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Last year we identified a huge opportunity that lay dormant within our vast global community of former colleagues… an opportunity we were missing out on.

The opportunity? Leveraging the long-lasting support and passion for M&S that exists long after an individual has flown our nest. Just ask any M&S alumnus… a job at M&S is not just a job. When you work for M&S, you become a part of the family, and that stays with you for life.

So, we launched our alumni network M&S Family to unlock the power of our alumni: to thank them for their past and pledge to keep them a part of our future, as part of our ongoing transformation. Twelve months on, as I reflect on the first year of the network, it gives me great pride to think about all the former colleagues we’ve helped reconnect, both with each other and with our business. 

So, what have we done?

Staying true to the name of the network, the feeling of family has been the underpin to everything we’ve done so far with the network - and we’ve focused our activity on six key areas:

GROWING OUR FAMILY: We were overwhelmed by the initial response to the network, with 5,000 signups in just two weeks – from Melbourne to Delhi to Chicago – showing the breadth of sustained passion for M&S that exists around the world. Since then, we’ve grown to almost 10,000 (and counting) which is great.

RECRUITING FROM OUR FAMILY: A key benefit of launching the network has been a strengthened recruitment pipeline. We’ve already received more than 150 applications from alumni to return to M&S via vacancies posted on the network. Many of these ‘boomerang’ hires rejoined the business before Christmas to support us at our busiest period.

ENGAGING OUR FAMILY: We’ve worked really hard to keep our alumni engaged by asking them what they want to hear about and involved by putting on specialist events for them – such as the live Q&A we did with Ocado Retail CEO Mel Smith. Our next alumni event is with Cecily Mills, founder of Cecily’s Ice Cream, whose fascinating story has seen her go from M&S colleague to M&S alumnus to M&S supplier! 

CONNECTING OUR FAMILY: When we launched the alumni network last year, I said that when you work for M&S you become part of a big, diverse family - and that connection never leaves you, even when you move on. This feeling of connection is what I’m most proud of with our alumni network. Over the past year we’ve reunited long-lost colleagues and teams (such as Apprentice winner Carina Lepore and her inspirational former manager Phil Crawley), and also forged new connections too. 

SUPPORTING OUR FAMILY: M&S is founded upon a strong family spirit that has been passed down from generation to generation, and that’s what our alumni network is all about. That’s why I’m really excited to share that next month we will launch the world’s first alumni mentoring scheme, utilising the rich knowledge and experience that lies within our alumni to support our current colleagues in shaping the future of M&S.

REWARDING OUR FAMILY: We’ve worked really hard to make sure our alumni feel rewarded for being a part of the family – and February saw us launch our first Alumni-exclusive offers through Sparks to reward our alumni for their continued support. A lucky few have also received special invitations to take part in our Jubilee celebrations!

Looking ahead

We’ve got lots of exciting things in the pipeline and, as sponsor of the network, I’m looking forward to growing our network even further - from 10,000 to 15,000, and beyond – helping more of our alumni stay part of the M&S Family.