HR articles

Performance Improvement Plan

After an employee receives a poor performance review, management can give him a final chance to step up his game through a performance improvement plan (PIP or sometimes also called a performance action plan).

A performance improvement plan provides the employee with clear objectives to meet to avoid dismissal, demotion, or transfer.
A performance improvement plan is a document that lists where an employee is falling short and what he can do to improve.

For instance, the performance action plan may detail skills or training the employee lacks. Alternatively, it could specify how the employee needs to change his behavior. In either case, the PIP will clearly state the steps the employee needs to take to make the necessary improvements.

An employee performance improvement plan is written by the worker’s manager and submitted to HR. It has a deadline for meeting the named objectives — usually 30, 60, or 90 days. It also states the consequences should the employee’s performance continue to fall short.

How to write a performance improvement plan

Now you know what your PIP needs to include and you’ve seen some examples. All that’s left is to put everything together and start writing a performance improvement plan for a specific employee and issue.
To help you, here’s a step-by-step guide detailing how to write a performance improvement plan.

1. Determine acceptable performance

State what would be acceptable performance and compare this to what you are currently seeing from your employee. Be specific as to where exactly the employee is falling short, including examples of behavior and performance.

Instead of presenting an employee with a PIP unexpectedly, have a meeting beforehand where you discuss performance issues.

All parties (the manager, HR, and the employee) should have the chance to provide input. You want the employee to feel engaged and committed to meeting targets.

2. Create measurable objectives

Use the SMART framework to define the objectives your employee needs to meet. Determine how you will measure success.
Determine the Reason for Performance Issues

You need to be sure that a PIP is worth the effort. Find out what is causing the poor performance.

It could be that the employee feels overwhelmed by expectations at work or perhaps he is dealing with personal problems you are unaware of. Alternatively, the problem may be that the employee has no interest in staying with your company in the long term.

3. Define what support the employee will receive

List how the employee’s manager will help him reach the PIP goal. This could include training, coaching, or using additional resources.
Think of Ways You Can Best Help the Employee

The whole point of a PIP is to help the employee improve to keep him on your team. Rather than expecting him to achieve the objectives alone, consider what he may be lacking from you that could better his performance.

4. Draw up a schedule for check-Ins

Specify how often you will meet with the employee to provide feedback. Create a calendar of check-ins.
Don’t Wait Until the Deadline

It’s no use creating a PIP and then waiting until the deadline to check the employee’s progress.

Regular check-ins will allow the employee to voice any doubts or difficulties. Plus, they will allow you to confirm that he is on the right track or if further action is necessary.

5. State the consequences of a lack of improvement

Make it clear what the consequences are if the employee fails to meet the improvement goal.
By this point, you should know why you want to use a PIP, how to create a performance plan for your unique situation, and what exactly to include. There is still one thing left: your employee needs to know how to respond and pass the PIP. Share the following advice with your employee to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Focus on Improvement Rather Than Punishment

It is critical that your employee doesn’t perceive the PIP as a sign he will soon be fired.

Remember to talk about where he is excelling and make it clear that you want to see him improve. Set a goal the employee feels confident he can achieve and that will be beneficial to everyone.

Performance improvement plan examples

After your initial conversation with the employee, his manager should draw up a draft performance improvement plan and send it to HR for review.
Here are a few performance plan examples you can use for your own PIPs.

#1 Example to improve customer service

Our first sample performance improvement plan is for customer service.
This kind of performance improvement plan could be necessary if clients are complaining about the attitude or support they receive from a particular employee.
Goal: The overall goal of such a PIP may be to improve interactions with clients.
Objectives: Possible objectives to meet such a goal could be to see better customer retention or engagement.
Action: To achieve the above objectives, the employee could work more closely with customers to resolve problems or attend a customer service training session.
Metrics: The most appropriate metrics would likely be the customer churn rate or customer satisfaction score.

#2 Example to improve the low-quality of work

In other situations, an employee may have little or no contact with customers, but he could still be delivering poor-quality work in other ways.
Goal: Improve the quality of work.
Objectives: Meet deadlines or produce work that is free from errors.
Action: The first objective is simple — the employees need to miss no deadlines within the timeframe set out in the PIP. The second objective requires collaboration with a senior team member to check for errors and judge whether the quality is acceptable.
Metrics: Number of late deadlines and quality of work (the latter may be subjective).
A PIP is a great strategy to retain an employee whose performance has been lacking recently but who does have the potential and motivation to remain a strong team player.

Whether you are the employer or the worker, you should never see a performance improvement plan as a superficial step before termination. Rather, it should be a useful tool to transform a struggling employee into a valuable asset for the company.
Creating and following up with a Performance Improvement Plan is one of the steps of Performance Review. You can learn about the whole process in detail on the Performance Review course
You will get a full understanding of how to conduct a review and a set of tools that will help you do it well!