Listening leadership

How Marks & Spencer puts ideas from it's 70,000 employees at the heart of improving the business





Use Case

Process improvement, employee experience


Microsoft Teams


To make Marks & Spencer a better place to work and shop


70 K


20 K

Ideas Shared




The 'Suggest to Steve' Story


Introducing ‘Suggest to Steve’

Founded in 1884, Marks & Spencer is one of the world’s longest-running and most respected retailers. With 1,400 stores across 57 countries, M&S is renowned for its quality products, impeccable service and innovation.

M&S holds a special place in the heart of customers and employees alike and it’s those employees that Chief Executive, Steve Rowe, turned to in 2018 when suggestion scheme ‘Suggest to Steve’ was launched.

Suggest to Steve is a way for employees to share their ideas on where M&S can improve as a business, be it a product, a process, or a way of working. From the stores to support centre, every M&S employee is encouraged to share their ideas no matter how big or small.

The challenge was how to enable this level of strategic discussion on a scale that had never been seen before.

To transform our business, we need absolutely everyone to play a part. We have 70,000 passionate colleagues, and they know M&S better than anyone.

Steve Rowe - M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe, Chief Executive Marks & Spencer


Engaging every
single employee

The reaction of colleagues to Suggest to Steve was immediate and inspiring. Two years into the programme and 20,000 ideas had been shared with 500 brought to life, making M&S a better place to work and shop.

In 2020, the team asked themselves ‘How can we make it even better?

v1 of Suggest to Steve required employees to send ideas via email. Some employees just didn’t regularly use email and so didn’t engage, whilst the process of managing ideas in an inbox was laborious and time-consuming,

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft Teams had been rolled out to every single M&S employee. Was there a better way to reach employees on the tool that they now used every single day?

Microsoft Teams has become the home of work and collaboration at M&S. So, where better for our colleagues to share their Suggestions to Steve?
Josh Vincent - M&S - Suggest to Steve Josh Vincent, ‘Suggest to Steve’ Programme Manager Marks & Spencer


How M&S uses Microsoft Teams

The Solution - Teams App

2.0 on Teams

In 2021, Suggest to Steve was relaunched on Microsoft Teams, using ‘Ideas by Sideways 6’ a native app for Teams built in partnership with Microsoft.

The app makes it easier than ever before for employees everywhere at M&S to share their ideas, whenever and wherever inspiration strikes – be that on mobile, desktop and even M&S issued Honeywell devices.

But the move to Teams did more than just improve accessibility. In the past, employees couldn’t see what other employees were suggesting – leading to lots of duplicate ideas. Now they could search and see if someone had shared something similar, e.g., ’Percy Pig boxer shorts’.

The change also improved collaboration and transparency. M&S employees could now like and comment on other people’s ideas to support and improve them. And see where every idea was in the pipeline!

M&S and Suggest to Steve is one
of the best examples in the world

of Teams as an enabler of company
wide collaboration and innovation.
Will Read 1- Sideways 6-1 Will Read, Founder & CEO Sideways 6

The Solution - Sideways 6

Challenging the status quo

The move to Teams immediately increased engagement. With 200 new ideas now coming in every week, and just two members of the Suggest to Steve team responsible for managing them, they needed a system to help.

That’s where Sideways 6’s back-end idea management platform came in.

Rather than email suggestions that lacked structure, M&S employees now had to give 5 key bits of information about each idea - Title, description, store, idea area, and benefit type. This halved the time it took to assess each idea and direct them to the right person in M&S to review.

The team made use of automated workflows and comms to streamline the process and finally had real-time analytics to see everything from which stores were most engaged to the types of ideas that were most common.

Sideways 6 and Microsoft Teams has taken Suggest to Steve to the next level. Engagement has never been higher and the whole process is now streamlined.

Ede Rogers - M&S - Suggest to Steve Ede Rogers, Colleague Engagement Manager – Colleague Voice Marks & Spencer


It’s a ‘Yes!’ from Steve

Moving Suggest to Steve to Sideways 6 and Microsoft Teams has increased the volume of ideas by 70% year-on-year and the colleague experience of interacting with the scheme has improved exponentially. Employee engagement is higher than ever with over 3,000 ideas, likes, and comments being shared every single month.

But Suggest to Steve is about more than the numbers. It’s about the ideas and the people behind them. Those who get a ‘Yes’ from Steve.

Like Michaela, who suggested a new reusable bag to raise money for the NHS during Covid-19. The idea got a ‘Yes’ from Steve and raised over £150,000; Sarah and Simon, who suggested M&S produce a new set of more diverse and inclusive toy dolls for kids; And Lee, whose idea to handle parts of people compliance digitally has saved over 600 pieces of paper every single week. Just three examples of ‘Yeses’ from hundreds.

BONUS: If you enjoyed the case study, then you'll love our podcast with M&S CEO, Steve Rowe. Listen here »

I have not found such a warm, friendly and fun team in a supplier before. Working with Sideways 6 feels like a true partnership.
Ede Rogers - M&S - Suggest to Steve Ede Rogers, Colleague Engagement Manager – Colleague Voice Marks & Spencer

Podcast with Steve

Hear about it from the man himself

Ideas are the lifeblood of any business.
Steve Rowe - M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe, Chief Executive Marks & Spencer

Get a copy of the case study

The Marks & Spencer Story