62+ Sample Performance Improvement Plans

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?

A performance improvement plan is a response strategy used to help an employee who is struggling in performing his functions and/or achieving his targets. It may also be an opportunity for a promising employee to exceed his potential and expand his contributions within the company.

In an article published on LinkedIn, author Bernard Marr explains the reason why some employees exhibit poor performance in the workplace. But before addressing the problem, he insists it’s crucial to figure out the root cause first. According to Marr, performance is when ability and motivation converge. An employee needs both. Any problems with either, can result in various workplace problems.        

Key Players In a Performance Improvement Plan 

Employee: The main player is the employee in question. Maybe his track record has seen a dip lately and his supervisor has noticed he has not been attending department meetings or is constantly missing deadlines. A plan may be drawn up to help address the lingering issue. The objective is to help the employee improve his standing in the company, and offer him the chance to perform better. Manager/Supervisor/Team Leader: An employee’s direct supervisor or immediate head is an important part of the equation. As the designated leader, the responsibility over the employee falls on him. The dynamics between member and leader are very important in identifying and resolving performance issues. A supportive manager does what he can to help the person accomplish his objectives and provides regular constructive feedback. An ineffective manager does not provide support and neglects the professional development of an employee. Human Resources: The company’s Human Resources Department needs to be able to play the role of the external party and/or mediator. An objective third set of eyes is necessary in crafting and implementing a performance improvement plan before it is imposed on an employee. Department Head: This is not always necessary, but sometimes valuable input can come from an overall department head. The department head should know the processes well and could assist in pinpointing issues and concerns; especially if it pertains to work flow and requirements. He or she may also recommend other possible solutions.

Limitations Of a Performance Improvement Plan

The performance improvement plan is intended to fix an issue. But because of the goal-orientated nature of the strategy, it is somewhat confined to address measurable tasks and quantifiable outputs.  This fixed smart goal approach may not adequately cover the entirety of deeper behavioral problems. The improvement plan may be better suited to address technical or skill issues of the employee. A major part of the plan requires concrete outcomes and results. If the issue is insubordination, tangible results may be difficult to measure and establish; especially if it is grave or persistent insubordination. Human behavior cannot always be boxed in and categorized neatly like numbers or figures.  

Processes in a Performance Improvement Plan

Consultation: Before initiating any improvement plan, it’s important to set an initial meeting with the employee. Together with the supervisor and HR representative, they can discuss the need for a performance improvement plan and let the employee know the reasons for needing one. It’s important for all parties to be involved in the process so to avoid any miscommunication. Drafting the Plan: The next important process is actually drafting and creating the performance plan. The manager or immediate head is usually tasked to undertake this. The head needs to be aware of the facts, and all areas regarding the situation to provide a concrete and realistic plan to help the employee do better. He needs to be able to outline the expectations, goals, and consequences. Performance Review: Once the employee has taken on the plan, it’s vital that his progress is regularly monitored and his performance duly reviewed. It’s good to set regular meetings during the improvement period to discuss and review any concerns. Follow Through: If the performance improvement plan was implemented successfully with the desired outcome achieved, it’s necessary for all parties to continue the steady progress. An adequate follow through strategy is crucial.

Possible Outcomes of a Performance Improvement Plan

Retention: If the employee exhibits dedication to the plan and is committed to improving work performance, he or she could be retained in the same role and department. He or she has reclaimed their good standing in the company. Termination: If no improvement or effort was observed whatsoever, the employee may face termination from the company. Consistent neglect of duties and extended poor performance, with no real resolve coming from the employee, can force the company to let the person go. Demotion: An employee may face the possibility of being demoted if he or she is unable to keep up with work demands, but still maintains an acceptable or lower than average rating. On the opposite end, the improvement plan may also give the employee a chance to perform above and beyond what is required and therefore, he or she may earn a promotion instead. Reassignment: Maybe there are lessons learned from the performance improvement plan, and a manager discovers that the underlying reason for an employee’s problems turns out to be a skills mismatch. The manager decides he is better suited to a different position. In cases like these, the staff may be transferred to another department or assume another role, if the company can find grounds to do so.

Tips in Creating a Performance Improvement Plan 

A performance improvement plan is created out of a wish to see the employee do better and achieve his or her highest potential. The layout plan will depend on the superior tasked to draft the document. It’s not so much the format of the document as is the content and directives contained in the plan that is important. The following are helpful tips in creating an effective improvement plan: 

Time-Bound: It is of utmost importance to set a reasonable time frame to meet the desired outcome. It’s important to give the employee an ample amount of time to deliver results. A 30-day window or 90-day review is generally acceptable. For instance, an employee might be struggling with habitual absences. The goal of the improvement plan is to create conditions wherein the person can address the absences and tardiness. Create a set of expectations where he must clock in on time for the next several months and avoid unnecessary leaves as much as possible. Further, it’s good to set review dates or progress meetings throughout the timeframe. Management’s Contribution: The success of an improvement plan will not solely depend on the employee. Management must be committed to helping the person improve in the workplace. Are there tools that the manager has neglected to provide for the employee to utilize and maximize? Does the employee have the right resources to help him finish his tasks more efficiently? Is the right office support in place? Perhaps the employee needs further training and certifications to better hone his skills? In the case of new hires, was there sufficient space allowed to help the employee acclimate in the workplace? Clear Expectations: Indicate concrete actions that the employee needs to accomplish. Specify the goals that need to be met in order to enhance his or her performance. Establishing clear but reasonable expectations is critical so the employee knows what is required of him and is aware of the areas to focus and improve on. Employee Feedback: Even before beginning the process, always encourage the employee to explain their side of the story and voice out any feedback or concern. It’s absolutely crucial to value their input in order to create an objective and fair performance improvement plan. Objectivity and Fairness: The last thing you want is your performance improvement plan to be driven by personal vendettas or petty reasons. It would be a complete waste of time for all parties. An improvement plan should always be objective, fair, and fixed on attainable and reasonable goals. The employee needs to be assured that the process is done for his benefit; not to punish or place him on the spot. Commitment will come naturally if the employee, supervisor, and HR can establish expectations that are impartial and objective.

How to Make a Performance Improvement Plan

A performance improvement plan needs to go through the processes of planning, implementation, and review. Keep in mind these steps to get started:   

Step 1: Have a Sit Down Meeting With the Parties Involved

Communicating the need for an improvement plan is an essential first step towards improving an employee’s performance. It’s crucial for everyone to be present in order to gather initial notes, information, and feedback needed to craft the improvement plan. You want to avoid ambushing the employee. Make sure to clearly explain the situation at hand, and identify the problems by citing specific instances of poor performance etc.

Step 2: Indicate the Basic Details

The supervisor or manager usually drafts the plan then presents it to the employee. The plan should be vetted by the Human Resources Department to ensure it is fair and reasonable enough to execute. Make sure to indicate the date, employee’s name, position, and department.    

Step 3: Itemize the Goals and Expectations 

You have the freedom to decide on the format. A clearly defined table or chart will usually suffice. List down the employee’s next steps. What does he need to do to meet targets and expectations? You may also want to establish the major commitments and consequences in your plan. To illustrate, the commitment section can be divided into two parts. On one column, are the employee’s expected tasks and performance goals. In the other column, the immediate head’s role and contributions are itemized and described. For example, the manager will commit to regular mentoring sessions with the employee for at least six weeks.  

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate

After the period of improvement expires, it’s time to assess the employee’s progress, or lack thereof. If the employee produces positive results, it is not enough to just stop there. There needs to be proper monitoring tools in place to help him or her continuously strive for improvement. This could be in the form of progress meetings or review sessions.  


What should you do if you are on a performance improvement plan?

If you are an employee placed on a performance improvement plan, it’s best to keep things in perspective. Of course, you want to do your best and show your manager and company that you can make the necessary changes and improvements in your performance. Keep an open mind and don’t hesitate to voice out concerns, ask for help, or seek clarification and advice from your superiors.

What is the purpose of a performance improvement plan?

The purpose of a performance improvement plan is to give the employee the opportunity to right any wrongs. It allows him the space to learn and grow from previous mistakes. It should not be meant as an insult or punishment; but viewed as a form of constructive criticism- criticism that is meant to directly benefit the employee.

Is a PIP a bad thing?

A performance improvement plan (PIP) is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not meant to highlight your mistakes only for the sake of highlighting them; but for the purpose of helping you develop professionally.

The goal of a performance improvement plan is to help the individual overcome any obstacles that keep him from realizing his full potential. Employers should not only want their people to simply go to work and clock in day in, day out. They should aim for people to actually thrive in the workplace. It not only benefits the individual- because it’s helping him or her reach self-actualization- but it’s also good for the organization as a whole. When people are given the right tools and motivation, they have the potential to achieve great things. Download a template now and start crafting a performance improvement plan!