Employee reviews offer a great opportunity for managers to evaluate the performance of their team and reward those who are reaching or exceeding their goals.
These employee reviews are less fun, however, when an employee is struggling to hit their performance metrics. This could be happening for any number of reasons, but at the end of the day, the aim is to help the employee get back on track.
Implementing a performance improvement plan (PIP) is an important step for managers to take to ensure the employee is on the same page.
Psst… We created a free template you can customize in Word. Download your performance improvement plan template now.
When is it time for a Performance Improvement Plan?
A PIP is the first definitive step of progressive discipline for poor performance, but it should really be the second or third step you’ve taken toward corrective action. PIPs should be administered once a short period of informal coaching and feedback has failed.
These coachings might take the form of a weekly check-in with a manager, in order to set goals and an agenda for the week. During this period, managers should take the time to send emails with detailed and actionable feedback in response to project work and written communication.
Having the Conversation
Bringing up the performance improvement plan can often be a tough conversation. As Justworks’ certified HR Consultant Moses Balian wrote in his post on discussing raises and promotions, it’s important for managers to keep their emotions in check during these meetings.
As he put it, “Keep the conversation on track, and always look forward. Only reference past instances that may have adversely affected their performance for the sake of coaching, not to scrutinize. Seek closure and clarify expectations.”
Make the potential outcomes of the performance improvement plan crystal clear.
In order to help manage emotions and start telegraphing expectations, consider scheduling the meeting a day or two in advance with HR. Just like a termination conversation, there should always be three parties in the room — the employee, the manager, and a representative of the company (HR). The collective memory provides validation that the conversation was hosted in a truthful, objective, and productive manner.
It’s also important to come prepared. Have the PIP ready to go so you can walk through it with the employee to ensure understanding.
Creating a Performance Improvement Plan
Drafting up a PIP may be easier than you think. We created a performance improvement plan template that you can download and customize for your own employees.
Get your own editable performance improvement template. Download the Word document to get started.
This template includes key elements you’ll want to cover to make the plan effective, including:
- Outline the employee’s performance issues
- Cite specific instances of poor performance to date
- Set a time period for evaluation
- Outline areas of improvement with specific benchmarks
Giving particular thought to the timeline and improvement benchmarks will help you provide a realistic performance improvement plan that both you and your employee can agree on.
Ask for the employee to draft an “action plan” that addresses the improvement areas and outlines specific behaviors they intend to model during this probationary period. Make the potential outcomes of the performance improvement plan crystal clear — either the plan will be closed, the PIP will be extended (in rare cases), or the employee will be subject to termination.
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Remember, once a PIP has been issued, the manager’s engagement in the process goes into high gear. Weekly check-ins are a must, and a manager might request a daily “to-do” list from the employee in order to help set priorities and productivity goals.
Having conversations with employees about poor performance is never fun. But with a performance improvement plan in hand, you can begin to guide the employee toward a path to success.