How To Use Performance Improvement Plans Effectively?

Let’s be honest, managers and staff dread Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs). Why? Because they are predominantly used to document a path to termination instead of being used as a coaching tool. When used effectively, the business will see upskilled staff, improved employee relationships and better productivity!

To put it bluntly – using Performance Improvement Plans only for dismissals is not good management.

Employees And PIP Research

H.R. industry research shows that 92% of employees are open to being given corrective feedback to improve their performance IF delivered appropriately. The alarming flipside is that only 21% said their performance improvement is managed in a motivational way. That’s an alarming gap. A separate survey reported that 65% of employees were keen for more feedback on performance improvement.

On the job, feedback can be beneficial, but a formal approach is quantifiable and more effective.

If an employee has been struggling to meet their goals, a PIP is meant to give concrete ways to turn your performance around. For most, simply knowing exactly what they can do to improve is enough to make their way out of a slump (meaning it’s definitely possible to succeed on one!).

PIPs are agreements between an employee and manager working as a team towards the employee’s improved performance. Our effective Performance Management, Performance Improvement Plans (PIP) and Performance Reviews explain and examine PIPs, revealing how they effectively facilitate the change that both employees and managers need. When having  performance meeting with an employee you should always offer a support person and keep everything in writing.

PIP Usage

A PIP is a formal document stating any recurring performance issues along with goals that an employee needs to achieve in order to regain good standing at the company (usually with a specific timeline to complete the plan). PIPs can work well in a sales environment, for example, where monthly revenue or growth targets are critical. If incorrectly managed, the process can negatively affect relationships. Here are some helpful tips for effective use:

In simple terms, it’s like being put on probation when you’re in school—you’re going to be watched closely during this period. If you aren’t successful in completing your PIP at the end of the timeline, the employee may be terminated as the end result.

Some reasons why you may implement a Performance Improvement Plan include:

  • During an employees’ probationary period with the company.
  • If an employee has traditionally been a good employee but has been showing a recent trend in poor performance.
  • If an employee is showing poor performance in a small number of areas, but shows high performance in most other areas.
  • When your employee handbook does not have a proper strategy for performance improvement, the PIP offers a viable alternative.
  • When an employee is experiencing personal problems which may have affected their performance recently.

Here are some helpful tips for effective use:

  1. Keep It Simple

The plans are very effective when focussing on a single skill or behaviour. Track this with multiple targets. Avoid focussing on multiple issues and thus overwhelming the employee. It is vital to fix only one thing at a time.

  1. Keep Short Deadlines

PIPs should help the employee succeed as quickly as possible. A multi-month plan will be hit with distractions. Set initial 2 to 4-week goals and review at that time. Highlight the brief timeline and ensure it’s the employee’s TOP priority. A sense of urgency is critical for full employee engagement.

  1. Give Full Support

The targets might be very challenging. You are accountable for mentoring the employee through obstacles. Document the support available for the plan. Set coaching or training or other solution dates. The team member, however, MUST own the plan but never feel punished.

  1. Stay Tuned In

PIPs fail when managers don’t ‘check in’ consistently. Meet formally as often as possible for review, encouragement and advice.

  1. Outcome Implications

Be prepared for success and failure. Have next steps prepared for a failed outcome. Your failure to take the next steps at that time makes the PIP meaningless. Show your determination to see an improvement and employee engagement will escalate.

Performance improvement plans can drive improvements quickly but not without effort and knowledge.

Contact our experienced, efficient professionals [insert contact page hyperlink] for management of or guidance around your Performance Improvement Plans. They will guide you in using these plans sparingly, focussing on priority performance issues and morale-boosting.

Alternatively, purchase our Handbook, which guides you through performance standards, performance feedback, employees counselling on poor performance and treatment of continued poor performance.

We can work in-house or remotely and always within your budget.