How to Make a Performance Improvement Plan That Actually Drives Results in 2024

Sep 12, 2023 | Retaining Employees

Josh Rust

As Abenity's Marketing Manager, Josh has a keen insight into the latest HR and recruiting trends.

Are you tired of repeating the same things to your employees over and over, only to see little to no improvement in their performance? 

When an employee needs an extra push and you put them on a performance improvement plan, how often does their performance improve? 

It can be costly to have to let people go and start over with a new employee—it would be much more convenient to just have that employee get better results. 

But if that’s not happening for you often, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’re going to help you design one that actually drives results for any underperforming employees.

So, if you want to be better at attracting and retaining talented employees, keep reading to discover how to design a performance improvement plan that works wonders. 

No more repeating the same old strategies without seeing results.

It’s time to create a plan that will truly help you in attracting and retaining employees in a competitive world. 

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a tool that can give your employees an extra push to boost their growth and success.

At its core, a PIP is a structured and goal-oriented method to help your employees enhance their performance and overcome challenges.

When your employee’s performance falls below expectations or specific areas need improvement, a well-crafted PIP comes into play.

The essence of a PIP lies in its clarity and transparency. It lays out clear objectives, sets realistic expectations, and provides a timeline for improvement. This creates a path for your employees to understand what’s required and how to achieve it.

A Performance Improvement Plan follows the principles of constructive feedback, support, and continuous development. It’s about guiding your employees to reach their full potential, rather than imposing disciplinary measures.

The main reasons why a Performance Improvement Plan works effectively are:

  • Clarity and Focus: A PIP clarifies what needs improvement and where the employee should focus. It aligns everyone’s expectations, ensuring both the employee and management are on the same page.
  • Goal-Oriented: Through specific, measurable goals, a PIP directs employees clearly. This empowers them to take charge of their improvement journey.
  • Supportive Approach: Unlike disciplinary actions, a PIP offers support, emphasizing growth and development. It shows the company’s dedication to helping employees succeed.
  • Time-Bound: With a set timeline for improvement, a PIP creates urgency, motivating employees to take proactive steps.
  • Fair and Objective: A well-designed PIP is fair and objective, centered on performance improvement rather than personal biases.

While a Performance Improvement Plan holds great promise, its success depends on how it’s implemented and supported within the organization. A genuine commitment to employee growth, open communication, and ongoing support are key to making a PIP truly effective.

5 Reasons Employees Get “Stuck” in Their Growth 

When it comes to employee growth and development, we all want to see our team members thrive and reach new heights. 

However, there are instances when employees seem to get “stuck” in their progress. Let’s explore some common reasons why this happens.

Reason #1: Lack of Clarity and Direction

One of the main reasons your employees may struggle to grow is a need for more clarity regarding their roles and responsibilities. 

According to a study from 2022, fewer employees have clarity on what is expected of them (38%) compared to 2021 (48%). That is a 10% decline: a huge difference! 

When employees are unsure about their roles and responsibilities, it can lead to confusion and lack of direction. 

Reason #2: Insufficient Feedback and Support

Feedback is crucial for employee growth, yet some employees may not receive regular or constructive feedback from their managers. 

According to Quantum Workplace Research, the third most likely reason most people leave their jobs is a lack of recognition.

Without proper guidance and support, it’s challenging for employees to identify areas for improvement and make meaningful progress.

Reason #3: Limited Opportunities for Skill Development

Your employees are more likely to get stuck in their growth if they don’t have access to skill development and training opportunities. 

According to a study, 45% of workers would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.

That’s because a lack of professional growth prospects can lead to stagnation and disengagement.

Reason #4: Fear of Failure or Risk-Taking

Fear of failure can be a significant barrier to growth. 

According to research, one out of two people think they could perform better at work without worrying about making mistakes. 

The researchers studied 1,000 people and found that more than 40% of them say they have a fear of failure and making mistakes between 20-40% of the time or more.

Employees who are afraid to take risks or step outside their comfort zones may avoid new challenges, hindering their personal and professional development.

Reason #5: Lack of Motivation or Engagement

When employees feel disconnected or disengaged from their work, their motivation to excel may decrease. 

According to Gallup’s recent State of the Workplace report, 85% of employees are either unengaged or actively disengaged. 

Unengaged employees, who make up 67% of this group, are indifferent to the success of their company and do the bare minimum required of them.

Without a sense of purpose or fulfillment, your employees may struggle to push themselves beyond their current capabilities.

Understanding these reasons empowers employers and managers to devise effective strategies to support their employees’ growth. 

How to Design a Performance Improvement Plan That Drives Results 

Creating a performance improvement plan that truly makes a difference for your employees requires careful thought and a personalized approach. 

Let’s walk through the eight essential steps to design a PIP that addresses individual needs and leads to tangible results.

Step #1: Identify Specific Areas for Improvement 

The first step in designing a successful Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is to identify the specific areas where the employee needs to improve. 

This is a critical stage that sets the foundation for the entire plan. 

Gather data from performance evaluations, feedback from peers, managers, and other relevant sources to understand the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Be clear and specific about the areas that require attention. For example, it could be communication skills, time management, or job-specific technical abilities.

Step #2: Set Clear and Measurable Goals 

Once you’ve identified the areas for improvement, the next step is to set clear and measurable goals for your employees. 

Your goals should align with the identified improvement areas and should be challenging yet attainable. Each goal should have specific metrics or benchmarks to gauge progress.

For instance, if the area for improvement is time management, a measurable goal could be reducing the number of missed deadlines by a certain percentage within a specific time frame.

Step #3: Collaborate with the Employee 

A successful performance improvement plan involves collaboration and open communication between employees and managers. 

Involve the employee in setting the goals and discussing the plan. Know their input and understand their perspective on the areas they believe need improvement. 

This collaboration creates a sense of ownership and accountability for the employees, making them more committed to the plan’s success.

Step #4: Provide Resources and Support 

To support the employee’s improvement journey, providing them with the necessary resources and support is essential. 

These resources could include additional training sessions, workshops, access to learning materials, or mentorship programs. Tailor the support to address the specific improvement areas identified in the plan. 

Additionally, ensure the employee has access to ongoing feedback and guidance from their manager or a designated mentor to help them stay on track.

Step #5: Define a Timeline for Improvement 

Setting a realistic timeline is crucial to track progress and maintain focus throughout your performance improvement plan. 

Work with the employee to establish a timeline for achieving the set goals. The timeline should be reasonable and allow the employee enough time to make meaningful progress. 

Plan regularly scheduled check-ins and evaluations to review progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Step #6: Monitor and Measure Progress 

Consistently monitoring the employee’s progress is essential to the success of your performance improvement plan. 

You should conduct regular check-ins and evaluations based on the defined timeline. These evaluations provide an opportunity to assess the employee’s development, identify any obstacles they may face, and offer constructive feedback. 

Continuously measure the employee’s progress against the established goals to ensure they are on track to meet the desired outcomes.

Step #7: Recognize and Celebrate Successes 

Recognizing and celebrating the employee’s successes along the way is equally important. 

Positive reinforcement rewards their efforts and boosts their motivation to continue growing and improving. Acknowledge their accomplishments, however small they may seem, and show appreciation for their hard work. 

This positive approach fosters a supportive and encouraging work environment, making your employees feel valued and acknowledged.

Step #8: Review and Assess the PIP’s Effectiveness 

Once the period for the performance improvement plan is over, it’s time to review its overall effectiveness. 

Evaluate whether your employee’s goals are achieved and if the employee’s performance has improved in the identified areas. Analyze the success of each step and identify any challenges or areas for improvement. 

This assessment will provide valuable insights to refine future performance improvement plans and ensure continuous growth within the organization.

By following these eight steps, you can design a performance improvement plan tailored to each employee’s needs and desire for results. 

How to Measure & Follow Through on Your Employees’ Improvement 

Metric #1: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial metrics that measure specific aspects of your employees’ performance.

Identify KPIs aligned with the goals in the performance improvement plan. For instance, if your aim is better sales performance, consider KPIs like closed deals, generated revenue, or customer satisfaction scores.

Regularly track and analyze these KPIs to gauge the employee’s progress and make data-driven decisions.

Metric #2: Feedback and Employee Surveys 

Feedback from both managers and peers plays a significant role in evaluating an employee’s improvement. 

Regularly hold feedback sessions to discuss progress, growth areas, and challenges they face.

Employee surveys offer insights into their perception of the improvement plan and the support they receive.

Promote an environment of open communication that encourages and acts on feedback.

Metric #3: Performance Reviews and Self-Assessment 

Scheduled performance reviews are excellent opportunities to assess an employee’s improvement journey. 

Evaluate how well your employees do in accomplishing the goals from the performance improvement plan. Encourage self-assessments where employees reflect on progress and areas they’ve enhanced.

This self-awareness fosters accountability and ownership of their growth.

Metric #4: Employee Engagement and Satisfaction 

An engaged, content workforce will likely embrace and benefit from a performance improvement plan.

Survey your employee’s engagement levels and job satisfaction.

A positive connection between employee engagement and plan effectiveness highlights its impact on overall job satisfaction and commitment to the organization’s success.

Measuring employee progress is an ongoing task.

Regularly analyze the gathered data to refine the performance improvement plan and ensure continuous progress.

A well-monitored performance improvement plan can lead to long-term growth and development for both employees and the organization as a whole.

Skyrocket Your Team with a Performance Improvement Plan

No need to keep using the same old strategies without seeing any improvement—these tips will guide you toward success!

Understanding the importance of a performance improvement plan and addressing the reasons behind employees’ growth challenges lays a solid foundation.

To craft a performance improvement plan that suits your unique team members, follow our eight steps.

The outcome? Enhanced employee performance, increased engagement, and a thriving workplace.

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