Using performance improvement plans effectively

Tuesday May 24, 2022

When an employee is consistently underperforming, they may well be placed on a performance improvement plan. However, in doing so, many employees will assume they’re slowly being shown the door.

There’s a common misconception that performance improvement plans are simply a way of formalising the dismissal process; a documentation of the employee’s failures before they’re sacked, to protect against unfair dismissal claims.

While Performance Improvement Plans – or PIPs as they’re commonly referred to –  may well have their place in the dismissal process, it shouldn’t be their central purpose. If an employee is genuinely underperforming after being in their role for a number of months or years (long past their probation period), then PIPs should be about addressing the underlying issues and resolving them, for the benefit of both the employer and the employee.

Rather than having an adversarial purpose, PIPs should be about reconciliation and resolution of issues. The end goal should be a productive employee who’s kicking goals and engaged with their work, to the benefit of the company that employees them.

To achieve this, a Performance Improvement Plan should address:

The facts

What did the underperformance issues begin? What are the key issues? Could personal issues or internal conflict be the cause? How can these issues be addressed or resolved?

Set objectives

Establish clear and realistic objectives and timeframes, offering mentorship, training and regular feedback. Objectives should be both short-term and long-term. Where are the gaps in their knowledge?

Go back to the initial onboarding

Often, an employee hasn’t been onboarded correctly, or received adequate training during their probation period. If those gaps exist, attempt to fill them with clear objectives, achievable timeframes and regular check-ins.

Offer positive reinforcement

Positive recognition is much more effective than the threat of termination and formal warnings. Check in regularly with honest, genuine, positive feedback for the employee. Tell them the things they are good at!

Getting to the root of the issue and implementing a PIP for the right reasons may not be the easiest option, but it’s certainly the most rewarding – for employee and employer alike. If you’d like help setting up an effective PIP, get in touch with the HR Dept.

Preventing People Problems

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