However, although Ricoh’s performance management metrics may have historically worked well for them, performance management itself is evolving, undergoing something of an image change – and Ricoh is helping to accelerate that. “Performance management is always a difficult one,” Wallis explained. “It can have negative connotations but interestingly, more and more people are starting to talk about performance management much more positively. The conversation has shifted to a much more person-based approach, in terms of how performance is enabled. Now we’re focusing on giving managers the skills to have that whole conversation, not just ‘how are your objectives, what have you done, what are your challenges?’, but moving to a much more enabling role. We’re rebranding performance management as ‘Vibrant Working’.”
As Wallis pointed towards, in the past, performance management has tended to have a negative image. For some employees, it might be the only time they had a face-to-face meeting with their manager, and as such, it didn’t tend to inspire confidence. Indeed, research by Gallup in 2019 suggested that, far from helping employees perform better, annual performance reviews, at best, achieve very little. According to Gallup, only 14% of employees strongly agree that performance reviews help them to improve. Ricoh, however, does not see performance management as a one-off activity but much more of an ongoing, evolutionary process.
Wallis believes that, rather than dreading performance reviews, both employees and managers should see them as a force for positive change. “People should be looking forward to performance reviews,” she said. “What we’re really talking about now isn’t managing performance, it’s enabling performance. We’re moving away from the idea of people seeing their managers once a year for the dreaded annual review. Performance management shouldn’t be something that happens once a year, it’s ongoing. It’s a conversation – ‘how are you, are there any barriers to your performance?’”
This personalised approach to performance management is a far cry from the idea that it’s purely about helping employees meet their objectives so that the business hits its own targets. But these days, as Wallis said, employees are much more empowered to drive change themselves – and if they don’t like their job, they won’t think twice about leaving. A study by job website CV-Library supports this notion, finding that three in four employees were considering handing in their notice in 2022. “Employees are individuals, there’s not a job for life, there are horizontal career paths now,” Wallis said. “Work has changed – I’d say for the better and the majority of people would say for the better. The need to find that balance between employees and organisations will see organisations needing to transform and change, too.” Indeed, research from CIPD found that three-quarters (75%) of respondents to its 2021 survey on worker wellbeing believe that senior leaders have employee wellbeing on their agenda, up from 61% in 2020. It’s clear that the workplace is transitioning from solely being focused on output to taking a much more holistic approach to employee wellbeing as part of performance management.
Of course, this isn’t without its challenges. Wallis explained one of the biggest challenges with performance management at Ricoh is empowering managers to have those ongoing conversations with their employees. “Managers need to be supported,” she said. “They have big responsibility but with that comes the weight of adapting to a whole new way of working. Our challenge at Ricoh has been to balance people’s needs with what was previously a one-size-fits-all approach to performance management, and empowering and enabling managers to deal with the whole individual rather than just their work objectives.”
“It’s no longer the case that employees’ experiences outside work are fenced off, and it doesn’t matter what goes on with the rest of their lives. Management is much more holistic now, especially around wellbeing, and it’s important that managers feel supported and able to have those conversations,” she added. Indeed, research by Gallup found that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement, with supervisor support more than doubling the odds of employee engagement.