People Management

Performance Improvement Plan: Tips and Templates

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) set clear, measurable goals for underperforming employees to get them on the right track. More than just a corrective measure, PIPs provide guidance and support, helping employees fully understand and hopefully meet their job expectations.

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a document that addresses specific areas where an employee’s performance is not meeting the expectations of their role. It outlines a clear plan of action to help the employee improve and meet defined objectives within a set period. 

It is important to note that a PIP is not an employee’s first warning about low performance; it’s their last warning. In other words, a PIP shouldn’t come as a surprise to the employee.  

Before enacting a PIP, the manager would have already discussed performance issues with the employee. Remember, a PIP is generally not initiated in response to a single action or incident but rather to a concern regarding the employee’s ongoing performance. 

The PIP lists skills or behaviors that need improvement defines success, provides a timeline for demonstrating improvement (usually 30, 60, or 90 days), and explains the consequences if objectives are not satisfactorily met by the deadline.

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The Benefits Associated With a PIP

When used appropriately, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) can be incredibly beneficial, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth. 

Firstly, they reinforce a company culture that values accountability, high performance, and ongoing employee development. By utilizing PIPs, organizations demonstrate a commitment to supporting employees toward success rather than moving straight to termination, empowering them to take control of their performance and growth. 

This approach helps maintain morale and significantly reduces the costs, time, and disruption associated with recruiting and training new staff. 

Additionally, PIPs offer detailed, constructive feedback that goes beyond what a negative performance review might provide, guiding employees with clear, actionable steps for improvement.

This structured support helps employees align more closely with the company’s goals and performance standards and provides a sense of security and trust in the organization’s commitment to their growth.

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The Drawbacks Associated With a PIP

While Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) are beneficial, they also have potential challenges. 

Initiating PIPs involves uncomfortable conversations between managers and employees, which require tact to be constructive. Creating, implementing, and monitoring PIPs is also resource-intensive for managers and HR teams. 

Additionally, employees may misinterpret a PIP as a precursor to termination rather than a chance for improvement. To mitigate these issues, communicate clearly about the plan’s purpose, provide supportive feedback throughout the process, and be transparent about what success looks like. With careful planning, an organization can benefit from PIPs while maintaining positive employee relations.

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How to Determine if a PIP Is Appropriate

Not every performance issue requires a performance improvement plan. For minor issues, a manager should have a casual conversation instead of implementing a formal PIP notice. Minor issues include job misalignment, personal issues causing presenteeism, interpersonal skills that need refining, and even coffee badging.

Consider using a PIP when the employee’s performance deficits are significant enough to impact their work—but you, as a manager, believe they can improve with your guidance and support. 

Although there are no specific criteria for deciding when to initiate a PIP, here are examples of when a plan may be appropriate: 

  • Failing to meet overall performance expectations for the job.
  • Demonstrating confusion about performance expectations despite feedback and coaching.
  • Receiving a performance review rating below “meets expectations.”
  • Exhibiting deficiencies in specific skills or job competencies.

Elements of a Performance Improvement Plan

A performance improvement plan should be specific, realistic, and time-bound to be effective. Start with a baseline for the PIP. It is an assessment that compares the employee’s current performance to the expectations of their role. 

Then, establish the goals or SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) that spell out what success looks like. Also, provide a clear description of the support, training, and resources provided to the employee and a schedule for regular check-in meetings to evaluate progress and offer feedback. Lastly, outline the consequences should the employee fail to meet the specified objectives.

Performance Improvement Plan Template

Just as termination letter templates help businesses streamline their dismissal processes, PIP templates can remove confusion about delivering important performance details to employees. After creating a PIP, the employee, manager, and human resource representative should sign and receive copies. 

Sample PIP Template

Performance Improvement Plan

Employee name: [name]

Position: [position]

Department: [title]

Manager: [manager name]

Dates of PIP: [start date] to [end date]

Areas of underperformance or problematic behavior:

  • [Deficiency 1]
  • [Deficiency 2]
  • [Deficiency 3]

Improvement objectives:

  • [SMART objective 1]
  • [SMART objective 2]
  • [SMART objective 3]

Support and resources to be provided:

  • [List training, mentoring, tools, or other accommodations to be provided]

Progress check-in schedule:

  • [meeting 1 date and time]
  • [meeting 2 date and time]
  • [meeting 3 date and time]

Consequences of not meeting objectives:

[Clearly explain disciplinary measures, including possible termination]

Employee signature:____________________  Date:_________

 

Manager signature:_____________________   Date:_________

Here is a template filled out for a fictional employee named “John Doe.” While this PIP is just an example, you can use it to help inform your PIP practices.

John Doe Template

Performance Improvement Plan

Employee name: John Doe

Position: Sales Associate

Department: Sales

Manager: Jane Smith

Dates of PIP: April 15, 2024 to July 15, 2024

Areas of underperformance or problematic behavior:

  • Failure to meet monthly sales quotas for the past three months
  • Poor attendance, including arriving late and unexcused absences
  • Lack of professionalism when interacting with customers, resulting in complaints

Improvement objectives:

  • Meet or exceed the monthly sales quota of $25,000 for each of the next three months
  • Arrive to work on time and maintain an attendance rate of 95% or higher over the PIP period
  • Demonstrate professional communication and behavior with customers, resulting in zero complaints

Support and resources to be provided:

  • Weekly 1-on-1 coaching sessions with sales manager
  • Attendance at customer service training workshop
  • Access to online sales training modules and resources

Progress check-in schedule:

  • May 15 at 10:00 am
  • June 15  at 10:00 am
  • July 10 at 10:00 am

Consequences of not meeting objectives:

Failure to meet the objectives outlined in this plan by the specified end date will result in further disciplinary action, including termination of employment.

Employee signature: John Doe___________ Date:4/15/24_____

Manager signature: Jane Smith__________ Date:4/15/24______

How to Implement a PIP

An effective performance improvement plan depends on proper execution. Start by scheduling a meeting with the employee and include an HR representative to review the PIP documentation.

Give the employee ample opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns, and provide their perspective. Openly explain the business reasons behind implementing the PIP, emphasize the importance of meeting the defined objectives, and reiterate that the company’s goal is to see the employee succeed and thrive in their role long-term.

Have the employee sign and date the PIP document to acknowledge receipt. Then, provide the employee with a copy for their records and maintain an additional copy on file with HR.

Wize Tip: Always have your company’s human resources or people operations team review your PIP before you share it with the  employee.

How to Monitor Progression and Results

The employee’s direct manager should meet with them weekly to assess progress made on the PIP goals. Review current performance levels and reiterate the support, training, and resources available to help employees meet expectations. Be sure to document a summary of topics discussed and provide feedback after each check-in meeting.

You can expect one of three potential outcomes at the final deadline based on the employee’s progression throughout the PIP period.

Objectives Fully Met

The employee has demonstrated the required level of improvement and is now meeting expectations. Provide positive recognition of their efforts and clearly define ongoing expectations and next steps for long-term success.

Significant Progress Made

If the employee has not fully met every objective but has made substantial, observable performance improvement, consider extending the PIP deadline by 30 days to allow them to demonstrate consistency.

Objectives Not Met

If the employee’s performance has not improved sufficiently, the company should enact the predefined consequences outlined in the PIP, such as termination. Work with the employee’s manager to implement the next steps.

Wize Tip: Even after the PIP goals are met, the employee is expected to maintain that level of performance. If their performance declines again, that’s typically grounds for termination.

Wize Words

A well-designed performance improvement plan is a valuable management tool. It offers struggling employees clear direction, support, and accountability to improve performance and excel long-term. PIPs benefit individual employees and enhance productivity, engagement, and retention for the company.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if an employee refuses to sign the PIP document?

Calmly explain that a signature does not signify agreement with the contents but acknowledges that the performance improvement plan has been received and discussed. If the employee still declines to sign, write “Employee Refused to Sign” on the plan along with the date the PIP was presented and discussed with the employee. Whether they sign it or not, the PIP is in effect once the employee has been made aware.

How can you keep a PIP from demotivating the employee?

Position the PIP not as a punishment but as a supportive process designed to help the employee succeed. Have their manager use coaching language like “I believe in your ability to improve” and “Here are the tools and support we’ll provide.” Celebrate incremental wins along the way. And if termination becomes necessary, handle it respectfully.

Author

  • Ryan Lawrence

    Ryan Lawrence is a highly experienced HR writer who’s spent two decades covering diverse workplace topics for small- and mid-size businesses. With a keen eye for detail, he delves into the complexities of human resources, focusing on the trends impacting the workplace and giving HR professionals actionable solutions.

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The article was reviewed by Deirdre Sullivan

Ryan Lawrence

Ryan Lawrence is a highly experienced HR writer who’s spent two decades covering diverse workplace topics for small- and mid-size businesses. With a keen eye for detail, he delves into the complexities of human resources, focusing on the trends impacting the workplace and giving HR professionals actionable solutions.

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