Community projects key to M&S recovery tactics

Community projects will be central to Marks & Spencer’s
action plan to revive its ailing business and improve staff skill levels.

The retailer aims to support initiatives to improve safety,
health and education in the communities around stores, which will also boost
its business.

Ed Williams, head of corporate community involvement, told
the Building a Skilled Workforce conference in London that community investment
plans were key to the company’s recovery.

An external evaluation showed the store’s own community involvement
programme, which takes up one day a week for three months, led to a 30 per cent
increase in employees’ skill levels.

Employees taking part in the Prince’s Trust scheme, who were
all aged under 25, showed a 50 per cent increase in skill levels.

The results came from competency reports from both the
employees and their managers.

Williams hopes healthy eating and education campaigns will
lead to more people buying Marks & Spencer products.

He said, "Employees between the ages of 16 and 25 will
benefit the most.

"We will no longer just be signing big cheques, but
investing in the communities and customers we serve."

Within the next year, Williams hopes each employee will
spend at least 100 hours in the community on development programmes.

Other schemes include the "Seeing is Believing"
tour, which involves managers from Marks & Spencer looking at issues
including homelessness.

Williams hopes this will lead to Marks & Spencer
offering work placements to homeless people.

By Richard Staines

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