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M&S’s internal social network, Yammer, is a great business tool that enables us to gather operational information, network with colleagues from other stores and share fundraising ideas. But last week it also enabled us to help a very special little boy… 

Browsing the site, I noticed a photograph of a poorly looking boy who was cuddling a well-loved toy monkey. Intrigued as to why a photo like that would be on our internal site, I stopped scrolling and started reading. The post was from Sandra Johnstone, a Beauty Assistant at our Glasgow store. The boy in the picture was her friend’s son, Zac, who has been receiving treatment for cancer; the toy monkey was his special friend and had been lost. After trying to find the original through Facebook and Twitter Zac’s family had given up hope. However, Sandra knew the power of the M&S Yammer network and posted the photo on the off chance that someone may have one. 

The response from my colleagues across the business was fantastic. People had tracked one for sale on eBay and someone’s son even offered his. Looking at the picture, I suddenly recognised the monkey from a charity raffle we held and I didn’t think it had been won. Immediately, I went to our charity cupboard and under the raffle tickets I saw an orange and red stripy leg! After checking him all over, I posted a photo to the message thread saying we had one and would be pleased to send him on. 

On my way to look for a postal bag I shared the story with my team and showed them the Yammer post. They read the story and were thrilled that we had one but then the questions started: ‘How are you going to explain how fresh-faced he is?’; ‘How can it be explained why he’s been gone all this time?’ These were valid questions, our monkey was a lot brighter and when I was younger the first thing I would have asked is ‘where have you been?’ Then the idea came - he’s been on holiday! 

I pulled the team together and explained the plan; we would take photos of the monkey at different local landmarks, send postcards, facts about the area and souvenirs. We had 24 hours before he had to be in the post as promised!

Between us we found gifts that represented the area – from Walney Island, the Lakes, all the way to Blackpool - Monkey had enjoyed some great days out and he detailed it all for Zac in his very own travel diary.

Books on a desk

I have never seen a parcel wrapped with as much care as this one was (it even contained shells from Monkey’s trip to the local beach) and a few days later, when Sandra posted on Yammer a lovely message from Zac’s Mum and some adorable pictures of Zac with his parcel, it was a brilliant feeling. Suffice it to say, everything had gone down well and Zac was happy to have Monkey home. 

I’ve worked for M&S since I was 16 and next week I turn 33. Our sense of community, dedication to customer service and the amazing people that I work with has made me never want to leave. To be part of a story such as this, with the help of the team at Barrow and the wider M&S community on Yammer, has reminded me of what we can achieve when we work together. And the power of social media of course!