Performance Improvement Plan 101: How to Improve Employee Performance in the “New Normal”

August 3, 2021
Nicholas K

As review or appraisal season comes around, three words are often dreaded: Performance Improvement Plan. While a PIP can be a useful tool to help resolve productivity issues for certain employees, this is generally equated to negative feedback from management for many. 

And while being put on a PIP can be indicative of poor performance or productivity, it’s important to understand that a well-designed plan can help underperforming employees to attain goals, targets — and ultimately, to improve. 

As such, it’s important to have a PIP that empowers struggling employees to overcome certain obstacles in the workplace. At the end of the day, your employees’ performance has a direct impact on your business, so it’s important to provide all the support you can to maximise the performance of your team. 

What is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

A performance improvement plan is basically a formal plan, typically in the form of a document, that details any performance issues for employees, as well as targets for improvement that will need to be achieved by an employee. Typically, these goals will be assigned within a certain timeline, too. 

Essentially, a PIP is similar to being put on academic probation in school — with a report card, to boot. If certain goals aren’t achieved by the end of the stipulated timeline (in the PIP), employees are typically transferred, demoted, or even terminated.

Why do you need a Performance Improvement Plan? 

PIPs are supposed to help employees who are underperforming in some manner — although it’s important to understand that this does not necessarily mean that they aren’t working hard enough, or long enough hours.

Sometimes, a deficit in performance can be attributed to other factors, such as training, or even external issues. To determine if you should put an employee on PIP, consider if: 

  • Is there a substantiated performance issue? Or a behavioural one? 
  • Is the employee in question’s manager committed to helping them overcome their issues?
  • Can these issues be improved by a PIP? 
  • Has the employee received proper training for their role? 
  • Are there any personal factors at play? 

How do I design an effective Performance Improvement Plan? 

The first thing you should do is to sit down with the employee in question, and discuss the performance issues. Are there any mitigating factors in play? Is the employee already aware of these issues? These should all be taken into account when designing the PIP, and there needs to be a thorough understanding of the root cause of the issues. 

Next, have the employee’s manager or direct supervisor draft a plan — this should include all relevant information on existing performance, as well as specific and measurable goals for the employee. A timeline for these targets should also be specified; PIPs typically run for 30, 60, or even 90 days. 

Management should also be prepared to offer guidance or assistance to the employee, and there should be scheduled meetings to review progress over the span of the PIP. And of course, the draft should stipulate what the consequences of failing to achieve PIP targets would be. 

Once that has been drafted, the Human Resources (HR) team will need to review the plan. This is a crucial step in the process to ensure that there is zero bias against the employee here — this can quickly turn into a legal issue, so all your i’s need to be dotted, all your t’s need to be crossed. 

Goals need to be attainable and realistic, training needs to be relevant, and in general, the HR team needs to ensure that the PIP is designed well. 

Tip: Use altHR to streamline the PIP process

Processes like Performance Improvement Plans can take up a large chunk of your day as employers, or HR professionals. Part of this can be attributed to manual processes, including large quantities of paper-based documentation such as PIP forms or employee handbooks. 

At the end of the day, the key to surviving — and thriving — in the new normal is digitalisation. With Digi’s superapp, altHR, HR processes such as PIPs can be streamlined and adapted to the Documents module — this functionality allows HR to publish and share documents with limited visibility to other employees within an organisation. 

You’ll also be able to revise documents on the go, and for sensitive documents, enable password protection to maintain the utmost confidentiality. And of course, all of that works seamlessly with the other modules in the new normal, such as leaves, expense and payroll management.

HR professionals are often faced with daunting, often tedious tasks on a daily basis — tasks that have become even more difficult to handle in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. 

But help is available, if you know where to look. Let us streamline your HR processes by managing and automating day-to-day tasks, so you won’t have to worry about things like paperwork, privacy concerns, time-tracking, or onboarding challenges.

Sign up for altHR, the all-in-one digital solution that covers everything from payroll and onboarding, to staff management and providing employees with information kits. You’ve done it the old way long enough.

Source: SHRM

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