Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Correct use of performance improvement plans, part of Performance Review Foundations.
Sometimes you feel that one of your employees needs critical feedback. That's common and normal. Sometimes, unfortunately, job fit or performance can be so poor that firing an employee becomes the best option. In between these two is an interesting space. It's a space I'd like you to think seriously about for two reasons. First, finding a way to try again, and give someone a second chance is usually a very good idea. I'm not advocating the third and fourth chances in the face of really bad performance.
But a quality, thoughtful second chance, is something everyone deserves. In addition, not only is it the right thing to do, but it's the smart thing to do. It's smart because this makes you look like a reasonable and caring person. Which is great for your reputation as a leader. It's also smart because the cost of firing someone is quite large. Even if you were to assume that when you let someone go, there were no lawsuits or other odd circumstances, the costs are still huge. Think about it. You and the team now have to fill in for the person who's gone, maybe for many months.
Then you have to conduct a search for a new pool of candidates. Then complete a selection process. Then orient and train the person. Then wait for them to get up the learning curve. These are very real costs. That's why you'll be more thoughtful. And start first with a performance improvement plan. Often referred to as a PIP. This is a formal document that might be used as a part of the employee review or simply when needed. And depending on the organization, the procedure surrounding a PIP can be simple or complex.
In any case, the goal is the same. Create a document that details the specific skills and behaviors that have been identified as problematic. And define exactly how they should improve over the course of the next performance period. This might include soft skills. Such as aspects of communication and conflict management. And hard skills, pertaining to the details of carrying out their current role. Now in terms of timing, recall that this follows one or more episodes of critical feedback. So the PIP should not be a surprise.
It's not something an employee will love, but it shouldn't shock them. Earlier while delivering needed developmental feedback. And now while introducing the PIP, you have to rely on good specific events you recorded over time in your performance diary. Which we've mentioned several times before. Now lets think about content for a minute. An effective PIP contains the following elements. First, a very clear statement that the overall quality of work being completed is unacceptable and must change.
And don't assume they hear you. Given the seriousness of the situation, it's wise to have them confirm they understand the situation with their own words. Next the PIP needs a clear description of what's wrong. This is where you focus on the small number of critical needs jeopardizing the person's job. Be explicit in describing the hard and soft skills that best explain why you're having this performance improvement discussion. This is followed by a highly specific description of what must be done to avoid more difficult outcomes.
Specify exactly how certain behaviors and performance outcomes will change over the next performance period. And make sure what you say will be easily measurable later when you have to evaluate their performance over the PIP period. Finally be sure to specify what training or other resources will be available to assist them. There may be none aside from what they currently have. Or these might include coaching or some form of training. So back to our sales manager, Bridget. She has another direct report, Danielle, who has failed to meet her sales goals.
Let's watch. >> So, Danielle, we've been talking about your sales performance for the last three quarters. And the improvement I was hoping to see just hasn't happened. So I've decided to put you on a performance improvement plan. Now you may have heard about PIPs. >> Yes I have. >> Now a PIP basically defines one or more aspects of your performance that needs to change, specifies how it should change, and defines some sort of a timeline. So, sales for the three major product lines in your territory, need to be up to the departmental average within the next two quarters.
Now that means from any where from 15% to 30% growth depending on the product line. Now here the specifics are clearly laid out for you by the product. >> Okay. That's a lot. But, I'll, I'll give it a serious try. Honestly, this all seems so formal. It just feels like you're laying out the paperwork to let me go. >> That's definitely not my goal. I want to get serious about getting you up to performing to the department's standards. Let's talk about how I can help you with that. Well, like looking at this particular product line, for example.
Now we could. >> You probably noticed how Bridgette controlled the conversation by first referencing past discussions. And then, jumping right into the description of the reason for the PIP. And what new goals are contained in the document. Delivering a document of this nature requires you to stay positive and respectful, just like Bridget. While also quickly getting to the point with no sugar coating. Now, when you're delivering the PIP, don't forget these essential guidelines. Start by clearing this move with your boss and HR. Even in the case that company policy does not require you to do so, it's often a simple and smart move.
Just to be sure you're acting in a way deemed to be acceptable in your workplace. Next, be sure to deliver the PIP in private. As opposed to performance reviews, which typically are best delivered in neutral territory such as a conference room. The PIP is best delivered in your office in order to add as much significance and formality to the meeting as possible. Finally, the PIP is a written document. But don't forget that document isn't complete until signed by the employee at the end of the meeting.
Even if they don't agree with the evaluation, they usually sign. Since signing is only acknowledgement of receipt, not agreement. In the rare case they won't comply by signing, you simply refer them to HR and relevant company policy. Knowing that you've now done what you can to correct the problem. No leader wants to use serious devices like PIPs. However, they are necessary, and they can lead to good outcomes. Either your team gets an improved colleague, or possibly the chance to find a new colleague.
In either case, when executed correctly. No matter the outcome, you've done the right thing by giving a struggling employee a quality second chance.
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- Understanding the performance cycle
- Setting performance goals
- Collecting performance data and feedback
- Writing the review
- Discussing performance with an employee
- Using a performance improvement plan (PIP)<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.