The Essentials of an Employee Performance Improvement Plan

One of the ways that management and in particular human resource managers can help employees do better is with a performance improvement plan. In this article, we explore what exactly this means and how you can go about preparing one.

An employee performance improvement plan is a document that details any ongoing performance issues, clearly details what an employee can do to correct them, the length of time in which this should be done and the consequences if the goals are not met.

A performance improvement plan can be issued to correct any number of job performance deficits; from poor customer service, low productivity all the way to bad behavior in the workplace.

However, the consequences part, which sometimes means termination, means that employees tend to receive performance improvement plans with anxiety. For that reason, managers need to introduce them carefully and in a way that employees will see them as the improvement tool that they can be.

How to introduce a performance improvement plan

The first step is to assess if a performance improvement plan is actually necessary. Identify the areas in which you would like to see the employee improve and detail them. Consult with the human resource manager and invite them to be present when you meet the employee. Only bring up the PIP once you are sure you have all the information you need.

Inviting the employee for the meeting is the next step. While some people choose to send an email, it is not a bad idea to have an in-person chat telling the employee that you are going to initiate the process and then following that up with a formal email.

This will ensure that your employee doesn’t feel blindsided, and also show that you are being sensitive to how they might feel. If it is possible, this meeting can be held in a neutral place where your employee will be more comfortable.

Have a two way discussion. As a manager, you will be aware of the areas you want to see improvement in but remember that it is still a discussion. An employee might bring up roadblocks to their performance that merit a deeper conversation. You have a chance to clarify on things that are out of the companies control and those which can actually be changed.

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Also, as the performance improvement plan will detail steps to be taken to achieve better results, the employee’s input will be crucial. You do not want to set them up to fail by insisting on goals that are unreachable. Make sure that the employee understands what they need to do. Both parties should agree on the details of the performance improvement plan.

Schedule times for check-ins. Depending on the length of the performance improvement plan; 30, 60 or 90 days, check-ins can be weekly, monthly or bi-weekly. The frequency should be determined by both manager and employee.

The check-ins will allow the employee to gain insights on their performance, course correct if necessary and get a little encouragement along the way. It will also help the manager observe the employee’s progress.

Record everything that is discussed and share a copy with the employee. If done well, with achievable goals and clear steps to follow, performance improvement plans can have many benefits.

Benefits of performance improvement plans

They save money

The cost of retaining an employee is much less than the cost of hiring a new one. With successful performance improvement plans, organisations bypass the need to advertise, interview, train and induct a new employee.

This is not just a monetary cost, it is also a drain on time as resources have to be diverted away from business activities to carry out all the hiring steps.

They can be great motivators

While it can be scary to learn you need a performance improvement plan, it can also be a great motivator. It will let employees know that their bosses actually care about them and want to see them improve, if they did not, they would probably just fire them and not invest in them in this way. Employees perform better when they feel they are valued.

Companies might also observe a boost in productivity because workers perform better when they know exactly what to do. The goal oriented nature of performance improvement plans and detailed steps to achieve those goals takes care of that.

employee performance improvement plan

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Prepare people for a promotion

How can you prepare someone for a new job? Give them a set of tasks and guide them. Performance improvement plans will detail what tasks they will need to perform and how they need to perform them.

If the results are positive, this can be the stamp of approval for someone to get that promotion, and if not, it will at least show the areas they need to work on in order to get to where they want to go.

They can also prepare an employee for a lateral move. A performance improvement plan can be the best thing for an employee who would be better suited to another department. They have a chance to see if they can actually perform the new tasks and how well.

It gives management a chance to ‘test the waters’ before approving this job change. This is a good way to eliminate any disappointments down the road. It will also help clarify to an employee if they truly want to make the job move.

They are an effective behavior change tool

Unlike reviews, performance improvement plans have consequences. Failure to achieve set goals will lead to them losing something-lost hours, a demotion and in the most extreme case, a lost job, so employees will have motivation to step up.

In addition, with a performance improvement plan, an employee will have been actively involved in finding the solution to their particular challenge, remember the process is a discussion. They will be more encouraged to adhere to steps that they had a hand in formulating.

In summary

Do you think an employee would benefit from a performance improvement plan? Start by taking the fear out of the process.

Prepare the employee to receive it and get their input. At the same time, offer guidance and support. In this way, you will increase the chances of the employee achieving and even exceeding the set goals.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.