Performance Improvement Plan: Improving Workplace Efficiency

Performance Improvement Plan: Improving Workplace Efficiency

What should you do when one of your employees just isn’t reaching their full potential? It can be tough to know how to handle a situation like this, but using a performance improvement plan (PIP) can be the answer.

A PIP is a document that outlines specific goals that an employee needs to meet in order to improve their work performance. It can be used as a way to help an employee get back on track, or to help them move on from a company if they are unable to meet the expectations outlined in the plan.

Introducing a PIP can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. This article will outline everything you need to know about PIPs, from creating one to following up on it.

Let’s go!

What is a performance improvement plan, and how does it work?

If you have never needed to use a performance improvement plan (PIP) in your place of work, you may be wondering what this is exactly. A PIP is a formalized process whereby an employee’s job performance is monitored and assessed on a set schedule.

The purpose of a PIP is to provide a framework for improving the productivity and efficiency of an employee who is not meeting the standards of their position. It should take an optimistic approach with the aim of helping your employee to reach their full potential.

There are a few key characteristics that feature across most PIPs:

  • The plan will be tailored to the specific employee and their job role.
  • It will identify areas where the employee is not meeting expectations, as well as strategies for improvement.
  • There will be a set schedule for reviewing the employee’s progress.

A PIP is not intended to be a punitive measure — its purpose is to help the employee improve their performance. However, if the employee does not make sufficient progress, then disciplinary action may be necessary.

How performance improvement plans can boost your company’s efficiency

Performance improvement plans can be a sticky subject for both managers and employees.

two people discussing their performance improvement plan

On one hand, they can be used as a tool to help improve an employee’s productivity or identify areas where they need improvement. But on the other hand, they can also be misinterpreted as a way to document poor performance or even lead to termination.

Despite the potential drawbacks, performance improvement plans can be a valuable way to improve workplace efficiency. When used correctly, they can:

Help identify areas where an employee needs improvement

With a PIP in place, a manager can help an employee focus on specific areas where they need to improve. This can be especially helpful for employees who are struggling to meet deadlines or those who have difficulty with certain tasks.

Encourage productivity

When an employee knows that they are being monitored and that there is a specific plan in place to improve their productivity, they are often more likely to try harder.

Serve as a warning sign

If an employee is not meeting the expectations outlined in their PIP, it can serve as a warning sign that their job may be in jeopardy. This can help encourage them to improve their performance or risk being let go.

Note, however, that the aim of PIPs is not to scare or threaten anyone into working harder. The entire process should be optimistic and productive, making it clear to your employee that you value their contribution and want to invest in their future with your company.

By improving the productivity of individual employees, a company can see a noticeable increase in efficiency overall.

Creating a tailored performance management plan

So, how should you go about actually creating a plan for your underperforming employee? Let’s run through the basics:

1. Assess the situation.

The first step in creating your PIP is to assess your reason for doing so. What is causing the employee’s poor performance? Poor attitude? Lack of skills? Wrong job fit? Once you’ve identified the root of the issue, you can begin to address it.

a person with their arms and head resting on a wooden table while looking at their laptop screen

To identify exactly what is causing your employee’s lack of efficiency, you’ll need to take a look at their job duties and compare them to their skillset. If they are lacking the necessary skills, you can provide training. If they have the skills but not the attitude, you may need to provide more coaching or discipline.

If the problem is that the employee is simply in the wrong role, you may need to reassign them or terminate their employment. It’s important to be honest with the employee and let them know what is causing their poor performance. This will help them to understand what they need to work on and improve their chances of success in the future.

2. Set specific goals for the employee.

Your next step is to set some goals for the employee in question. These goals should be achievable and measurable, designed to improve the employee’s performance. Try to avoid generic goals, such as “work harder” or “try to be more organized.” Instead, get specific about what you want the employee to achieve.

For instance, if the employee has difficulty meeting deadlines, set a goal for them to meet a certain number of deadlines within a given timeframe. If the employee is frequently absent, set a goal for them to have no more than three unexcused absences in a month.

Make sure that you discuss these goals with the employee, and get their buy-in. They should understand why the goals have been set and what is expected of them.

two people looking a their performance improvement plan on a sheet of paper

Some examples of SMART goals for your employee might be:

  • To arrive at work on time every day for the next two weeks
  • To submit all reports on time for the next month
  • To complete all tasks within the allotted time frame for two consecutive weeks

3. Create a timeline for meeting these goals.

Once you’ve got your goals in place, it’s important to set a timeline for meeting them. Make sure that you give the employee enough time to meet them, but also set deadlines so that they remain accountable.

In your timeline, you should also include specific benchmarks that the employee must meet in order to continue receiving positive reinforcement. This will help to ensure that they are constantly making progress and meeting your expectations.

For example, if one of your goals is for the employee to improve their communication skills, you may want to set a deadline by which they must be able to hold a conversation in English without difficulty.

If they are unable to meet this benchmark, then you may need to consider other measures, such as providing them with additional training or placing them in a more suitable position.

4. Provide feedback along the way.

Of course, you cannot expect the PIP to work if you do not also use performance management to provide feedback to employees. This should be a continuous process, with both positive and corrective feedback given as needed.

When giving corrective feedback, always aim to do so in a way that is helpful. For example, rather than saying “you’re doing it wrong,” try to provide specific instructions on how the task could be improved. This will help the employee to understand what is required of them, and give them a chance to correct their behavior.

two people sitting across a marble table while looking at each other

Some helpful feedback might sound like this:

“In order to improve your productivity, I suggest breaking up this task into smaller parts and working on one part at a time.”

“It would be helpful if you could provide me with an update on your progress every day. That way, I can be sure that you are on track.”

“I noticed that you were having difficulty staying focused. Here are a few ideas that might help you to stay on task: ____.”

5. Celebrate successes!

One of the most important things to maintain throughout the performance improvement process is your employee’s morale. Celebrate successes along the way to keep your employees on track and motivated.

Acknowledge progress, no matter how small it may seem at first. This will help to ensure that employees feel appreciated and continue to work hard towards the ultimate goal.

You should also avoid penalizing employees for incorrect steps or missteps along the way, as this can demotivate them and set back the entire process.

A few final tips

Now that you have an understanding of the performance improvement process, it is important to remember a few key points:

  1. Always document the steps you take to improve performance. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there is a record of what was done in case further action is needed.
  2. Keep an open mind. There may be times when you have to adjust your plans or goals based on the results of your assessment.
  3. Be patient. Improving performance takes time and effort, but it is worth it in the end!
three people walking together while smiling

Performance Improvement Plan: Bottom Line

Performance improvement plans can be an extremely effective way to improve workplace efficiency. By tailoring a plan specifically for an individual employee, you can help them overcome any obstacles that are preventing them from performing at their best.

If you invest in your employees now, you’ll thank yourself later on. Hopefully, these tips can help you do just that!