M&S aims to make staff more data-literate

3rd Aug 2018

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is set to launch an academy designed to train staff to become more digitally savvy, in a market where the high street chain faces serious competition from online delivery retailers such as Amazon and Ocado.

The company aims to turn staff from all areas of the business into skilled data leaders who are able to lead on digital transformation across the company.

Employees will be encouraged to enrol on an 18-month data science skills programme which will be run by Decoded, a company that specialises in teaching digital skills to executives.

In the first 18 months, an expected 1,000 employees will be trained, including board directors, store managers and buyers of new product lines.

Training is to be funded by the apprenticeship levy, a government scheme that requires companies to devote the equivalent of 0.5% of their payroll to staff training.

In addition to this, senior executives at M&S will embark on a data leadership programme designed to train them on aspects of technology including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Artifical intelligence, according to Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, is a crucial factor that retailers should take note of: “Customers and businesses still want and need human intelligence, and rather than seeing AI as a quick fix to make savings, businesses need to focus on reinvesting in the end-to-end customer experience, and the skills of those delivering it.”

Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, said that staff embracing new technology was of paramount importance to the retailer’s long-term prospects: “We need to change their digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age.”

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