Ask HR: What's the Purpose of a Performance Improvement Plan?

Is one of your employees failing to meet expectations? While some employers may look to immediately terminate the employee, there could be risk involved if you fail to produce proper documentation. Have you considered instituting a performance improvement plan? Many organizations use performance improvement plans to help guide struggling employees. In this latest installment of Ask HR, the experts at HR Support Center define the purpose of performance improvement plans.


What is the purpose of a performance improvement plan? Can’t we terminate employment for poor performance?


The use of a performance improvement plan can help reduce the risk inherent in any termination. It supports employees whose performance has slipped, become inconsistent or otherwise needs improvement.

It’s safest to terminate an employee when you have documentation that justifies the legitimate business reasons for termination. And if you’re terminating for poor performance, this documentation should include past warnings for poor performance, explanations of the consequences for the employee if they didn’t improve and evidence that the employee failed to do so.

A great way to summarize documentation is through a performance improvement plan, which specifies your expectations for performance, establishes your definition of success, sets regular meeting with the employee to discuss their progress and explains the consequences for failing to meet and sustain improved performance within an established time frame.

If the employee continues to under perform or fails to sustain improved performance, you may need to move on to termination. If you’ve been using a PIP, you will have the documentation to demonstrate that you gave them a chance to improve. This record will make it more difficult for the employee to challenge the reason for a termination.

Looking for a team of experts to provide HR support and guidance to your organization? Contact one of our consultants to learn more about the benefits of HR Support Center.

*This information is not intended for legal advice; if you have legal questions concerning a particular situation, you should consult with a licensed attorney. *