When employees are underperforming, great managers don’t give up—they find a way to get them back on track. To help struggling employees, businesses can implement a Performance Improvement Plan that clearly explains where employees are failing and how they can overcome their challenges.
What is a Performance Improvement Plan?
A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) shouldn’t be complicated. It can be a simple form, completed by a manager and acknowledged by an employee. Your aim is to notify an employee that their performance isn’t meeting required standards—but also to create an official record (which can’t be disputed) of this conversation.
Hopefully, the plan works. There’s nothing more satisfying for all parties when a challenge is clearly understood and overcome. And if an employee shows a willingness and aptitude to improve but still fails to produce the required results, you may want to extend the plan, alter the targets or offer more support.
If an employee fails to improve (and doesn’t show a willingness to adapt or learn new skills) then you may be forced to terminate their employment. However, you will now be on more secure legal footing as you will have clear documentation to show not only that an employee was failing to meet expectation, but that they were made aware of this and offered an opportunity to improve.
How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan
- First you’ll want to make clear where an employee has fallen short of expectations—for instance, poor attendance or failing to meet deadlines. It’s best to be specific and give concrete examples of these, rather than generalizations.
- Next you should make clear what it required from the employee. Again, be specific. It might be as simple as improving their attendance record or respecting deadlines. Alternatively, an employee may be required to hit a certain quota or target. You can also list the ways that the company will assist the employee in reaching these goals—with resources, coaching or even additional training.
- The third essential component of a Performance Improvement Plan is a timeline. Typically, an employee will be given 30, 60 or 90 days to get themselves back to the level of performance required. The plan should also list dates for follow-up meetings where an employee’s progress can be assessed.
An employee should know that if they fail to meet their targets by the specified date, the plan will either be extended or they will face more severe consequences—transfer, demotion or termination. However, they should be aware that the plan isn’t a guarantee of employment, and that if their performance drops they could be at risk of earlier termination.
When Is a Performance Improvement Plan Needed?
While a Performance Improvement Plan can be a useful tool, it might not be right in all situations. There are many reasons an employee may be underperforming and sometimes a little more support or encouragement might be all they need. Poor performance could also be evidence of low engagement or a knock-on effect of issues in an employee’s personal life.
When an employee first begins to underperform, a good first step is to check-in with them, find out why they are struggling and offer any support you can. Before initiating a Performance Improvement Plan, you want to be sure that performance issues are actually job-related.
A plan will work best when there is an identifiable reason for an employee failing to perform. They might be struggling with a particular task or require new training in some aspect of their job. What’s important is a commitment from the employee—and the relevant manager—to get things back on track.
Lastly, HR teams should beware of managers who wish to implement a Performance Improvement Plan with unachievable goals simply in an attempt to get rid of an employee they aren’t fond of. A plan may also be a waste of time and effort if an employee shows no wish to improve their performance—in these cases disciplinary action may be more suitable.
To help businesses, Paycor is offering a free Performance Improvement Plan template. Once downloaded, the text can be customized to the needs of your organization.