Spotlight on RPS: Transitioning to an updated employee experience ecosystem for the future of work
As a professional services firm defining, designing, and managing projects in urbanisation, natural resources and sustainability, RPS boasts a team of 5,000 consultants, engineers and scientists. With such a broad employee base, RPS; People and Organisational Development leads sought to create a performance-based employee experience that was easy and intuitive for all. In essence, they sought to continue to grow RPS as a great place to do great work.
What initial challenges did RPS Group hope a new HR system could solve?
In 2017, RPS’s talent data showed the need for change: Less than 50% of employees were having performance reviews, and attrition data was largely centered around the lack of opportunity to learn and develop. This issue was further exacerbated by the lack of a single, functional HR system.
At the time, RPS was using seven different talent systems, of which two were digitised, but they used different timeframes and different rating scales. The need for a consistent, global approach was clear. RPS decided to redefine its definition of performance,and created ‘Progress at RPS,’ which was a decision to have more meaningful coaching conversations between managers and employees more often.
How did RPS implement a completely new talent experience?
RPS wanted to ensure their efforts were aligned with improving the employee experience, rather than falling under the bracket of ‘another HR programme.’ To this end, RPS began by asking employees what they would like to achieve whilst working there. This feedback revealed that employees wanted clear direction and more discussion around their career development.
As a result, over 4,000 employees defined a collective set of career objectives, rather than having them set by senior leaders. Line managers received training to help clarify their role in coaching and developing their people, and to help them understand how to distinguish different levels of performance.
After this initial phase, RPS introduced a digital programme, named ‘Progress on Demand’ (POD). This programme could not have come at a better time, as employees moved physically further away during the pandemic, and the platform allowed for digital communication to thrive. Because employees were able to communicate with their line managers and vice versa, there was almost a 50% increase in the completion of performance reviews compared to 2017.
As RPS endeavoured to appeal to all employees, it opted for a hybrid performance model, whereby the firm married traditional check-ins with the use of the new POD platform. RPS also changed the format of mid year check-ins, replacing the numbered rating system with four simple, open-ended questions, such as "The things which require a focus or change in the next six months to have a successful year are...." This approach ensured managers and their employees held more meaningful coaching and performance conversations more often.
This new hybrid performance management model also granted the HR team better insight into employee feedback so it could flex the program to meet their shifting needs. For example, sensing fatigue from employees based on feedback collected during one check-in prompted the HR team at RPS to postpone the next one. This ability to quickly modify the review process ensured continued alignment to the employee experience rather than just conducting ‘performance reviews by a certain date.’
How has RPS measured success of its new talent strategy?
The HR team ran its second global engagement survey in 2021 and saw an 85% response rate, with the results clearly outlining the success of the new performance-oriented approach. For example, feedback from the survey showed:
An 8% increase in employee perception of line management effectiveness
A 12% increase in employees stating they receive clear and precise direction from management
An 8% increase in employees stating they received performance feedback
With this foundational ongoing performance strategy in place, RPS has created a work environment that empowers employees to perform to the best of their abilities by providing continuous development opportunities, as well as continuous feedback and coaching. Looking forward, RPS wants employees to be able to choose how they engage in performance conversations by implementing an employee-led initiative that has the flexibility to suit everyone.
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