How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan

A performance improvement plan is a great way to help an employee who is not performing up to their usual standards. It can become difficult for an employer to terminate an employee due to performance, and the performance improvement plan is a perfect solution in these cases.

Every year, employers evaluate employees on their performance to determine if they should promote them or let them go. This state is a stressful time for the employee and can lead to higher turnover rates. However, with the proper guidance and advice from an experienced professional, you can avoid this outcome and meet expectations. This blog post will discuss how to write a performance improvement plan that will help keep your valued team members on board while also achieving success as an organization.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan?

A performance improvement plan (PIP) is a formal document for a struggling employee. It aims at helping an employee overcome performance pitfalls at work and pave the way out of a challenging situation step by step. This smart framework is written by the employee’s manager and submitted to HR. It has a deadline for meeting the named objectives — around 30, 60, or 90 days. The criteria for employee success is anything from completing extra training to more regular check-ins with a manager.

Employee Performance Improvement Plan is used to help an underperforming employee meet goals that they are struggling to meet and attempt to curb maladaptive behaviors. At a reduced level, you can view an employee PIP as a probationary period for employees. In many cases, a PIP signals that the company wants to keep the employee. The ultimate goal of an employee improvement plan is to find a solution for both the employee, their professional development, and the organization. Clear communication between the manager and the entire team allows for a more effective PIP.

How to Develop a Performance Improvement Plan?

At this stage, you need to understand what an employee is doing wrong that affects their performance. Define those negative points and include examples of poor work or behavior. Maybe a simple change in working schedule or some time-off work will change the situation dramatically.

Give your workers a chance to be heard and encourage them to participate in their improvement, and they will feel more committed to it. Give your employees a chance for a change in their work, and they’ll communicate. If there is no other choice than having the employee take the PIP, you might want to follow these steps to write an effective performance improvement plan:

1. Review Employee Performance in Detail

Before deciding if a PIP is a suitable option, it is essential to understand its performance. This strategy will help you better determine if they are eligible or not: – Is their performance below expectations? – Do they need additional training on what’s expected for them to do at work? Your company must have clear parameters and expectations in place to avoid confusion.

2. Set Specific Deliverables for Improvement

It’s essential to set specific goals that employees must meet. Make sure these are realistic but also measurable. – If it has a performance problem related to something else like the work environment or an issue with another person, this should get solved. When writing a performance improvement plan, make sure that the deliverable are precise enough for the employee to understand what they should do and when do you expect them to complete their tasks.

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3. Engage the Employee in an Initial Conversation

Once you have outlined the specific deliverables in the performance improvement plan, it’s time to contact the employee. Invite them into your office if possible so you can have a conversation about what requires changing and how they will do that. The initial meeting should happen within two weeks of issuing the PIP, so this is also a good time for you to check up on employee’s progress.

When engaging an employee in a conversation that might suggest they are performing below what’s expected, you need to become as compassionate and empathetic as possible. Engage them in the conversation by asking, “Can you tell me more about what’s been going on?” or “What can we do to help you improve performance?

What you should beaver do is start listing negative performance points. This structured approach will make it seem like you’re attacking the employee, leading to defensiveness or a lack of engagement from them. Instead, use phrases that focus on identifying their strengths and highlighting what they are doing well before discussing areas where improvement is needed.

Ask them about how often they’ve been following up with deadlines for different tasks to see if there’s an issue that needs clarification.” Thoughtful introspection by both parties may lead to some valuable solutions. Your conversation doesn’t go over twenty minutes, and the person could get frustrated with talking so much about themselves.

4. Find the Cause of Poor Employee Performance

During your initial conversation, your main aim is to find out the cause of poor performance. Employees might be going through a challenging life event or experiencing discrimination on the job. Make sure to ask them about this to find out what you can do to help their poor performance. Not finding the root cause of the problem will make it difficult for you to develop a solution.

5. Set Achievable Milestones

Once you have found the cause of the employee’s poor performance, you will present the deliverables that will help them improve their performance. For achievable deliverables, they need to align with the employee’s skills and abilities.

Factors to include in a Performance improvement plan

For example, if you’re an accountant struggling with performance because of a lack of organizational skills, your deliverables would make sense to organize files and create collaborative process. Also, you might want to break down the deliverables into specific milestones to track progress in an efficient way. This approach will allow you to make sure that the employee is staying on track.

6. Provide Necessary Training

In some cases, the employee might be struggling with a skill that they need to learn but don’t have the time. In this case, you should provide them with relevant training to improve their work performance in a particular area of weakness. Also, providing valuable training might help improve the overall employee experience in your company, which is one of the best ways to keep the employee turnover rate low.

7. Provide Guidance and Feedback

You must provide guidance and feedback to the employee regularly. This strategy will allow you to see how they’re progressing and if any areas need more work.

8. Assess PIP Deliverables Accurately

It’s vital to assess the performance improvement plan periodically. This strategy will allow you to make sure that it is on track and working for the employee. It would help if you also used this time to catch any changes that might have happened in your company since you started with the PIP process.

9. Take Early Actions to Prevent Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is often the result of too much work and not enough time for recovery. It’s vital to take early actions to prevent it from happening. This statement means that you should give them a lighter workload, make sure they have breaks throughout their day, and provide support when needed.

10. Consider Giving Your Employee Some Time Off

If you’ve gone through all of the other steps and your employee still isn’t improving, they may need to take some time off. This approach provides a chance for them to recharge their batteries to come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Of course, they should not view it as a reward but rather as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of burnout.

11. Praise the Employee and Reward Their Success

The most important thing you can do is to praise your employee and reward their success. Whether it’s an outstanding performance on an assignment, or they come in before the end of their shift without being asked, make sure that you take notice and let them know how much it means to you. Doing so might also help you prevent them from getting complacent with their performance.

You can also reward them in other ways, such as a bonus or time off work to take care of personal issues. It’s important not to overuse rewards for your employees. Still, you must use some form of positive reinforcement and positive aspects because this will make up for the negatives and help keep your employee motivated.


An employee improvement plan when implemented right helps improve not just the employee productivity but behaviors as well. In general, human resource professionals are responsible for devising such employee performance improvement plans.

HR needs to make a well-thought-out decision to implement a PIP. They must also consider the possibility the employee sees the PIP as an informal invitation for termination or demotion. Moreover, they must be careful to make well-thought-out decision since they should consider the impact of a performance improvement plan. HR should make clear that this is not the same as a termination or a demotion. Instead, they must approach the employee with a good performance improvement plan that helps them improve and keep their job since a performance improvement plan is an objective.


Here is a list of questions regarding performance improvement:

When to Write a PIP?

HR should write a PIP when performance is not meeting the standard set out in the employee’s employment contract. HR may also decide to implement a PIP for an employee who has been given ample opportunities to improve their performance but has still not improved successfully. When writing a PIP, HR must provide clear and measurable objectives and timelines to measure improvement over time.

What If the Employee Performance Improvement Plan Fails?

In case it is determined that the performance improvement plan has failed, you need to take some actions on behalf of both parties involved to identify what went wrong. For instance, let’s say that you agreed upon goals as well as deadlines when writing up this performance plan but found out halfway through that your objectives weren’t being met: you would need to discuss what was going wrong – why wasn’t progress being made? – and brainstorm some ways around these job performance issues so that you could meet the deadline.

Another thing that may happen is one party decides they want to break off from this agreement – for instance, if it gets determined that your performance improvement plan has failed, or it was an unfair performance improvement plan and there’s no hope of improvement in a specific time frame because the performance improvement plan process had been going on for too long or progress wasn’t happening as expected-

HR would need to send out some notifications so that other people involved in these agreements are aware and new employees who start work at your organization know what you can do to improve their performance.

What HR Guidelines to Follow When Implementing a Performance Improvement Plan?

When implementing a performance improvement plan, it is crucial for HR to communicate at least one of two things: either how long the process will take or what specific actions both parties should take to see success of plan. With this information laid out up front, employees do not have to wonder how much time they have left or when the following performance review will occur.

Is Performance Improvement Plan the Right Option?

Writing a performance improvement plan is an excellent way for employers to address recurring performance issues and set clear expectations. However, you must decide whether it’s worth doing this for an employee who is already very close to leaving or if a more traditional termination applies.

An employee’s performance improvement plan can become more or less effective depending on many aspects, such as their situation and how well they can get on with their manager. That said, PIPs are a successful way to address and discuss performance issues and give that employee a second chance.


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Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.