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Performance Improvement Plan Example

What is a Performance Improvement Plan?

Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a tool organizations can use to improve performance deficits.

PIP is not a single step in correcting a performance problem. Rather, it is a process employed when other corrective actions have failed. When used correctly, PIP should offer a comprehensive plan that is signed off by both the employee and the employee’s manager. Everyone should know of the consequences should the employee fail to meet the expectations of the performance plan.

Below, I will share an example of how this process works by introducing Tom, who falls short of his performance expectations.

Performance Improvement Plan Example

Introducing Tom (Tom has performance issues)

Performance Improvement Plan example - Tom

Tom is a member of your team who has consistently missed critical deadlines.

This is not a new problem. The monthly report has been late for the last three consecutive months. Each time it happens, you sit with Tom to examine the source of the challenge.

Tom seemed committed to making this work. But now, after three months of trying to correct it, Tom is late again in finalizing his monthly report. 

You are frustrated because this late report has a ripple effect, causing your own report to be late. What should you do?

You are so frustrated you’ve even considered firing Tom. But then you imagined the months of hiring and onboarding required should you fire Tom. You decide if you don’t fire Tom, there would have to be a way to bring Tom’s performance in line with his role.  

How to Start a Performance Improvement Plan with Tom

Or anyone like Tom

While Tom is a made-up character, many employees may fit Tom’s story. If Tom were real, we would suggest using a performance improvement plan (PIP) to resolve his performance issues.

Below are examples of steps that outline how you would introduce and implement PIP with an employee like Tom.

Step One: Identify Performance Shortfall

Your first step is identifying the employee’s performance shortfall.

With our Performance Improvement Plan Example, Tom, this would be the first step, even though we reviewed Tom’s performance issues previously.

We would start the meeting by identifying the employee’s challenges fairly and clearly and put everything in writing.

For our example, with Tom, we would remind him that we had several discussions to correct this without success. As a result, we are placing Tom on a performance improvement plan.

We would tell Tom that this formal process will have consequences if he cannot bring the performance into line with our expectations.

Step Two: Revisit Performance Goals

During this stage, you should remind your employee of the performance objectives to pinpoint the shortfall. This is a good time to revisit these performance goals.

Ask questions like:

  • Are they still on target with the organization’s needs?
  • Will they satisfy the team’s deliverables?
  • Do the goals need to be adjusted?

This work is ideally a conversation in collaboration with the person in question. At the end of this review of these objectives and goals, ask them to confirm their understanding and agreement with these goals.

Step Three: Outline Consequences of Not Meeting Expectations

In our performance improvement plan example, we must explain to Tom, that, unlike the previous discussions, a PIP is not open-ended with the hopes that things will get better. PIP is a timeline in which the performance needs to improve.

performance improvement plan example - timeline

Assuming this is the performance that should already occur, it should not take long to get things back on track. Once again, given the nature of the need, set this timeline in collaboration with the employee.

Typically, a succinct timeline that is fair to both the employee and the organization runs 30-90 days. 

Step Four: Offer Resources That Are Needed

Next, offer any tools, coaching, training, or other types of support and mentoring needed to bring the performance back into line with performance goals. Query the employee regarding these needs and be sure that you can accommodate them.  Otherwise, a lack of needed support will become an excuse later in the process.

Step Four: Create S.M.A.R.T. Goals

performance improvement plan example - S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Develop a S.M.A.R.T. goal with the specifics of what will be achieved and when. This provides a clear path to evaluate success. Document specifically what you will do to help the employee reach this goal and what they will do to correct the deficit.

Provide a copy with signatures to them. Build in some benchmarks for check-ins. These are not only for checking on progress but another opportunity to discuss barriers and problem-solve to be sure you are giving them every opportunity for success.

Step Five: Next Steps

In our Performance Improvement Plan example, Tom, we would end the meeting with him by identifying what the next steps will be should the performance not reach the expectations. We would include this in writing on the written document which Tom and u will sign to show we all are in agreement.

Download a Performance Improvement Plan Template

PIP is a powerful tool for helping employees close performance gaps. 

To be successful and fair, employees should participate in the process by providing input on corrective actions they will take and requesting any needed support. Used properly, the PIP can also help managers gain more insight into the inner workings of their teams and understand where more support may be needed.

We’ve created a PIP Template that you can use with an employee who might benefit from this process.

This template is free to use without needing to input any of your contact information.