As a hiring manager, you've likely encountered employees who aren't meeting the expectations you had when you brought them on board. It's quite common, actually. It can be frustrating, especially when you see their untapped potential just waiting to shine. You know they can do better, but they seem to struggle to reach their full capabilities since onboarding. Luckily, there's a tool that can help you — a performance improvement plan (PIP). A performance improvement plan may help you guide employees who are falling behind by clarifying expectations, setting goals, and providing a strategy to enhance employee engagement.
This article explores the performance improvement plan and how you can use it to unlock the potential of your employees to create a more successful workplace.
What Is a PIP?
A performance improvement plan, or a PIP, is a structured and formal process employers use to help employees struggling to meet job expectations. It's like a roadmap for improvement — when an employee's performance falls below the desired level, an employer or HR professional creates a PIP to set specific goals, clear expectations, and a timeline for improvement for the employee.
During a PIP, the manager and employee work to identify areas of concern, set clear performance objectives, and establish a timeframe for achieving them. This allows employee performance to improve and meet the company's standards.
When to Use a Performance Improvement Plan
If an employee consistently falls short of expectations, you can use a performance improvement plan. Instead of immediately resorting to more extreme measures like termination, you can use a PIP to help the employee improve in poor performance areas. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a PIP usually comes with a specified time frame between 30 to 90 days. It’s an especially great choice if you believe the employee's performance problems may be due to factors you can correct or improve, such as skills gaps, lack of clarity about job expectations, or personal challenges.
Other than performance management issues, there are other instances where a PIP is appropriate for your team members. These include:
- Preparing for a promotion: If someone is aiming for a promotion, a PIP may guide them on what skills or training they need to reach that goal.
- Team building: A PIP can help strengthen teamwork by showing team members how to work better together.
- Behavioral concerns: A PIP should include an outline of the changes needed if someone's behavior at work is causing problems, like disrespecting others or not following company rules.
- Adapting to change: When big changes happen in the company, like new technology or processes, a PIP can help team members adapt and re-engage.
Performance Improvement Plan Examples
Performance improvement plans address various challenges employees may face. Whether it's enhancing professionalism, time management, communication skills, or any other aspect of performance, a well-crafted PIP provides a structured path towards a high-performing employee. Here are examples that illustrate how you can use PIPs in different scenarios.
You have an employee whose behavior at work has been less than professional. They are frequently late for meetings, engage in unprofessional conversations with colleagues, and their attire doesn't align with your company's dress code. The employee doesn't necessarily underperform, so you aren't sure whether a PIP is necessary to improve their work. To address this particular issue, you can set up a performance improvement plan like the one here:
Goal: The employee’s goal is to demonstrate professionalism in their behavior and interactions at work consistently.
- Develop a schedule that ensures punctuality for all meetings
- Participate in weekly coaching sessions with their supervisor or human resources to address specific employee needs and behavioral issues
- Review and acknowledge your company's dress code policy and make the necessary adjustments to their attire
Metrics to Measure:
- Punctuality: The employee’s meeting attendance record improves with a target of no more than one late arrival per month.
- Dress code: A supervisor will confirm the employee’s compliance with the company’s dress code policy through periodic audits.
- Conflict resolution: The employee’s colleagues will provide positive and constructive feedback regarding personal improvements in attitude and interactions. The number of conflicts reported by colleagues should decrease by at least 50 percent within three months.
Improve Time Management
You have an employee who is a dedicated member of a marketing team. However, the employee struggles with time management. They frequently miss project deadlines, and this has affected the team's overall productivity. To help them overcome this challenge, here’s an example of a PIP plan you can use:
Goal: Improve time management skills and meet project deadlines consistently.
- Attend a time management workshop to learn effective techniques for prioritizing tasks and setting realistic timelines
- Work with their supervisor to create a personalized task schedule to help them meet project deadlines
- Use time-tracking tools to monitor and analyze how they allocate work hours
- Implement daily check-ins with their team to update on project progress and identify any potential issues
Metrics to Measure:
- Timeliness: The number of projects completed on time, with a target of a 20 percent improvement in on-time deliveries.
- Productivity: Reduced overtime hours worked on a project and increased completed tasks per week.
- Team feedback: Collect feedback from the employee's colleagues and team members regarding the quality of their contributions and adherence to project timelines.
- Quality of work: Look at the number of revisions or errors in their work. These should help you determine if they are allocating sufficient time for thorough work.
Improve Communication Skills
You have an employee who works in sales. While they excel in many aspects of the role, their communication with clients is strikingly inconsistent. This has resulted in occasional misunderstandings and missed sales opportunities. Here is a PIP example you use to improve performance:
Goal: The employee must enhance their communication skills and build stronger client rapport. By the end of this PIP, we expect them to convey information clearly, actively listen to client needs, and effectively address any concerns.
- Attend communication training sessions to improve verbal and written communication skills
- Implement a follow-up procedure to check in with clients after a sale and address any questions or concerns
- Request feedback from clients about their satisfaction with the employee’s communication.
Metrics to Measure:
- Client satisfaction: Measure satisfaction through surveys or feedback forms to assess how the employee’s communication skills impact each client's overall experience.
- Sales conversion rate: Monitor the percentage of potential leads they successfully convert into clients.
- Repeat business: Track the number of clients who choose to do business with the employee again.
- Complaints and resolution: Record client complaints and how efficiently the employee addresses them.
Software Developer Performance Goals Examples
Tech is always changing, and staying up-to-date is a must for software developers. PIPs provide a framework for developers to identify areas they need to improve and take the necessary steps to address them. Here are a few software developer performance goals examples for PIP plans:
Improve Code Quality
Goal: Reduce the number of bugs and improve the overall reliability of our software products.
- Attend code quality improvement workshops to learn best practices and coding standards
- Engage in peer code reviews for all development tasks and actively seek feedback from colleagues
- Allocate additional time for thorough testing and debugging before submitting code for review
- Maintain a code quality log to track identified issues and resolutions
Metrics to Measure:
- Measure improvement by tracking the decrease in defects reported by quality assurance (QA) during the testing phases
- Assess progress through feedback collected from colleagues during code reviews
- Gauge success by aiming for the employee's code to achieve a pass rate of 90 percent or higher in automated testing and code analysis tools
Improve Collaboration and Teamwork
Goal: The developer aims to enhance collaboration and teamwork within the software development team to foster a more productive and harmonious work environment.
- Actively participate in team meetings and discussions
- Collaborate with team members on at least one cross-functional project to improve coordination and shared responsibilities
- Seek out opportunities to mentor junior developers or share knowledge with team members
- Communicate project progress, challenges, and solutions more effectively with the team
Metrics to Measure:
- Evaluate collaboration and communication improvement by collecting feedback from team members
- Measure increased participation and engagement in team meetings and discussions as an indicator of progress
- Assess effective teamwork through the successful completion of the cross-functional project
- Gather feedback from junior developers to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the mentoring provided by the developer
How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan
A PIP can be a powerful employee development tool. However, for it to work and make a real difference for your employees, you must get it right. Here's a quick guide to help you create an effective PIP template.
Determine Acceptable Performance
Begin by defining what constitutes acceptable performance. Clearly outline the specific goals, targets, and expectations that employees know they need to meet. This should be based on the job description, company standards, and previous performance evaluations. Ensure the expectations are realistic, achievable, and relevant to the employee's role. Clearly defining what constitutes acceptable job performance is vital to the success of the PIP plan.
Analyze Employee Situation
Next, understand the employee's history, contributions, and circumstances. Suppose the struggling employee has previously been a valued team member but has recently fallen behind. In that case, you may want to consider if external factors like personal challenges or changes in job responsibilities have contributed to the performance decline. In such cases, the organization may see potential in helping the employee regain their previous level of productivity.
On the other hand, if the employee has consistently struggled to meet expectations and has not been a valuable contributor, the focus may be more on determining whether improvement is feasible or if further action, such as termination, is warranted.
Create Measurable Objectives
You must break down the overall improvement goal into specific, achievable targets. These objectives should answer the questions of "what," "how much," and "by when." For instance, if the aim is to enhance code quality, a measurable objective could involve reducing the number of bugs reported in software projects by 20 percent within the next two development cycles. Measurable objectives allow the employee and the organization to track progress and see when an employee has successfully met a PIP goal.
For a PIP process to work, you must be there for the employee under performance review at every step. You can start by offering clear guidance on achieving the outlined objectives and providing additional resources or training to bridge any skill gaps. Regular one-on-one meetings can help address questions and concerns. Offering constructive feedback and acknowledging small victories along the journey can also boost their confidence and motivation. Remember, your role is not just about evaluation but also about mentoring the employee and helping them succeed.
Schedule Check-Ins to Track Progress
Check-ins provide a structured way to monitor how well employees advance toward their goals. During these meetings, you can review the PIP objectives, discuss challenges or obstacles, and offer guidance and support. It's an opportunity to keep communication lines open and ensure the employee feels heard and understood throughout the improvement process.
Clearly Define Consequences
Ensure the employee understands the potential outcomes based on their progress within the plan. This clarity helps set expectations and provides a clear path forward. It's essential to outline positive consequences, such as recognition and career advancement opportunities, if they meet improvement goals, and potential negative consequences if an employee fails, such as demotion, additional training, or termination. Being transparent about the consequences ensures fairness and provides the employee with a clear understanding of the importance of the PIP.
Hire High-Performing Software Developers & Engineers
PIPs play a crucial role in addressing performance issues. However, it's essential to recognize that they aren't inherently negative. They can be a positive tool to help create a high-performing team. While PIPs are useful, putting together a top-notch team starts with hiring high-performing employees. At Revelo, we understand that prevention is often more effective than reactive solutions when it comes to performance issues.
Revelo matches your business with highly vetted software developers and engineers who are ready to work in your time zone. We also ensure our developers have soft skills and English proficiency, which means smoother communication and fewer misunderstandings. Unlike other companies, Revelo offers ongoing support to these developers during their time with your company. We ensure they stay engaged and motivated, reducing the need for those performance improvement plans.
Contact us today to hire dedicated software engineers who are ready to contribute to your high-performing development team.