Performance Improvement Plan

A performance improvement plan is a formal process used by supervisors to help employees improve performance or modify behavior. The performance improvement plan, or PIP, as it is sometimes called, identifies performance and/or behavioral issues that need to be corrected and creates a written plan of action to guide the improvement and/or corrective action. (See key issues.)

Fundamentally, a PIP is a structured communication tool designed to facilitate constructive discussion between the employee and the supervisor. (See plan form.) An effective PIP will:
  • Specifically identify the performance to be improved or the behavior to be corrected.

  • Provide clear expectations and metrics about the work to be performed or behavior that must change.

  • Identify the support and resources available to help the employee make the required improvements.

  • Establish a plan for reviewing the employee's progress and providing feedback to the employee for the duration of the PIP.

  • Specify possible consequences if performance standards as identified in the PIP are not met.
When an employee is not performing or meeting expectations, supervisors have at their disposal several options to correct the behavior. They can rely on corrective actions such as oral and written warnings. In more serious cases, they can move to suspension without pay, demotion or dismissal. The PIP, in many cases, can be used in place of these disciplinary processes. A PIP can be given at almost any point in performance discussions with the employee. Some common uses for the PIP include:
  • To correct workplace behaviors affecting performance, productivity or staff relationships.

  • On the heels of an unsatisfactory annual review.

  • To provide employees an opportunity to correct a situation rather than implementing a more serious step in the disciplinary process.
A basic tenet with all performance management efforts is the notion that taking action early is better than waiting. The same holds true for the performance improvement plan. A PIP is more likely to be successful when the supervisor recognizes there is a performance or behavioral issue that needs to be corrected. Early communication and early feedback (both positive and corrective) are good ways to prevent future performance problems. Investing time early is always time well spent and the performance improvement plan can be an effective tool in preventing problems from getting worse or for intervening when performance and/or workplace behaviors have become counterproductive.

Employee relations staff are available to consult with and provide technical assistance to supervisors needing more information on this tool. Also check out the Training and Development pages for information about classes offered during the year on performance improvement plans.

See key issues.

See plan form.