Performance Improvement Plans in 8 Steps

A PIP or performance improvement plan is a document detailing an employee’s individual plan to improve performance. They address and performance and behavioral issues and create attainable goals to improve these issues. The goals have a specific timeline to get them back on track.


What Performance Issues Can Be Addressed In a Performance Improvement Plan?

  • Lack of motivation
  • Regularly missing deadlines
  • Absenteeism
  • Tardiness
  • Low productivity
  • Being unprofessional
  • Using too much sick leave
  • Wasting resources
  • Client complaints
  • Continually failing to meet expectations
  • Poor work

How Do I Use an Employee Performance Improvement Plan?

The purpose of a PIP is to help struggling employees to meet their goals and curb poor behavior. Many companies use a PIP as a probationary period, a warning of dismissal if their behavior does not change. Others use it as a sign they wish to keep an employee and are committed to helping them getting back on track.

Management will create a plan with the employee, discussing the issues and what can be done to address them. Performance reviews are an important part of a PIP to ensure the employee is on track with their PIP goals and address any related issues that have arisen. The employee should receive both positive and negative feedback during their performance reviews.

The goal of a performance improvement plan is to find a solution to help the employee to be more productive and happy at work. Managers and employees should work together to ensure they become productive team members.

When Should I Put an Employee on a Performance Improvement Plan?

Managers should be aware of signs an employee is struggling before their underperformance snowballs. A PIP is designed to correct behavior and get an employee back on track, so they are best implemented when an employee starts to consistently struggle.

Here are some of the top reasons you may put an employee on a performance improvement plan:

  • An employee has generally been a dependable employee but recently their performance has been slipping.
  • During the employee’s probationary period.
  • If the employee handbook does not have a plan for the particular behavior or performance issue.
  • If an employee’s personal problems are affecting their performance.
  • If the employee is performing poorly in a particular area but performing well in others.

What Are The Benefits of a PIP?

The main benefit of a performance improvement plan is that it empowers employees to change their behavior or performance to rectify the issue. Getting an employee back on track is far less costly than hiring a replacement. Employees also receive detailed feedback and assistance to improve their performance. A PIP also reduces the risk of litigation or wrongful termination claims as a process was followed.

How Do I Create an Effective Employee Performance Improvement Plan?

1.   Set Clear Goals

Ensure employees are clear on what goals they need to hit to successfully complete the PIP. If goals aren’t clear, then employees will be confused and will not meet their objectives. Ask questions to ensure the employee understands the PIP.

2.  Communication

The PIP should be a collaboration between the employee and manager where honest dialogue is encouraged. Employees should feel comfortable expressing difficulties to their manager and suggesting tactics or communication methods that may work better for them. Managers should be clear about their expectations and how they plan to help the employee to achieve their PIP goals.

3.  Regular Check-ins

Regular check-ins are necessary to measure progress towards goals, discuss any difficulties, and make tweaks to the plan if needed. They provide small milestones in the goal and give the employee a chance to discuss how the PIP is going.

4.  Root Causes

Managers should use sensitive questions to check if there are any underlying causes that may be affecting their performance. The employee may have had a bereavement or other personal issues that are throwing them off track. The employee might even be experiencing issues in the workplace they haven’t been able to talk about. Respectfully enquire into anything that might be troubling them and discuss how they are feeling.

5.  Positivity

Emphasize the positive aspects of the employee’s performance as most employees will be good employees besides one aspect. Congratulate them on successful duties or projects or great results in other areas of their work. Including praise in a PIP is key to motivating the employee. Being placed on a PIP will cause the employee stress, so soften the blow a little by letting them know they are a valued employee.

6.   Structure

Structure is another crucial element to successful PIPs. This includes creating a clear timeline, organizing regular formal meetings and check-ins, and providing a clear list of expectations.

7.   Provide Extra Training and Support

For a PIP to succeed, the employee should feel like the company, their managers, and supervisors are on their side. This can be done easily by providing extra training and support for the employee. If the employee had a bad on-boarding process or wasn’t trained correctly, then the issue can be easily resolved by providing additional training. This is why it is vital to dig down to any underlying issues and fix gaps in skills. This might be internal training, extra time or training sessions with their supervisor, or a formal course.

8.   Clear Consequences

The employee must be clear on the consequences of continued poor behavior or performance on the PIP. It must be documented and give the employee incentive to change their behavior or performance.