Marks and Spencer: Training Function in Human Resource Management

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1. Introduction

The success of any organisation inevitably depends very largely on the staff it employs. It is necessary to ensure an adequate supply of staff members that are technically and socially competent, and capable of career advancement into specialist departments or management positions. There is therefore a continual need for the process of staff learning and development, and training fulfils an important part of this process (Mullins, 2007).

This paper will look at the training function in Human Resource Management as it exists in Marks and Spencer. My perspective will be as an external observer of the retail giant’s inner workings. The company’s training methods and practices will be discussed and a critical review of these practices will be done in relation to theory. Strengths and weaknesses of these training methods and practices will be identified and recommendations will be made for improvement towards meeting the overall goals and objectives of the company.

1.1Brief Background Information on Marks and Spencer.
Marks and Spencer, one of the UK's leading retailers, is often cited as an example of British business enterprise at its best. Despite increasing competition in the high street, it is profitable, and it has an enviable reputation for the quality of its merchandise. It is also well known as a first class employer which demands high standards from its employees and in return offers unrivalled staff training and welfare facilities (Stewart, 2003). Marks and Spencer has more than 120 years of heritage which dates back to 1884. Since then its business values have been built around five key principles which are Quality, Service, Value, Innovation and Trust (Marks and Spencer, 2010a). Based on these principles the company has grown in leaps and bounds into one of the best retail brands in the world, employing over 65,000 employees in 450 stores within the United Kingdom.

Bramley (1989) states that training can be defined as “a systematic process carried out for an organisation concerned with changing concepts, skills or attitudes of people treated either as individuals or as groups intended to improve job performance and thus enhance organisational effectiveness”.

A more recent definition is the one by (Reynolds, 2004;Sloman, 2005) which states that training is defined as a set of activities which react to present needs and its focused on the instructor rather than developing the individual and organisational potential and building capabilities for the future which learning does.

Looking at the two definitions above it is evident that the role of formal training in organisations has declined over the years between the 1980’s and now. Nowadays more emphasis is placed on learning which is about developing skills (CIPD, 2009). Training which most of the time is a formal class room based learning fails to deliver efficiently as required (Garavan, 2007). Garavan, (2007) further states that organisations are recognising more and more that Human Resource Development as a tool to achieve competitive advantage has raised awareness of the importance of embracing learning as an integral part of the culture of an organisation.

It is important to state that this paper will not elaborate on the shift from training to learning but will look at the training as a function of Human Resource Management and Marks and Spencer will be used as a case study.

2.1Importance of Training
Despite the challenges posed by the financial downturn, majority of the firms have maintained a steady budget for training and development (CIPD, 2009). This is because businesses require flexibility and the ability to transform rapidly because the way to survive for most companies (large and small) is to reshape their activities and re strategise in line with the needs of the rapidly changing markets. In order to make this happen, firms must be able to train its employees to adapt to the...
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