Performance Improvement Plan

Third part of the 3 Building Blocks to Make Your Performance Management System Work.

The last and equally vital building block of a good Performance Management System we’d like to touch on is the Performance Improvement Plan.  It is ideal and every organization’s natural desire that an entire workforce is always highly engaged and performing at their best.  Still, it is not improbable should some employees fall below the performance curve.  Thus, the need for a Performance Improvement Plan or the PIP.

Reframing the PIP Paradigm: What it really is and what it is not.

The PIP is a documented discussion on an employee’s performance gaps and the specific actions both employee and manager will undertake to address these areas.  While Performance Evaluation or Appraisal already outline key performance indicators and result areas, a PIP further zeroes in on areas where the employee has been evaluated to have performed below expectations.

It is also different from a Performance Development or the Individual Development Plan (IDP) that we discussed in the previous article, which provides enrichment opportunities, as part of succession planning or a career path development.  A PIP on the other hand, seeks to tackle basic performance concerns first that may hinder both business deliverables, as well as the employee’s full potential.

A PIP is not and should never be a fail-safe tool to legalize and support a pre-determined termination of an employee.  When executed constructively instead of discouragingly, the PIP can yield remarkable results.

Why go through a Performance Improvement Plan?

  1. Each Employee is unique.

What may be seamless for most employees may understandably be a struggle for a few.  Each employee has their unique pace and individual approach.  A PIP communicates to the employee that they are valued and to see them succeed is one of the organization’s priorities as well.

  1. Supporting Document.

Only as a last and final resort after all possible efforts have been taken diligently, a PIP is a proof of due process before legally terminating one’s employment due to unresolvable performance issues.  It is crucial that the PIP is clear and illustrates that all parties were on board, the necessary actions taken and the results of each that will justify why it still led to such final decision.

  1. A Learning Tool and Growth Opportunity

A PIP should genuinely aim to give employees a chance to transform their performance gaps into growth opportunities.  Both employee and manager can choose to learn from this developmental process – how an employee can embrace and best cope with his areas for improvement; and how a manager may equip and support his employee to counter these and maximize his strengths.

An Effective Performance Improvement Plan

For a PIP to serve its purpose, it should clearly define the following:

  • Objectives

The PIP should specifically outline the identified performance gaps.  There may be many, but the PIP should prioritize on what is key, such that if addressed, will be indicative already of better performance moving forward.

  • Actions Needed and Expected Results.

Establish a targeted plan of action based on identified performance gaps and their causes.  Expectations on these from both employee and manager should be clear.  What tools will be necessary: trainings, coaching, catch-up/alignment meetings, etc.?  What skills and knowledge are lacking and therefore need to be developed?  What are the expected results to signify improved performance?

  •  Timeline

Defining a reasonable period – usually within four to six months – is key to a successful PIP.  It should not be open-ended or indefinite as it will defeat the purpose of evaluating improved performance.

  • Next Steps post PIP

This section should clearly outline what would be next or actions to take following results of the PIP.  What developmental follow through may be implemented to sustain good performance; and what, regrettably, would indicate that other options – within or outside the organization, must now be explored.

  • Employee and Manager Teamwork.

Employee and Manager engagement is essential to an effective PIP.  Without employee buy-in, a PIP effort is futile.  And without the Manager’s help, the employee is set up for failure even before the PIP begins.  Both should be on the same page in undertaking the PIP together: what level of commitment is needed from the employee to see this through, and what support from the Manager can empower and enable the employee to succeed.

Success stories of those who have transitioned to being steadily, and even top performing employees following a PIP should be highlighted and celebrated as well.  For all the technical and legal purposes a PIP document may serve, top and foremost motivation for this important process should always be the employees’ welfare and transformation within the company.


An effective Continuous Performance Management System is a key driver to a holistically successful organization.  As employee champions, Human Resources should take an active role in facilitating these building blocks: Evaluation, Development and Improvement, for a high performing and well-engaged workforce.

It is essential therefore that you have the right tools to facilitate a Performance Management System that works.  Our SunFish and GreatDay HR systems provide platforms that can cater to your specific needs.  GreatDay HR’s fantastic mobile application allows for real-time Performance Management, measuring and monitoring key performance indicators and providing immediate feedback and next steps.  SunFish HR caters to longer-term Performance Management needs of larger enterprises further outlining Objectives and Key Results, which flows through other key talent processes of IDP, Career Pathing and Succession Planning.

With a robust Performance Management System, teams may be enabled to learn from the past and empowered to grow and move forward to a promising future for all.

To read the previous articles, go here:

Article 1, 3 Building Blocks to Make Your Performance Management System Work

Article 2, Employee Individual Development Plan

SunFish HCM (Enterprise) and GreatDay HR’s (SMEs) comprehensive HRIS softwares have what you need to ensure a seamless and strategic Performance Management System.  Let’s work together and see how we can always bring out the best in our employees and our organizations.

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