How to Create an Employee Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) | World Manager

How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan

That moment when you become acutely aware that the rock star you hired in marketing is not acting very “rock star-ish.” They’re not meeting expectations, and it’s starting to affect the quality of your department’s work.

At this point, many companies respond with what can feel like disciplinary action: A performance improvement plan, or PIP. Many employees may rightly fear it is code for “imminent termination.”

Back to our rock star who has lost their luster. Despite their knowledge gaps or other deficiencies, do you see talent or indications of it? Do you feel that they would respond favorably to training?

If the answer is yes, why not view the PIP as a positive intervention – even an opportunity – to support your struggling employee? A PIP provides the opportunity to make necessary adjustments and find a pathway to success within your company. Give a floundering employee the tools to reclaim rock star status.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan?

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at what a performance improvement plan is and what it isn’t.

What It Is

Usually created by a supervisor or manager, a PIP is a formal process to discover and address employee performance issues. This process pinpoints the source of the problem in hopes of remedying it through training, coaching, and mentoring. Ideally, this paves the way for the employee’s success. The plan stipulates the specific goals and steps that the employee and company will take — and be held accountable to.

What It Isn’t

A PIP should not be regarded as a cynical “cover your bases” maneuver before employee termination. In some instances, termination may be the final outcome, but it should not be the goal. The plan should actually lead to the provision of relevant, personalized training and support to drive the desired behavior change. If the employee is not able to make the required adjustments, then the PIP serves as strong documentation. But again, that’s not its main purpose.

Why Develop a PIP?

When a PIP is used properly, it can be a very powerful tool with significant benefits for the organization and its employees.

Organizational Benefits

  • A PIP is a useful vehicle for providing helpful, objective feedback to employees, including coaching, mentoring, and training. In fact, developing a PIP is a key part of an organization’s commitment to continuous improvement and employee development.
  • Having a performance improvement plan in place means your company can address productivity concerns quickly, competently, and compassionately instead of making termination the go-to option.
  • When done properly, it can close skills gaps while increasing performance and productivity.
  • When companies weigh the costs of helping struggling employees succeed versus terminating them and rehiring for the position, a PIP also makes financial sense.

Employee Benefits

  • Employees may have a built-in tendency to fear a PIP. However, when implemented by a strong and caring manager, it is an opportunity for employees to improve their performance by receiving specific feedback, guidance, coaching, and mentoring from co-workers who want them to succeed.
  • And though it may sound counterintuitive, a PIP can help increase employee engagement and morale; when implemented properly, it sends the message that the company cares about its employees and is willing to make an investment in their future to help them grow.

How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan: Tips and Templates

Developing a performance improvement plan may seem daunting if you’ve never done one before. However, the step-by-step process is actually quite straightforward. To get you started, here’s a performance improvement plan template that you can use; be sure to customize your performance plan template according to your specific needs.

  1. Determine Your Objectives

The starting point is to discuss the reason for the plan and to get a consensus on what exactly needs to happen in order to achieve success. If you don’t have specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited goals, you won’t be able to evaluate progress (Step #5) effectively.

Seek Understanding: Why is your employee struggling? Do they not have the right skills, or are they simply in the wrong job or even career? Do they have a conflict with their manager or co-worker? Do they not fit in with the culture? Do they have a personal issue that is affecting their job performance?

Seek Alignment: It is important for the employee and the manager to be totally aligned on what needs to improve and when it needs to improve by.

  1. Write the Plan

Once you have a better idea of the obstacles that are preventing your employee from meeting expectations, the next step is to draft a plan to remedy the situation. You’ll have to determine the right strategies. Examples could include:

  • Formal training
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • More support and oversight
  • Better communication
  • More frequent updates, reports, and meetings

Build a plan with clearly spelled out goals and the actions necessary to achieve them that you and the employee will implement together.

  1. Hold the Meeting

Sit down in person with your employee; explain the reason for the meeting, the goals of the PIP, and what they can expect in the weeks or months ahead. Be empathetic, calm, clear, supportive and helpful.

Also, be upfront; they need to know going into this conversation that you’re going to be talking about their performance. The worst thing that you can do is to blindside them. So avoid using a calendar invitation that says something like “update on projects” because that gives you an opportunity to prepare for this meeting. But it doesn’t give your employee a fair chance to prepare.

Presumably, you want your employee to improve. So nothing about this meeting has to be adversarial. Be respectful. Talking about performance is personal and can be difficult. So when you schedule this one-on-one meeting, make sure that it’s somewhere private but also comfortable. Avoid a crowded cafeteria!

Acknowledge Potential Outcomes: Share what good performance looks like and how the plan is designed to support and pave the way for their success. When discussing performance, you want to be specific, you want to be objective, and you want to bring examples to discuss, so it’s easier for the employee to see the gap. Be candid about what will happen if the employee fails to improve by the agreed-upon time. Will they still have a job? Will they be eligible for a different role in the company?

Make it Collaborative: You don’t want the employee performance plan and process to seem top-down and one-sided. Make sure they feel involved. Share the floor with them. This means that as their manager, you aren’t doing all of the talking.

  1. Execute the Plan and Track Progress

The one-on-one meeting shouldn’t be the last time they see or hear from their manager. Check in with your employee regularly, even bi-weekly, to offer support and monitor progress. This shows that you care about the employee as a person.

  1. Evaluate

How much time should the plan cover before it’s time to evaluate? This depends on the specifics, but generally speaking, one to three months. You can also build weekly or monthly progress reports into the evaluation.

When the agreed-upon time period has expired, you must then determine whether the goals have been met. If so, the plan can be terminated, and the discussion now turns to how best you can support them to sustain their success. If they haven’t met the expectations that were set, then it could lead to termination or assignment to a different job within the company.

Aim for Improvement

A final note: Companies will continue to run up against the common perception that the performance improvement plan is merely a euphemism for a “termination preparation plan.” To counter this, your company should promote the PIP internally as part of your company’s focus on continuous improvement. To be persuasive, the message needs to come from the top.

Book a demo to learn how World Manager LMS can catalyze your company’s employee training and productivity. Contact Us today!

Disclaimer: This information is meant to provide general guidelines and should be used as a reference. It may not take into account all relevant local, state or federal laws and is not a legal document. Neither the author nor World Manager will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this information.

The best companies use World Manager to train staff, maintain standards, and set the company up on the road to success.