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Not just any job, an M&S job

Marks & Spencer case study

"We are delighted to have access to a fantastic pool of talented people through Remploy's direct hire recruitment service and our Marks & Start programme."

Sophie Brooks, Senior Employee Engagement Manager, Marks & Spencer plc

Since May 2011 when Marks & Spencer plc appointed Remploy as its official disability partner, Remploy has supported 1,0791* candidates into employment at M&S stores nationwide and in its logistics business at its national distribution centre at Castle Donington.

As the UK's leading provider of disability employment services Remploy was chosen to recruit, retain and sustain talented individuals who face barriers getting into work both through its direct hire service and M&S's Marks & Start work placement programme.

Through Remploy's direct hire service M&S has access to a group of job-ready, capable and motivated candidates who are already aware of what M&S looks for in a successful employee.

"We've seen some great examples of our store teams working with Remploy through the Marks & Start programme and we've now started to really focus on candidates who are job ready through the direct hire scheme with some excellent examples of collaborative working, specifically in areas that are difficult to recruit," reports Andrew Paterson, Recruitment Manager, UK Retail for M&S.

"We are now taking this to the next level by building Remploy direct hire into our recruitment process with a dedicated link for our stores. Remploy is investing time and effort into making sure candidates who attend in-store assessments are set up to work in retail and M&S. It's an exciting time for both our direct hire and Marks & Start programmes".

Hiring a candidate from the Remploy talent pool is made easy for M&S stores. As Remploy candidates have had structured pre-development, they are able to shortcut the recruitment process by going straight to the store assessment centre with no need for online screening. When a candidate is offered a job, Remploy then provides store managers with all the support needed to help their new employee settle in and progress.

To further support this, Remploy has developed an informative disability guide tailored to M&S that covers common disabilities and health conditions and gives practical suggestions for line managers on how to accommodate any special needs by making reasonable adjustments.

A valuable untapped resource

The Marks & Start programme is designed to help people with disabilities or health conditions, young people, single parents and people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is a highly effective partnership between Marks & Spencer and four delivery partners: Remploy, Gingerbread, The Prince's Trust and Business in the Community.

Sophie Brooks, Senior Employee Engagement Manager for M&S, says, "When we created our employability programme we asked customers which groups of people they wanted M&S to support into work and one of the four groups they chose was people with disabilities. Due to Remploy's expertise in supporting people with disabilities into work, they were a great partner for us to work with. They have large geographical coverage, are enthusiastic about growth and are a trusted organisation in this sector."

Potential candidates on the the Marks & Start programme are taken through comprehensive pre-employment modules developed by Remploy. Those who successfully complete the modules take part in a two or four-week placement in an M&S store or the retailer's national distribution centre. They are helped on site by a Marks & Spencer buddy as they learn the ropes and this is complemented by follow-up support. Individuals who complete the programme and meet the criteria M&S is looking for are then accredited, which enables them take up any suitable vacancy that is available without going through the normal recruitment process.

Successful retail candidates fill important roles in M&S stores as Customer Assistants where they act as the friendly face of the M&S brand, helping customers find what they are looking for, whether in the store or online. They are taught about presentation, availability, cross-selling and product knowledge so they are equipped to perform to their full potential.

Those who take up positions in M&S's logistics team work as Warehouse Operatives where they are involved in the day-to-day operations of the Castle Donington-based distribution centre. Jobs include forklift truck driving, loading and unloading, together with pre-pick preparation and the picking and packing of products ready for despatch.

Partnership pays dividends

M&S has found the Marks & Start programme has delivered tangible benefits to the business. Sophie Brooks reports, "Remploy's service has been excellent. It has provided us with a diverse and brilliant talent pool to fill our recruitment needs and has also boosted our employees' pride in working for a retailer who really cares about all individuals in society."

The success of the programme is due in no small part to the considerable investment made by Marks & Spencer but also the knowhow of its partners, as Sophie Brooks explains, "Remploy's expertise and experience is extremely important as we see them as the experts on employing individuals with a disability or health condition. They play a vital role in equipping disabled people with the skills and confidence they need to build a career with M&S."

Anita Thomas, who leads the Marks & Start Logistics programme, comments, "We are proud to be partnering with Remploy on both recruiting and retaining people with disabilities. Remploy is a key source of valued expertise, not only during the recruitment process but also in supporting and advising us on how we can minimise any workplace barriers experienced by people with disabilities. This is helping us to build our capability to provide an inclusive and engaging workplace for all."

Marks & Spencer is justly proud of its diverse workforce and believes the variety of talents this produces helps it maintain its competitive edge in the marketplace. "We are striving to become the world's most sustainable major retailer so doing the right thing is part of Marks & Spencer's DNA," remarks Sophie Brooks. "But apart from this, any organisation that doesn't actively employ people with disabilities is missing out on a huge pool of talented people who, with the right support, have a lot to offer."

"Remploy's service has provided us with a diverse and brilliant talent pool to fill our recruitment needs and also boosted our employees' pride in working for a retailer who really cares about all individuals in society."
Sophie Brooks, Senior Employee Engagement Manager, Marks & Spencer plc

Remploy is the UK's leading provider of specialist employment services to people who experience complex barriers to work