How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan with a Template

SUMMARY
Get your free performance improvement plan template pdf! Learn how to help performance improve and create a plan to make it happen.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Performance Improvement Plan Template makes Improving Employee Performance a breeze.

What’s the best thing to do when there are employees with recurring performance issues? Fire them?

Nah, just kidding!

If you’ve got an underperforming employee, then you need to administer a performance improvement plan.

Why?

Because a performance improvement plan does a bang up job addressing their recurring behavioral or performance issues.

Bottom line, a performance improvement plan will help them improve their work performance and turn things around.

But wait. There’s more!

Not only will a performance improvement plan do all that and a bag of chips, but it will also boost company culture and employee morale — which in turn benefits the business or project.

So, now that you know all the high-level benefits of administering a performance improvement plan, how do we write a performance improvement plan that’s effective, succinct, and gets the job done?

Let’s dive in.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan?

In a nutshell, a performance improvement plan (PIP), also known as a performance action plan, is a formal document containing the employee’s performance issues. It also contains the action plans and steps needed to make necessary improvements.

A project implementation plan includes specific examples of the expectations the underperforming employee failed to meet. This includes things like low work quality and productivity. The plan also contains a list of goals with corresponding deadlines and the potential consequences if deadlines and goals aren’t met.

So contrary to the negative perception of PIP — that it is just formality before termination — the actual function of this tool is for the managers and HR to work with employees who have notable performance shortcomings and give them the chance to step up their game.

Performance improvement plans are a strategic investment in employees who need more support to comply with the company’s performance standards.

When to Administer a Project Implementation Plan

One of the common questions managers ask is:

Do you have to implement a performance action plan for all employees?

Nope.

At ScaleTime, we only administer a PPI when our team member has chronic behavioral or performance problems. So if they committed one mistake, you don’t need a PPI because that would be counter-productive. And a little heavy handed.  

So, when is a PPI warranted?

We only give PPI to employees who’ve been struggling and have failed to meet the company’s expectations repeatedly.

Managers can often identify disengaged employees. But just to be sure, review their performance and see if there’s a negative trend.  

If the employee in question has recurring performance deficiencies, ask if action plans would correct them.

Usually, issues that fall under this category are related to:

  • Work quality
  • Meeting goals
  • Meeting deadlines

If the performance issues are related to any or all of the bulleted areas, then you can correct their issues with a performance implementation plan.

How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan

There’s no universal way of writing a PIP, so don’t worry if you’ve encountered different answers in your how to write a performance improvement plan question.

But if we really want to create an effective performance improvement plan that delivers results, we should take note of the following.  

Address the current performance issues

Understanding each performance issue is the first step to workplace success.

We can’t address the problem if we don’t know what the issues are. Same with preparing a performance improvement action plan for your underperforming employee.

The first step in this process is to pinpoint specific areas your employee needs to improve, so we can prepare the best roadmap for them.

Also, if the employee has had other past performances issues, assuming that it’s already been addressed, fogeddaboudit. Focus solely on the current subject.

Outline a plan for improvement

HR Professionals recommend using plans and following guidelines.

The PIP should include the steps needed to achieve the desired outcomes.

For example:

Does your employee need to attend more training and be given more assignments?

What actions can they take to correct their performance or behavior?

So, help them succeed. Outline the plan for improvement.

Set measurable goals and timelines

The plan must include the time period and end date at which the HR department will review.

Goals and timelines are critical components in your performance improvement plan. However, we can’t set goals and timelines that aren’t feasible. So the key is to set achievable and measurable goals.

Also, when setting up a goal, aim to make it SMART, or it might be too vague for your employee.  

SMART goals are:

  • Specific — Clearly state the goals are so your employee knows what needs to be done and why they need to do it.
  • Measurable — The goals should have metrics so that you and your employee can track their progress. Plus, it could motivate them once they see even a slight improvement in themselves.
  • Achievable — Be realistic when setting goals in the PIP. Don’t expect your employee to improve drastically after day one. And make sure the goals are attainable so the PIP is successful.
  • Relevant — The goals should align with what you want your employee to achieve and the efforts they need to take.
  • Time-bound — Add target dates or timelines the employee must follow.

Assign responsibilities to specific people in the organization

Continuity on the part of the employer is key so that results of previous discussions are not lost.

Management creates a performance improvement plan. But management isn’t solely responsible for the entire process. So, be sure to distribute the workload to the appropriate personnel in your company.

For example, assign a department to help your employee in their training or a supervisor to oversee their progress.

Make sure the people you delegate responsibilities to have the right background and expertise to help your employee improve performance.

Provide feedback on how well they’re meeting their responsibility

Employers should offer a certain amount of feedback and guidance.

One factor that significantly influences an employee’s motivation is feedback. If they know their progress is appreciated, no matter how big or small, they’ll strive harder to be better at their job.

Just the same, we must be straightforward in giving critical feedback, especially if you aren’t seeing any progress. Let your employee know they have to reach at least a satisfactory standard or face the consequences.

By keeping them accountable, we help them move forward.

Monitor progress and provide additional coaching as needed

Measure success by progress towards the agreed goals.

We have to monitor our underperforming employees regularly. By doing so, we prevent them from going off track.

If an employee fails to meet the agreed goals, then you’ll need to ask them questions and find out precisely where they’re struggling.

You can do this during follow-up meetings so you can provide additional coaching or resources.

How to share performance improvement plans

A Performance Improvement Plan should never come out of the blue.

The manager or direct supervisor should have discussed the employee’s performance with them before receiving a performance action plan. This usually happens during performance review sessions. So it’ll come as no surprise if the employee gets awarded PIP.

The thing is, we don’t simply deliver the document to the employee. Whether we like it or not, we have to meet them to discuss the plan personally and set expectations.

We want to make sure your employee clearly understands the required corrective action and why it must be taken. Also, encourage the employee to share their ideas or provide feedback in case you miss some essential factors that could make the plan more effective.

Once done, we can incorporate their suggestions in the final PIP and proceed to implementation.

Performance Improvement Plan Template

Many performance improvement templates are available in PDF and Word files. On the other hand, you can also create your own, following the format of the template below:

[Employee]

[Manager]

[Date]

Purpose for Performance Improvement Plan

Here, we define the reason for PIP and the expected outcome. We can also include the employee’s roles and overall performance that led to this corrective action.

Performance Improvement Plan

This part should enumerate the employee’s responsibilities that they failed to meet. It also should include specific examples or scenarios of behavioral or performance discrepancies.

For example:

Issue 1: You are expected to arrive on time.

  • In the past x months, you have a record of x tardiness.

Issue 2: You are expected to make x sales in a week.

  • You only made x sales.  

And so on…

Performance Improvement Action Plan

List down the activities the employee must take to correct their performance and the timeline.

Resources

We don’t want to just give the letter without providing any resources. This part will list down all the resources and support that the employee will receive from the organization.

Other Sections

You can also add other sections that you think can be relevant to the plan.

[Signatures and Date]

Don’t forget to use a formal tone and incorporate the things we mentioned above when you’re writing your PIP!

What Do You Need to Do

Project implementation plans can be nerve-wracking for both the manager and employee. The negative connotation surrounding PIPs often makes the conversation awkward and uncomfortable.

So as project managers, we must assure our team members that a project implementation plan is more than just disciplinary action or an initial stage before the employee is demoted or terminated.

Instead, it’s a strategic investment and effective tool that helps them advance their careers. PIPs show employees that you’re invested in their success by addressing and correcting their recurring mistakes, and that the PIP isn’t a termination formality.

So whenever we write a performance improvement plan, we have to communicate our objectives clearly and ensure that the employee understands the true purpose of a PIP — which is to help them reach their peak potential.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

PIPs are the cure and while they work, their’s an easier way to run your agency. Tighten up your hiring and employee onboarding process to prevent performance issues down the road.

Get your FREE Employee Hiring and Onboarding Checklist HERE.

Business operations consultant Juliana Marulanda
Juliana
Juliana Marulanda is a business operations expert, speaker, and the founder of ScaleTime. With over 20 years of experience across Wall Street, the non-profit sector, technology startups, and family-owned businesses, she now helps service-based businesses.