Marks and Spencer is a major UK-based retailer employing over 78,000 people with over 700 stores in the UK. Our detailed focus within Marks and Spencer is on the establishment of a logistical network, known as One Team, which provides a best practice example of the operation of HR practices at the level of the network.
The network is composed of Marks and Spencer and its third party logistical and fulfilment solutions partners (referred to as the 3PLs) who supply warehousing and merchandising facilities. In 2010 Marks and spencer, led by Jason Keegan, Head of Logistics – Strategic Network, teamed up with its 3PLs, including DHL, NDL, Wincanton, Tesam Distribution, IDS, CML, and The Elite Group, to form One Team.
The shared aims of the One Team network are to work together to improve the performance of Marks and Spencer and the network by sharing knowledge and best practice between the parties. They seek to build a highly competitive retail network, achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, generate significant cost savings and establish a common culture. Although the network was instigated by Marks and Spencer, the 3PLs have participated extensively in the operation of One Team. The network has implemented several common practices and a shared approach to human capital management. To do this, they have structured their decision making and created HR practices at the level of the network.
There are two key managerial structures which are integral to the operation of One Team. First, a Steering Group was established jointly by senior Marks and Spencer staff and each of the 3PLs. This group takes overall responsibility for the direction and strategy of One Team and establishes a common purpose among the members. Meetings take place face to face monthly usually at 3PL sites around the country. Second, five work-streams were established to take responsibility for aspects of One Team activities including Values and Behaviours, Marketing and Communications, Collaboration, Customer Focus and Developing Talent.
These involve managers below the Steering Group from Marks and Spencer and he 3PLs acting semi-autonomously but reporting to the Steering Group regularly with plans for action to contribute to One Team. Both managerial structures are vital to supporting the development of shared knowledge and skills. Moreover, they also provide the infrastructure for the continuation of this cross-boundary organisation and they also offer important development opportunities for staff at all levels.
Senior Marks and Spencer managers saw the enhancement of talent management throughout One Team as one of their clear objectives and the principal responsibility of the Developing Team work-stream. The work-stream facilitates this by advertising all relevant job vacancies across all members of One Team via the shared website, discussed below. This encourages staff to move between 3PLs and Marks and Spencer in ways they would not have done previously. Indeed, this provides Marks and Spencer with the opportunity to identify future talent and to retain this within the network. Employees have the opportunity for career development in ways that they would not otherwise have been aware.
Key internal resourcing decisions were also made over which staff would be allocated to the work- streams. Critically, these staff members were identified according to their role suitability and were drawn from a variety of levels and might just as easily include a team leader as a senior manager from a 3PL site. Once they became members of these work-streams the staff had clear
opportunities to develop their personal skills and knowledge in several respects. First, each work- stream has a high degree of autonomy over how they achieve their objectives. Consequently, the members found they had the freedom to develop new ideas and to innovate. Second, since the members of the work-stream were drawn from multiple levels in One Team, junior staff could find themselves working alongside quite senior staff from Marks and Spencer and other 3PLs in a way they would not do normally. Apart from the knowledge and skills development opportunities, these staff had career benefits because they had a chance to ‘get themselves noticed’. It is important to note that the developmental opportunities now extended beyond the boundaries of each organisation and existed at the level of the network.
Alongside these more informal development opportunities there are also a series of formal training and development activities at the level of the network. These activities are focused on One Team and not the 3PLs and aim to develop multi-level agility and to encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practices. For instance, training needs analysis within One Team showed that for One Team to function more effectively at the team level there was a need for members of the 3PLs to understand their inter-personal styles and managerial approaches in greater detail. A process was implemented across the network wherein which everyone’s preferred communication style was identified, and each team was made aware of its team member configuration. This enabled improved communication within the cross-boundary team as well as enhanced social relationships.
Performance management and reward practices were also established at the level of the network. Efficiency targets were established for each site and performance was measured weekly. Each site has complete knowledge of its own performance and the performance of others within the league table which was established. This provides a strong incentive to improve performance, which is highly visible throughout One Team. Once these targets were set, each local manager sought to make changes to improve their performance. Often this led to changes in working practices which led to improvements in efficiency and performance against target. These improvements could then be shared throughout the network either in the work-streams or via the website.
There were also One Team reward mechanisms to recognise the contribution of individual employees. Every month an employee was recognised for their outstanding contribution and these were then entered a quarterly competition. The rewards linked to be the ‘employee of the month’ included travel and entertainment benefits; all of which were linked to personal pride in having displayed One Team values and behaviours. This network-level practice provided a financial and recognition incentive for employees to identify with the network and therefore they were willing to share rather than hoard their knowledge.
Perhaps one of the key drivers in the multi-dimensional agility model is the involvement and participation practices that exist at the level of the network. There are a series of practices designed to encourage all members to adopt a One Team perspective and to strengthen the relationships at all levels. First, six regular champions were established who met face-to-face regularly to build relationships and share knowledge. Second, various social activities take place between members of the sites at all levels to build awareness of One Team and make contacts. Third, employees at all levels can contribute to the One Team suggestion scheme for efficiency savings discussed above. Fourth, the One Team website has multiple purposes. It also provides for social network and activities between members of One Team at multiple levels. Finally, all employees are encouraged to wear the One Team uniform rather than the uniform of the 3PL that they work for.
In summary, One Team provides a sophisticated example of infrastructure, managerial practice and HR practices which operate across all the member organisations at the level of the network. Critically, these practices impact upon all levels of seniority within the partners and Marks and Spencer. It is not only senior staff who are involved, junior staff also have opportunities to develop their career, improve their knowledge and exercise decision-making discretion in ways that would not be available to them within their 3PL. moreover, these structures and practices are multi-stranded. They are not solely focused on cost savings and efficiencies and recognise that shared values and behaviours and relationships hold the key to the knowledge sharing which in turn is the life blood of productivity improvements.
It is important to understand that this HRM model, which exists at the level of the network, results in the development of flexible human capital, which can be effectively deployed across the network as well as within the individual firms. These efficiencies have resulted in very significant cost-savings, multi-stranded talent development and have generated further networked ways of working. This HRM model therefore supports a positive spiral of networked benefits.
1. What were the key forms of human, social and organisational capital generated in One Team?
2. What role did HR practices play in supporting these forms of capital?
3. In the future: a. how might the network be developed further?; b. what obstacles might
be encountered to further development?; c. how might these obstacles be overcome?
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