by Flex HR

What is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

Companies use strategies for performance action plans called a performance improvement plan (PIP). A PIP is typically used to help employees who are not meeting performance objectives. This could mean consistent failures or due to behavioral-related concerns. Human Resources professionals determine whether or not the PIP is appropriate given the situation.

A document should be created that outlines role expectations, areas for improvement, and goals to get employee performance back on track. These should not be used as a disciplinary action or step before termination. PIPs should be administered in conjunction with the manager to prevent bias.

Employee PIP Performance


PIPs help employees feel more confident in their roles and learn to meet their work objectives, and on time when conducted successfully. It’s important that HR provide both manager and employee ongoing guidance throughout the plan to develop positive results. In turn, motivation, and productivity increases, contributing to your company’s overall business goals.

Implement a PIP in 6 Steps

Employee Performance PIP

1. Make PIPs part of your company culture

Include PIPs as part of your typical performance, learning, and development management processes, to remove the perception of PIPs as a termination death knell. Instead, a company culture that embraces PIPs as normal signals to employees your commitment to continuing their professional development.

2. Determine if a PIP is necessary

You should only use PIPs as a genuine way to get an employee’s performance back on track, not as a way to create termination evidence. Before drafting your PIP action plan, HR and the manager should consider the following:

  • Is this a performance or behavioral issue?
  • Can the performance issue be fixed through actionable goals?
  • Do you want the employee to succeed in their PIP?
  • Can you dedicate time and resources to helping the employee improve?
  • Have you counseled the employee about their performance and goals in the past?

PIPs should target specific performance issues with achievable, time-oriented goals. Providing extra one-on-ones or training to the employee, is especially important to have an employee complete their PIP successfully.

3. Involve the employee

A PIP should not be a one-sided affair. Involve the employee in the PIP process. This demonstrates that you are committed to helping them improve. Be transparent about the minimum acceptable benchmarks for their performance. However, employees have a say in what goals they can realistically achieve.
Moreover, employees can be open and honest in areas they feel they need extra support so you can provide training, resources, or other accommodations for them to be successful.

4. Draft the plan

Drafting an employee PIP is usually pretty routine for HR. There are even software programs out there that include templates to customize for your needs. At a minimum, a PIP plan should include the following:

  • A breakdown of the areas in need of improvement.
  • The criteria that the employee should meet in their role.
  • Realistic goals for the employee to complete by a specific time.
  • What you can do to help the employee.
  • What happens after the PIP.

5. Conduct regular check-ins and monitor progress

Schedule regular performance check-ins with the employee to monitor their PIP progress. Ideally, these meetings should happen weekly to keep the employee on track and assist them with any roadblocks.

6. Review the outcome

Once the PIP hits the deadline, review the PIP and determine how well the employee did by asking:

  • Did both you and the employee make a concerted effort to improve performance?
  • Did the employee hit all required targets?
  • Were there any issues with hitting these targets? If so, are there explainable reasons why not?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then the PIP can be closed. The worker can continue their employment so long as they continue to meet their role expectations.
However, if the answer to these questions is no, close the PIP and continue with the next steps. This may include a PIP extension, reassignment, demotion, a last-chance agreement, or termination. If you extend the deadline of the PIP, be sure it’s because the employee demonstrated their commitment to improving their performance or because the goals were too unrealistic upon review.

Alternatives to a PIP

Sometimes PIPs are not always the answer to all performance-related issues. Jennifer Preston, Senior HR consultant with Flex HR, even notes some drawbacks with PIPs, such as increasing tensions between managers and employees or creating divisiveness.

Before implementing a PIP, it’s always best to try the following strategies to motivate employees and improve workplace performance:

  • Outside training courses: These courses can be beneficial if you lack in-house training, or your employee needs a new, safe environment to practice their skills.
  • Mentorship programs: Consider pairing your employee with an internal mentor to troubleshoot problems in real-time.
  • Continuous feedback cycles: These cycles give employees immediate feedback so that they can fix any performance issues early, before formal performance reviews.

Contact Flex HR today.