Performance Management

How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan

By Betterworks
January 15, 2021
2 minute read

Calibrating how the individuals on your team or at your company perform is nearly impossible without a uniform, well-communicated, and thoughtful plan. HR leaders within an organization typically help to shape and solidify a review process that allows managers and contributors to candidly assess performance. But what happens when an employee’s performance is called into question? Or when an employee reaches out for help and guidance in terms of reaching their goals? 

Performance improvement plans are action-based guides designed to explicitly outline steps an employee needs to take in order to meet their goals, improve behavior, and make necessary changes. These plans are typically bespoke, written and collaborated on by an HR leader, a manager, and the employee in question. 

While no two employee performance improvement plans look the same, there are best practices to consider when creating one. 

Employee Performance Improvement Plan Example

Performance improvement plans need a stated timeline whether it’s 30, 60, 90 days, until the end of a quarter, or whatever makes sense for the situation. This framework should also include the following:

  • Goal. A brief sentence or list of what should be achieved by the employee.
    Example: To improve customer service conversations.
  • Action. A statement that explains the direct actions the individual will achieve the stated goal.
    Example: Shadow the top-performing customer service rep; Review the customer service scripts; Take over an escalated call from a peer.
  • Metrics. How the individual will be measured by HR/their manager to determine if the goal was met or not.
    Example: The accumulated customer satisfaction scores over the set period of time.

Executing an Employee Performance Improvement Plan

As with all performance-related conversations, clarity, thoughtfulness, and specificity should be top-of-mind. A manager should never present an employee performance improvement plan to the individual unexpectedly. Springing a plan on an unknowing employee can lead to confusion, defensiveness, and misalignment.

Bringing together the employee, manager, and even HR representation to discuss performance issues and then a plan is considerate. The employee will have the chance to provide their valuable point-of-view, ask questions, and leave feeling engaged and committed to reaching their new goals.

Alternatively, an open conversation between all parties could lead to discovering an underlying issue or reason the employee’s performance was brought into question. Perhaps they are having personal issues or have been considering an entirely different role or career path. Either way, an initial meeting to establish understanding is vital to executing an employee performance improvement plan.

The next piece to consider is support. As this individual now faces their current workload along with a new plan of action, it’s short-sighted to think they can go at it alone. Identify either yourself or team members as support options for your employee. Encourage regular check-ins to speak candidly about what’s working, what isn’t.

Finally, make sure to agree upon what happens at the end of the performance improvement plan period. If the employee feels they will be fired as a result, no improvement plan, regardless of how thought-out or executed, will work. Make sure you, the employee, and HR have all agreed on the best path forward if the employee reaches or does not reach their explicit goals.

As a leader, identifying and helping an individual contributor meet their goals and continue to grow within an organization is difficult enough. Preparing managers for employee reviews by creating a performance improvement plan template will help create a culture of continuous feedback, alignment, and transparency.


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