When might you put an employee on a PIP (performance improvement plan)?

Posted: August 10, 2016

A PIP (performance improvement plan) is a specific list of objectives/goals/mile stones, along with expected due dates, that outlines specific expectations you have of an employee.  You might put an employee who is not meeting the expectations of his or her job, or not performing his or her job effectively, on a PIP after certain other actions to help assist the employee to improve have been unsuccessful.  The PIP is always in writing so the expectations are clear, and it can also provide a warning to the employee that his or her employment is in jeopardy.

The PIP should specify the job expectations that have not yet been met, or the job performance that needs to be improved.  It should briefly outline the other actions that have been taken, and indicate that this is being done to give the employee an opportunity to improve, despite the prior failures to do so.  The written PIP escalates the actions that have been taken previously and is intended to communicate to the employee a combination of the helpful coaching training communication one uses when initially correcting an employee, and the more serious disciplinary communication one uses when an employee’s job is on the line.

The PIP should specify activities that must be performed or goals that that should be achieved.  These should be measurable and specific, and include dates by when they are expected to be achieved, so that the employer and employee can agree on whether the activities were performed or the goals were achieved.  It should be drafted with the intention that the employee should be able to achieve the listed expectations in the time frame expected.  The PIP should also set forth the possible consequences to the employee of failing to improve.

During the relevant time frame of the PIP, the employer should provide periodic written feedback to the employee on whether the employee has made any progress toward meeting the job expectations or achieving the required performance levels.  In the best case scenario, a PIP can push an employee to take responsibility for his or her job performance and improve.  This benefits both the employee and employer.

If the employee fails to improve, and his or her employment is terminated, having a written PIP and documentation of any feedback and lack of progress can show evidence of the legitimate business reasons behind the termination decision.