In the same way that many believe that people are intrinsically good, I believe that people intrinsically want to succeed. There are always exceptions to the rule but keeping this at the front of my mind has helped me a ton in my HR career. Most employees want to come to work and do their best, even when it looks like they are floundering. One way we can help them do this is by creating a performance improvement plan to help them along the way.
Performance improvement plans are ideal when you’ve already tried less-drastic measures, such as providing true performance feedback and creating an action plan. I prefer to use a PIP during the employee’s final warning meeting as a way to hold the manager and employee accountable for working to improve performance.
The most important part of any PIP is to set clear, specific goals. For instance, rather than creating a goal of becoming more of a team player, define what that means. State that the employee should contribute during meetings, meet deadlines and not ask others to complete their work. This ensures there is no confusion about what is expected and provides you with documentation that improvement attempts were made. On the other hand, goals absolutely must be realistic. In addition to establishing goals, identify desired milestones and develop a plan to achieve them.
If you’ve gotten to the point where a PIP is necessary, you’re probably working with an employee who struggles with self-management, is overwhelmed or doesn’t understand how to best do the job. A weekly meeting to touch base and check in with the employee is helpful because it provides an opportunity to discuss challenges, answer questions and continue to reinforce the employee’s new positive work behavior and performance.
As I mentioned above, I believe that people truly want to be good at their jobs and leave at the end of the day knowing they were successful. In many cases, employees are doing the best they can. Your involvement in their performance improvement plan shouldn’t end when you both sign the document. You can support these employees by offering formal training, mentoring them and providing resources related to your company specifically, as well as your industry. Support from you and others could make the difference for them.
While a performance improvement plan is often preceded by negative performance feedback, it doesn’t have to be a traumatic event for the employee. In fact, In the right setting, a performance improvement plan can help an employee turn things around and keep you from spending the time and money it would take to fill the position.