6 Tips on How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan

Updated:

December 19, 2022

Traditional performance improvement plans (PIPs) don’t have a good reputation in the workplace. Most managers dread figuring out how to write a performance improvement plan, and employees don’t like receiving them.

But that doesn’t mean you should scrap them altogether.

The truth is, 65 percent of employees desire more feedback. That includes negative and constructive feedback. A whopping 92 percent of respondents said that negative feedback is an effective way to improve performance if it's delivered appropriately.

There’s an argument for continuing to provide constructive feedback to those employees who need it. The question becomes how to write a performance improvement plan that is fair for both managers and employees. 

Let’s find out how to write a performance improvement plan for an employee. Follow our tips below to make sure your employee feels supported throughout the process.

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Ways to Start Writing a Performance Improvement Plan

Getting started is often the hardest part of any new process. That’s true when it comes to figuring out how to write a performance improvement plan.

The best way to get started is to dig into the data. It can illuminate what went wrong with an employee’s performance. Data is unbiased. It’s the best way to accurately determine whether the employee has made improvements ahead of their next review.

The first steps of writing a performance improvement plan for an employee include:

  • Finding examples of poor review scores
  • Finding examples of poor goal completion
  • Finding examples of poor peer feedback

PerformYard software can help you design and run your performance improvement plan.Learn More

1. Find examples of poor review scores

Before you even determine whether or not an employee needs a PIP, it’s important to get a big-picture view of their performance.

Look into their performance review results over time. Let’s say an employee’s performance reviews are becoming more and more negative every quarter. You may want to consider a performance improvement plan for that employee. 

At this stage, it’s important not to make any assumptions about why the employee has received a low score. Personal challenges outside of work and poor workplace support can cause low scores. Be sure to take a compassionate approach to a performance improvement plan conversation with any and every employee.

2. Find examples of poor goal completion

Receiving a PIP should never feel unfair or unwarranted. It should very clearly define examples of poor goal completion.

Outline any review questions where the employee received a poor score and document goals on their most recent review that were not met. Employees will be able to see that their performance improvement plan is based on impartial data—not management opinion.

The use of performance management software makes it easy to uncover poor review scores and poor goal completion. The data is accurate and compiled in one place. It’s also updated and tracked in real time.

All data is transparent and accessible to employees, even before the next review or a PIP . When you use software, performance improvement plan conversations don’t come as a complete surprise.

Track individual goals along with performance reviews with PerformYard.Learn More

3. Find examples of poor peer feedback

According to one research statistic, 56% of employees who have a friend at work are engaged. In contrast, only 8 percent of employees who don’t have a friend at work report being engaged.

That doesn’t mean everyone has to be friends with everyone else in the workplace. That said, there are benefits to employees having good working relationships with co-workers.

Integrating 360 reviews into your performance review process allows employees to provide insights about each other. You can refer to these insights when creating a performance improvement plan for an employee.

The feedback will show specific examples of instances where employees may have let down the team. It may also show how their interaction with others has impacted their review score or goal completion.

When creating a PIP, look for peer feedback that is tied to performance data. Do not include opinions, generalizations, or assessments of character in the plan. The goal is to outline the concrete reasons for having a performance improvement plan. 

Tips to Help an Employee Through a Performance Improvement Plan

Figuring out how to write a performance improvement plan requires some long-term planning. You have to do more than create the plan and leave it up to the employee to make the necessary changes. It’s important to provide continued support throughout the process.

Here are some tips for helping an employee through a performance improvement plan conversation:

  • Start with the specific instances that need to be addressed
  • Work with the employee to develop goals
  • Set up frequent check-ins beyond the normal review cycle

4. Start with the specific instances that need to be addressed

It is important to be as specific as possible when informing an employee that they are receiving a PIP. One way to do that is by showing data points on a performance management platform, like PerformYard. This approach ensures the employee knows why they are receiving a performance improvement plan.

Approach the conversation with compassion and be prepared to listen. It’s normal for employees to feel defensive about their performance, especially if they worry that it may impact their job. Bring a caring, team-oriented perspective to the conversation. Remember to also let the employee come up with their own solutions

5. Work with the employee to develop goals 

PIPs get a bad rap for being ineffective. That’s because they are often focused on employee performance but not inclusive of the employee’s perspective. Every HR person should want their employee to take their performance improvement plan to heart. The way to do that is to work with the employee to develop goals that address performance issues.

Managers should uncover performance gaps such as poor review scores, poor goal completion, and poor peer feedback. The employee should then be brought in to create a plan that articulates what needs to be done.

This strategy enables you to approach the employee improvement plan as part of the professional development process. You can give the employee ownership over their improvement.

Once goals are set, ensure you track the metrics that you and your employee agreed on. A performance management software platform allows managers and employees to see progress in real-time. The platform also ensures the process is as transparent as possible.

6. Set up frequent check-ins beyond the normal review cycle

An employee who is on a performance improvement plan needs extra attention to ensure they are on the right track. Build a specific review cycle for that employee that includes frequent check-ins so you can provide them with the support they need.

Reviews can be informal, with check-ins occurring frequently or infrequently. More formal check-ins could include monthly or quarterly reviews. You can also add more frequent goal milestones to ensure the employee is on their way to meeting their final goal.

Just make sure that goals are easy to access for check-ins and official reviews. You and your employee should reference PIP goals easily during review meetings and in between meetings.

Set up custom review cycles with check-ins and continuous feedback.Learn More

Building an employee-specific performance improvement plan is made easier with a tool like PerformYard. With just a few clicks, you can easily view goal data, and you can adjust any individual employee’s review cycle.

Using Performance Management Software to Design your PIP

As you have been reading about how to write a performance improvement plan, you have probably noticed we mentioned PerformYard as a solution. That’s because our performance management software makes designing, implementing, and reviewing PIPs easy.

PerformYard provides you with a place to document and track goals, run check-ins, and adjust individual employee review cycles according to the level of support each employee needs. It can run 360 reviews, where you can uncover how others feel about a coworker’s performance. 

Perhaps most importantly, it can provide data that illuminates the need for a PIP in the first place. That way you know where your employees stand, but they get the feedback they crave too.

What to do next.

Here are three ways you can continue your journey to a more modern and effective performance management strategy:

  1. See PerformYard In Action. Find time with one of our product experts to get a live look at what it's like to use modern performance management software. Every call starts with a 5 minute discussion of your approach and then immediately dives into a live product demonstration that's based on your organization's process. Or start by watching a 2-minute video overview.
  2. Learn more about modern performance management. Start with our Guide to Building a Modern Performance Management System, or visit our blog to see the latest ideas from our team.
  3. If you know other HR Pros who would appreciate this article, share it with them through email, LinkedIn or Twitter.