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Creating a Performance Improvement Plan

April 26, 2020

A Brief Guide for HR Professionals

Developing a performance improvement plan, or PIP, can be challenging for all parties involved. Neither the supervisor, the employee being put on the plan or the human resources (HR) professional in charge of implementing the plan is pleased to have reached the point of requiring one. Ideally, however, a PIP should be looked at as an opportunity. It’s a way for an employee and his/her supervisor to align themselves and work through any misunderstandings in performance and expectations. It also gives the employee a chance to improve skills and productivity, while allowing the supervisor a chance to clearly communicate the expectations from a management perspective.


If successful, a performance improvement plan can lead to greater outcomes for everyone involved. Not only will the employee be better aligned with their company’s goals, but the company and HR department will be spared the loss of a valuable employee and the cost of having to begin the hiring process all over again.
So how do PIPs work? When and how are they implemented? And what is HR’s responsibility in the process? Below, we’ve provided an overview of how to develop an effective PIP and some tips to give HR professionals confidence in the process.

Establishing Guidelines

The first step in creating a performance improvement plan is to collect all the information necessary from the employee’s supervisor. This involves a detailed outline of why and how the employee is missing the mark in his/her performance. HR should obtain an in-depth history of the employee’s job performance that explains where he/she is not meeting expectations, along with a description of their job’s expectations and, most importantly, a strategy from the supervisor suggesting how the employee can improve and succeed moving forward. Once this information has been delivered to HR, a timeline for the PIP can be set, along with the consequences that will ensue if performance does not improve. From there, all parties—HR, the supervisor and the employee—can sign the agreement and move forward in hopes of improvement.1

Seeing It Through

It’s one thing to identify that a performance improvement plan is necessary and set one up; it’s another thing to take the steps to actually put it into action. Once a PIP has been established and is in place, it’s critical to the success of the employee to have the supervisor and HR professional regularly check in and monitor their progress.1 Ideally, in the creation of the PIP, concrete goals and the necessary tools for reaching them are established for the employee. This will allow the employee and supervisor to meet frequently to check in on their progress and see if the goals are being met. Keeping an open line of communication and expressing any difficulties being faced throughout the PIP timeline is vital to a successful finish.

Assessing the Outcome

At the conclusion of the performance improvement plan, it’s up to the supervisor to determine if the employee was able to meet the expectations established at its onset. If not, the supervisor can work with HR to determine what the appropriate next steps would be. However, if the employee met expectations and their work improved as a result of the PIP, then the business, along with everyone involved, will be better off for having gone through the process.

For HR professionals facing PIPs and other tough situations, having a detailed understanding of the legality surrounding these actions is a huge benefit to the company. To learn more about gaining a legal backing for your human resources skills, check out the the online Master of Jurisprudence in Labor & Employment Law (MJ-LEL) from Tulane University.