Suma Wholefoods' Employee Performance Management Process

Suma is one of the largest co-operatives in Europe, owned and managed by its workers. They want to embed an employee performance management culture that supports their people to be the best they can possibly be in any role they take on.

Members at Suma Wholefoods
development goals created in 2021
objectives created in 2021
objectives due in 2022

Suma Wholefoods is a specialist distributor in vegetarian, naturally and responsibly sourced products. Founded in 1977, Suma is a cooperative, owned and managed by its workers. It is the UK’s largest worker owned cooperative and Europe’s largest equal pay organisation. There are lots of job roles at Suma and each role is seen as being equally important and valuable. Everyone gets paid the same, no matter what jobs they perform.

Lauren Barber joined Suma Wholefoods in May 2018. She has had a variety of roles in the organisation from Warehouse Operative to Customer Services Assistant. Since April 2021, she has been their Learning and Development Administrator. 

The challenge: Embed a culture of performance management

How does employee performance management work in an organisation focused on improving society and supporting customers and suppliers?

Suma exists to promote a healthy sustainable lifestyle. They sell sustainable produce and also provide employment for the area and support the local community – there are no shareholders to satisfy, members have an equal say, and everyone receives the same wage, no matter what job they are doing. Employee performance management in the organisation is about being the best that you can be in whatever role you take on, developing your skills to benefit yourself and those around you to positively impact the local community and the environment. Suma is different to most other organisations, where often performance is linked to pay or a bonus. 

Some people have multiple roles, working in a variety of teams, they may have two or more reporting lines. It was vital that any solution found had the flexibility to support this structure.

Until recently, appraisals were paper based, making it difficult to track progress and highlight any training needs. There were inconsistencies across the organisation, with some having reviews occurring regularly and others happening much more infrequently.

Suma wanted to embed a culture of performance management. With many more people becoming remote workers, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was far more important to provide them with a framework to keep them focused on the most important tasks and find a way for colleagues and coordinators (those who are responsible for products or areas) to stay connected.

Their objectives for a new online approach were:

  • To provide employees with clear sight of their progression across all their roles
  • To highlight any issues which can then be addressed quickly
  • To support a greater emphasis on learning and development
Suma Wholefoods Offices
Suma's Offices

The solution: Moving performance reviews online

Appraisd was selected as the right partner because it had the flexibility to support Suma’s structure and culture. People can have several different job roles and report to more than one coordinator. This allows objectives to relate to everything that a member is involved in and for no part of their role to be overlooked. As all the information about a member is held in one place, their progress can be easily tracked, highlighting where they are excelling and in what areas they may need more support. The focus is all on their personal development and helping people to be bring their best selves to work

Anyone can request a check-in outside of the regular review cycle whenever they feel one would be useful. This means those working remotely have a way to keep in touch with the business or ask for more support if they feel they need it. It ensures that everyone has a voice, upholding one of the key values the business was based on and that no one feels isolated.

As this is the organisation’s first online employee performance management system, it needed to be simple and intuitive, plus be easy to access remotely as many people are out on the road or working away from desks. Appraisd ticked these boxes.

“We liked the idea of a dedicated account manager to be on hand to help with any issues as this was so new to the organisation. Our account manager Ros has been brilliant. She is helpful, knowledgeable and fantastic to work with.”<div  class="author">Lauren Barber, Learning & Development Administrator at Suma Wholefoods</div>

Some people at Suma are not very tech savvy and others speak English as a second language, so simplicity was paramount. They were immediately drawn to Appraisd’s clear layout and how easy it was to navigate between the different sections. From starting with just 50 people on the system, there are now 181 people logging in with plans to extend further, to make the process as inclusive and consistent as possible.

“From a personal point of view, I found the request a check-in functionality extremely helpful. I’m the only one in the business working in L&D and working from home I’ve missed the opportunity to bounce ideas off colleagues in the office. Through check-ins with my coordinator where I can ask for guidance or share ideas, I’ve been able to keep focused and remain productive,” says Lauren. 

Suma Wholefoods
Suma Wholefoods

The benefits: A framework to help thrive as a business

Appraisd has provided Suma with the framework to help them thrive as a business. New starters are set up on the system as soon as they join, which means from day one they have clear objectives which they can track easily, no matter where in the business they are working.

It has helped the cooperative to live up to its core value of self-responsibility. Everybody is encouraged to set up and play their part in improving the business. Through Appraisd, they now have clear objectives, regular reviews and can request check-ins when they feel they need them to keep their progress on track.

Performance management can sometimes be perceived as something for people who are struggling in their roles.  This is certainly not the case at Suma.  Changing the language and talking about “reviews” and “check-ins” people can see the process more positively. They understand it is there to support their development and ensure everyone has the same opportunities to grow within the organisation and bring their best selves to work.

“In the cooperative, we need to find a balance between what people would like to do and what the business needs. From a learning and development perspective, Appraisd has really helped me to easily identify the gaps and skills we need to develop further.”<div  class="author">Lauren Barber, Learning & Development Administrator at Suma Wholefoods</div>
Organisational alignment