Creating an Employee Performance Improvement Plan

The concept of an employee performance improvement plan, by its classical definition, is not at all what it seems to be. Traditionally these plans, often referred to as PIPs, are nothing short of a scare tactic incentive to motivate employees who aren’t appearing to be up to snuff for one reason or another.

An employee faced with an employee performance improvement plan is an employee, traditionally, being let know that they’re not cutting the mustard. Monitoring and metric taking that goes on during these plans is entirely to find out why, and possibly alter policy to prevent it from happening with future employees.

Almost never is a PIP actually intended to help the employee improve in a congenial and civil atmosphere. It’s slightly less blunt and traumatic than “get your stuff straight or you’re fired”. Slightly.

Well, I’m not going to contribute to encouraging these vile tactics whatsoever, because not only are they ethically ambiguous at best, but they don’t accomplish anything to improve situations, just make an employee’s last days in an oppressive organization all the more hellish for the trouble.

In stead, let me recommend a new definition and approach to this concept, one that actually is what the name would have one expect it to be.

Perhaps, since we’ve been rethinking training a lot in recent times, and we’ve been exploring the hidden power of onboard systems, perhaps we can use these to formulate improvement plans that aren’t shallow threats about performance, and that actually work with an employee to actually – gasp – improve their performance in ergonomic ways!

Perhaps, the best plan after a solid assessment is to first approach the employee and gently break the news that their metrics (whatever they may specifically be) just aren’t adding up to the degree needed. Get input from them about stimuli that could be causing this, such as issues in policy, process, or just plain discomfort they cannot help. Often, minor tweaks of parameters from here are all it really takes, because it’s not the ability of the employee to perform that’s the issue, it’s some environmental variable affecting them.

In cases where this is not true, incentivizing them to train more to increase their strength with a task, using onboard systems to keep them guided and build habits is a better way to handle things than just pressure them to “get on the ball and do better”. Simply telling an employee that they’re on review, and that they need to do a better job only stresses them out and, without guidance and positive reinforcement, does little more than bewilder them, and cause their performance to deteriorate further.

So, consider new options such as constant learning, incentivized training, or simply listening to them. Yeah, many will try to make up excuses for lack of effort or laziness, but those kinds of excuses are transparent and pretty easy to spot, you know?

If you want to implement an employee performance improvement plan, don’t listen to the old definition, because that will just teach you to be a bully. In stead, consider looking into what I’ve alluded to here.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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