Improving Recruitment Outcomes for Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer is a unique retailer delivering top quality food, clothing, home products and financial services. Founded in 1884, it now employs over 80,000 colleagues who serve over 32 million customers, in approximately 1500 stores and 100 websites globally.


With 150 years of heritage, Marks and Spencer knows what it means to be an iconic and well-loved brand. Part of living up to this reputation means recognizing how it’s viewed by its employees past and present. As Isabella shares: “People who work for us are very proud to work for M&S. We take the idea of the M&S family very seriously and it was such a shame for us that we were losing touch with the people who worked for us.”

The retailer is not only one of the biggest employers in the UK, but regularly needs to boost its staff numbers during peak times like seasonal holidays. “Being able to use the platform to meet hiring needs is really important,” explains Isabella, “but from a business needs perspective, we recognized that there were a lot of benefits and opportunities that lay with having a successful alumni network, including retention, attraction and brand building.”

Better Engagement through Data

M&S recognized that engaging its alumni was essential to reaping these benefits. After selecting the EnterpriseAlumni platform and accompanying Managed Services to support their network, M&S experimented with ways to keep in touch with their alumni, including ‘behind-the-scenes’ news, archive throwbacks and alumnus profiles. The powerful Search and Segmentation features allowed the company to go further and communicate with different audiences by providing relevant messaging that optimized engagement.

“Our population of over 60s is the biggest demographic on the alumni network,” Isabella continues. “The majority of this population had worked in a store, and a small number in the Support Centre. So not only can we recognize that they're more interested in information about pensions or shares, but they’re ideally positioned to pick up temporary work around Christmas.”

“Being able to use the platform to meet recruiting objectives is really important, but the benefits include retention, attraction and brand building.”

Speaking to Demographics

The quality of survey data received from this engaged network also revealed a recruitment opportunity. “We asked our network if they would consider working for M&S again in the future and were really happy to see that about 75% of this audience was interested.” Isabella presented the data to the Careers team. “I pointed out that peak hiring was coming up, and we had a significant population that wanted to work for us again. It was an excellent case for the value of the alumni network as a recruiting tool!”

Another advantage of the network was the ability to reach out directly to alumni in advance of seasonal recruiting. “We ran an email campaign that gave our alumni an early opportunity to apply for roles, before the jobs were openly advertised. This delivered to us a significant number of applicants that we could fast-track to interview as part of our ‘Family & Friends’ initiative.”

M&S can now also nurture relationships with those at the start of their careers. “We're also very keen in engaging with our student population, who might work with us for years, go on to university and then ultimately join us in a professional capacity. While our primary focus is recruiting for customer assistants and store roles, the alumni platform is vital to Support Office recruitment activity.” 

Saving Time and Money

The new recruitment practices have improved M&S’s efficiency. “Utilising our Alumni network to make hires has enabled M&S to save time and reduce costs,” says Isabella. “We are using the alumni platform to target people based on their location and how long ago they left the business. Based on their alumni profile data, we contact them directly saying, for example: ‘Hi, you used to work for us, and you've ticked the box for career opportunities. We have openings available in our Warwick store, would you or someone you know be interested?"

Staying engaged with the M&S family brings practical advantages too: “the Recruitment team recognised the importance of engaging with this active database first because they've worked for us, and they know how the business works.”

“M&S is dedicated to helping our people grow their careers, and we want our alumni to benefit from these opportunities too.”

Supporting the Community with Events

Engaging with alumni through events is a great way to maintain a strong connection with your network. For Isabella, events not only offer an opportunity for the alumni community to stay in touch with each other, but they further support recruitment efforts. “We invite alumni to our M&S colleague events, including the Inspiring Speaker series and our colleague-only career fair. M&S is dedicated to helping our people grow their careers, and we want our alumni to benefit from these opportunities too.”

Isabella has found that alumni enjoy coming together at M&S stores and cafes, and many are eager to help organize meetups and reunions. “Some of our community members have even expressed interest in taking on volunteer roles within the alumni network. With EnterpriseAlumni’s user permission tiers, we can easily grant them the necessary access without compromising security or confidentiality.”

Unique benefits for M&S alumni

Looking ahead, Isabella sees great potential in the link between the alumni network and M&S's reward program, Sparks. “It provides tangible benefits. Alumni can enjoy exclusive offers and perks that aren't available to the public or current employees.” These offers are integrated into the company’s customer-facing app, and have helped to drive growth of their network. Bella adds: “Now that alumni have been able to add their Sparks ID to their profile, we’ve been able to see that someone’s a customer as well as an alumnus and measure the impact of this community on sales.”

While data is important, for Isabella, it's about more than that. "Our former colleagues are still current customers, and it makes sense to treat this customer audience differently from how we treat the general public. We also believe that the relationship M&S has with its people is unique among grocery retailers. Our alumni are still interested in our business news, what we're doing as a company and in our products, and the way they engage with our platform is a proof of this.”

You may also be interested in....


Solutions for Retail

We understand the power of brand loyalty. An alumni network lets you tap into that loyalty with your staff, even after they’ve moved on.

Read more
use cases

Talent Acquisition

An engaged alumni network gives you direct access to boomerang hires and boosts your referral rate - saving money in the process.

Read more