omnichannel approach to retail delivers what customers truly want, when and where they want it.

The BEAM Academy and the programme will continue to evolve, ensuring our colleagues remain at the forefront of digital innovation. We're committed to powering continuous learning through events, online resources, apprenticeships, webinars and more.

M&S has the privilege of over 30 million customers shopping with us each year, and a committed colleague population. Our efforts can, and we hope will, have a significant impact in supporting all of these to feel more confident leveraging digital, whether working at or shopping at M&S.

Join us on the journey

If you're curious to learn more about the 'Digital Essentials' programme or the BEAM Academy, don't hesitate to reach out. This program is an investment in our colleagues and the future of our business, and we're excited about what lies ahead.

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