Time to Read: 6 minutes
Performance Improvement Plans Summary:
- A PIP is a tool that offers a commitment from the manager to the employee to help them improve.
- Include these 5 pieces of information to deliver a well thought plan to help get the employee back on track to being successful and achieving their goals.
- The length of time for a PIP can last 30, 60, or 90 days depending on the objective.
- Operational tips to help avoid putting employees on a PIP.
If you are researching “performance improvement plans” then you are likely experiencing a pain point with an employee and wish to learn more about how a PIP can effectively help the situation. Or reversely, you are an employee who received a PIP and are curious how serious this could be for your own job security. Read on to learn how this accountability tool is leveraged by HR and Managers to formally extend help to employees who are not delivering to expectations. We will use the acronym PIP to reference the use of Performance Improvement Plan.
What is a Performance Improvement Plan?
A PIP is a detailed and actionable plan with clear objectives or goals that must be met within the set timeframe. The PIP is provided to an employee who is experiencing an underperformance in their position. Areas of underperformance could fall under the categories of communication, execution, quality of work, timeliness, following process, productivity, or poor behavior.
Why is a Performance Improvement Plan necessary?
A PIP is an accountability tool which allows for both the manager and the employee to formally regroup on expectations and outcomes of the position. This is a positive way to make a commitment to help an employee improve. It is a well thought out plan to help get the employee back on track to being successful and achieving their goals. Once the time frame of the PIP has come to completion and the expected improvement is not achieved, then the business can decide if the employee would be more successful as a resource in another role at the company or determine if the job is not a suited fit.
When is the appropriate time to deliver a Performance Improvement Plan?
A PIP can apply to both new hires and legacy employees across any department of the company. The employee should first receive adequate training or at a minimum receive clear communication of goals and expected outcomes for their role. In some cases, Senior-level hires do not receive training as they are advance in their line of work and the expectation is for them to quickly adapt to the business and produce within their role. When the business or a manager identifies that frequent meetings and communications are not influencing adequate outcomes then a PIP is a tool to formalize the request for improved performance.
How to avoid the need for a Performance Improvement Plan?
A PIP may be unavoidable; however, the list below are ways to set a strong foundation for high productivity and morale:
- A detailed job description at the start of the new job or internal promotion. Ambiguous or unforeseen tasks often arise, get ahead of them by setting the employees expectations. ie: “Job duties may include but are not limited to…” or “Job duties may also include administrative duties as needed.”
- Provide adequate training and resources.
- Offer clear objective within the onboarding process. A 30, 60, 90-day plan provides the employee a focused pathway to ramp up.
- Welcome the employee to ask questions.
- Host a weekly or bi-weekly one on one between the employee and manager.
- Lead by example. Prove that what is being asked of them is achievable.
- Inspire authenticity and camaraderie.
- Do not reward poor performance or poor behavior.
An Example of a Performance Improvement Plan
The PIP plan can be drafted by the manager and then reviewed by HR. The PIP is an unbiased, formal letter with the content of:
- Explanation of acceptable performance levels compared to the current performance deficient. The explanation should be detailed with dates, data, and supporting context. Including supporting documentation such as a job description or employee policies.
- Clear objectives that are measurable, achievable, and time sensitive. Depending on the objective the time frame could be 30, 60, or 90 days to achieve the planned goal.
- Detailed guidance on what resources are provided to assist the employee in achieving the goal.
- Schedule of meetings between the manager and employee for frequently reoccurring appointments to discuss progress. Weekly meetings are often a sufficient cadence but may vary on the circumstances.
- Clarification of possible outcomes if the objects of the plan are not met. Scenarios may include training, transfer of position or duties, demotion, or termination.
Who delivers the Performance Improvement Plan?
A PIP is delivered in a private setting, typically it is a joint effort from the manager and HR to the direct report. In some cases, HR may deliver the PIP directly for an unbiased delivery. The benefit of the manager delivering the PIP is so that they can continue to coach and work through the plan with the employee, offer support, and answer questions as they are closest to the projects at hand. Prior to the PIP being delivered, HR is in agreeance that it will be taken place along with having buy-in on the plan, objectives, and potential outcomes. Once the employee and manager review the plan then both parties sign the agreement, and a copy is sent to HR.
How long do Performance Improvement Plans last?
A PIP can be 30, 60, or 90 days depending on the objective. The set time frame should be a fair amount of time to achieve the planned goal.
How to measure results from the Performance Improvement Plan?
A PIP is measured by way of reoccurring meetings and progress reports. These meetings should be predetermined, and the manager is responsible for ensuring they occur on time. Data, surveys, or observations can be used to measure the progress of the employee’s performance. During the standing meetings the progress should be formerly documented and discussed. If a gap of training or resources is uncovered, then provide those tools as soon as possible. Engagement from the employee is encouraged so that they can self-evaluate and reflect on realizations they may have made. Acknowledge successes as it will motivate the employee to continue the plan.
Expected outcomes from the Performance Improvement Plan
Outcomes of a PIP can vary. The best outcome would be that the plan resulted in an overall performance improvement and the goal was achieved. Should the employee achieve the goal prior to the end date of the plan then the manager should formally congratulate the employee and close the PIP. Other outcomes could be identifying a gap which may require training, transfer to another position, or demotion. Lastly, a PIP can result in a termination of employment. If the employee is making a viable effort and showing commitment to the plan but the goal is not achieved, then it would be up to the business to determine if the date of the plan should be extended.