4 Key Questions for a Performance Improvement Plan

There is a common misconception held by the general public nowadays that corporations are cold, heartless machines unconcerned about employees and only concerned with profit. Obviously profit is a corporation’s primary reason but in reality all enlightened corporations are very concerned about the well-being and effectiveness of their employees. When a corporation goes to all the trouble of hiring someone, a the corporation is making a big investment. When an employee does not meet minimum performance standards, multiple entities within the corporation could look bad. First of all, the hiring manager stuck his neck out when he hired the person. The hiring manager made a serious decision when he approved the hire. If it turns out to be a bad hire, then the manager must take some share of the blame for a bad decision. Human resources performed their due diligence (background checks, references, aptitude tests etc.) and they gave the prospective employee the green light. They were intimately involved in the hiring process. Some of the blame for the mis-hire must rest with them, too.

Of course, this is not to say that the only new employees perform at substandard levels. For a myriad of reasons an employee who has been performing at acceptable levels for years can good take a turn for the worse.

In either case, when an employee is failing to contribute at acceptable levels, most corporations will attempt to remediate rather than fire. This process of giving an under-performing employee the opportunity to change for the better is called Performance Improvement Plan or PIP.

Performance improvement plans range in complexity from very formalized and detailed to a more steamlined version.

By illustrating each these two approaches (complex and detailed vs streamlined) a manager can find a common ground and create a PIP that would suit the unique situation the manger is faced with.

To experience the complexity and detail that is part and parcel of sophisticated PIP’s, simply go to Google and enter the search term “individual performance improvement plan template.” You will be served a mind-numbing array of examples that appear to be too difficult and time-consuming for an individual manager to absorb and then create his own PIP.

So rather than dive into that mass of too-detailed templates and information I decided to save time and call some business mangagers I knew. On my second call I got lucky. This manger had done a PIP just a few months ago. For the sake of context, she worked at a large corporate headquarters in Central Connecticut. The corporation had developed their own PIP template and process. I think this PIP will be suitable in 90% of the cases requiring a PIP.

Here are the answers to the questions I asked her:

1. Did you use an established format or did your company have their own procedure?

It was an established (by her company) format and it was acronymed ìPIPî ñ performance improvement plan. It was very basic and had the following column headers:

  • Improvement Goal/Objective
  • Action Steps/ Results Required
  • Applicable Company Principle Impacted
  • Target Date
  • Meetings Scheduled

2.What was the length of time it lasted?

I met with the individual weekly while on the PIP, but formally documented progress with HR every 30 days. In my particular case, the PIP was supposed to last 60 days, but we extended to 120 days

3. Did the process improve performance?

In this particular case, no. But it had nothing to do with the PIP. The individual was not in the right job, he had no clue what he was doing, unorganized basically a train wreck.

4.How was it determined that such a process was needed?

I was constantly bothered by this person.He consistently made errors and made the same errors over and over again.He never learned from his mistakes. After about 1 year (even that was too long!!), I put him on a formal PIP.

The bare bones PIP described above will be appropriate in a majority of cases. But, as stated by the manager herself the PIP is not a panacea.

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