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Enhancing Performance Improvement Plans: Clarity, Conciseness, and Continuous Feedback

When employee coaching is not effective, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) serve as a crucial intervention for addressing underperformance, particularly with professional and managerial employees.  Essential to the effectiveness of a PIP is the manner in which it is crafted and executed. For a PIP to fulfill its purpose—facilitating improvement in employee performance and communicating last-chance expectations—it must be underpinned by clear, concise, and professional communication and an ongoing dialogue between the employee and their manager. Here, we delve into the importance of clarity and continuous feedback in the PIP process.


Crafting PIPs with Clarity and Precision


At its core, a PIP is a genuine opportunity for the employee to align their performance with the organization's expectations. A well-structured PIP should clearly delineate the performance discrepancies, drawing direct correlations with the job description and expectations for satisfactory performance. The focus should be on areas of concern as opposed to a list of individual tasks, and the tone and feel of the document should be consistent with the level of the employee’s position. For example, if a manager is habitually late or not at work during operating hours, the area of concern on a PIP would be an inability to demonstrate leadership or management because of a failure to provide direct support to employees and guests during operating hours (as opposed to a statement that says they have poor attendance). There should also be a clear, actionable plan for improvement that includes setting realistic and measurable goals, providing access to necessary resources or training, and establishing a timeline for achieving these objectives.  The employee may be asked to participate in the creation of the action plan.  Finally, the PIP should indicate that satisfactory performance is not a one-time goal; it must be sustained.  


A well-written PIP uses concise language throughout the document and is comprehensible and actionable. The PIP must fully convey the specifics of the employee's performance issues and the consequences of failing to address them. The PIP must articulate, in no uncertain terms, that failure to meet the outlined expectations will result in disciplinary actions, up to and including termination. This direct approach ensures that the employee is fully aware of the stakes and is provided with a fair opportunity to rectify their performance.


The Role of Regular Check-ins


Equally important to the PIP process is the establishment of regular check-ins between the employee and their manager.  It is imperative that managers make it a priority to show up for scheduled check-ins. These meetings are not just administrative tick-box exercises; they are the heart of the PIP process. They offer a platform for open dialogue, addressing concerns, and reinforcing the support structure that underpins the employee's journey towards improvement. When managers fail to prioritize these check-ins, it undermines the entire process. These sessions are not mere formalities but are critical for providing ongoing support and feedback. During these meetings, the manager should clearly communicate the areas in which the employee has shown improvement, as well as those where performance continues to fall short of expectations. This continuous feedback loop is vital for several reasons: 


1. Guidance and Support: It offers the employee ongoing guidance and support in their improvement efforts, helping them to focus their efforts more effectively.

2. Adjustment of Strategies: It allows for the adjustment of strategies or objectives as necessary, ensuring that the PIP remains relevant and achievable.

3. Transparency: It maintains a level of transparency in the evaluation process, leaving no room for surprises regarding the employee’s standing within the organization, ensuring that the outcome of the PIP process—whether termination or retention—is not a surprise to the employee. By keeping the employee informed about their progress, or lack thereof, managers can foster a transparent environment where employees are acutely aware of their standing. This predictability is crucial, as it allows employees to understand the potential consequences of their actions and the importance of their response to the PIP.


Managers must recognize that their engagement in the PIP process is critical. Managers can reinforce the importance of the PIP by making time for check-ins and approaching these interactions with the seriousness they warrant. This commitment not only supports the employee’s improvement journey but also cultivates a culture of respect, accountability, and mutual investment in growth and success.




In conclusion, the effectiveness of a Performance Improvement Plan is significantly enhanced by the clarity and conciseness of its language and the continuous feedback provided through regular check-ins. By ensuring that employees understand exactly what is expected of them and where they stand in relation to these expectations, organizations can navigate the delicate process of performance improvement with a greater degree of fairness and effectiveness. Ultimately, a well-executed PIP not only addresses immediate performance issues but also contributes to a culture of transparency and continuous development within the organization.  

If you would like to learn more about the best practices for managing employee Performance Improvement Plans, contact your THRM consultant or Edna Nakamoto.



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