Building an Employee Performance Improvement Plan

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As an employer, it may be difficult when attempting to put together a performance improvement plan to figure out what needs to be done. These are generally used as a tool for employees who are underperforming. A performance improvement plan or PIP is formulated by the employer to determine what steps need to be taken to either increase productivity of an individual or to find out if certain training was missed. Before giving an employee performance review, there are steps and actions to be done.


Employee Performance Improvement Plan and Goals

Start with research: Take a look in the employee’s file and see what types of training he or she received while employed. Look for other notes such as absences or notes from other supervisors. This gives a solid background as to what the offenses or type of performance the employee has delivered since the hiring date. It also allows for concrete evidence to present later during a private meeting with the employee. Make sure there are dates recorded for easier accountability.

Ask questions: Is this employee working unsatisfactorily due to lack of training or support from management? Are there conflicts among coworkers? Could there be a trend in absences like constantly calling out for medical or personal time off? Asking these questions while doing research will help develop the foundation for a solid performance improvement plan.


Document the findings: A PIP is useless if there is no way to back it up with physical findings. Take notes of everything noted or observations made from a supervisor.

Put together the plan: If keeping the employee is the main objective, than coming up with an action plan is key. Take each area lacking in performance and create a timely and measurable action, which will aim to strengthening the individual and allow you to focus on improving employee performance. Avoid making unrealistic goals. Setting a person up for too much can backfire, causing the employee to pull away further from the job.


This is a perfect opportunity to seek out additional resources such as added training or materials for success. Actions should be clear and worded as simple as possible. In the same plan, remember to list the consequences of actions not being taken. Make sure your plan is clear and understandable on both levels. Review it and compare to research done earlier.

Setup a time to meet: when an individual is performing poorly, it becomes increasingly difficult to have a meeting without he or she being on the defense. Approach the employee in a positive manor. If the employer is a bit more casual, a lunch meeting could be the ticket for getting an employee performance improvement plan moving along.

Ask the worker when a good time would be, which works well with the schedule. Try to meet sooner rather than later. Putting it off is not ideal and could lead to further complications. Usually, a PIP should be given within a day at most a week after being written.


Present the plan: During the meeting, go over the employee performance evaluation. Present the plan and concerns. Allow the individual time to go over it and give feedback. This could lead to modifications to the action plan. Be open to ideas. The employee may not have known these items were observed or even a problem. Once the meeting is over, have the employee sign the newly revised form and remind him or her of the expectations. This assures accountability with the worker. For some, this is a wakeup call to improve work performance and for others, it may slip through the cracks. Only time will tell.


Check back: Following up is crucial to both the overall performance of the company and accomplishing your employee development goals. Is the worker making any strides to improving or is the worker not changing despite the PIP? There are a few options to consider if the employee performance improvement plan doesn’t seem to be working:

-If the worker has made no changes or attempts to change, it will then be up to the employer to determine if termination is in order.

-If the employee is working hard to improve, the timeline may be extended to accommodate the efforts being put forth by the employee.

-If all expectations are met and the employee continues to work satisfactorily, simply document and end the PIP. Keep it on file in case future issues arise.



A performance improvement plan should be used sparingly and only when an employee is in true need of improvement. One or two discretions or a mistake doesn’t require a plan to be written up. However, if an employee is showing consistent patterns of poor performance, attention should be paid. No one enjoys terminating employment but sometimes an employee performance improvement plan can prevent or confirm the decision.

Jason is the Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog. Jason established the Training Station blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to training, learning and development.