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How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) [Sample Template]

The concept of a performance improvement plan (PIP) is often associated with bad performance and disciplinary action. But with the right approach, it can be a stepping stone towards better performance and a more harmonious workplace.

Here’s a simple guide and a sample template to help you create an effective PIP.

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What is a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a formal document outlining any existing performance deficiencies, along with clear expectations and steps for improvement that an employee is expected to follow.

Typically used as a tool to facilitate communication between an employee and their manager, a PIP delineates specific areas where an employee falls short, provides actionable feedback, and establishes measurable goals for improvement within a given timeframe.

It is beneficial both for employees, who gain clarity on job expectations, and employers, who create a paper trail protecting them in case of potential legal disputes regarding termination.

What is the purpose of a Performance Improvement Plan?

The Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) primarily serves the purpose of fostering open dialogue between an employee and the management. It aims to clearly identify areas of concern and collaboratively establish strategies for improvement.

The PIP is designed to support employees in meeting their job expectations and enhance their skills and performance. By setting clear, measurable goals and providing regular feedback, the PIP creates a structured pathway for improvement and professional development.

This process not only aids the individual employee but also contributes to the overall productivity and success of the organization.

Is a PIP a step towards termination?

While it’s a common misconception that a Performance Improvement Plan is a precursor to termination, this is not always the case.

The primary objective of a PIP is to aid an employee in improving their performance and meeting their job expectations. It provides a structured framework to identify performance gaps and address them with appropriate solutions, thereby fostering better job performance.

However, if the outlined goals are not achieved within the specified time, an employer may consider termination. Thus, while a PIP can be a step towards termination, it is not its inherent or sole purpose. It is primarily a tool for performance enhancement and professional development.

How are the goals in a PIP determined?

The goals in a Performance Improvement Plan are determined through a comprehensive evaluation of the employee’s job performance and responsibilities.

First, the manager identifies areas where the employee’s performance is not meeting expectations or standards. These areas become the focal point of the PIP. The goals are then formulated in such a way that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

In essence, they should directly address the identified performance gaps, and be realistic and achievable within the specified timeframe.

Regular check-ins and progress evaluations are fundamental components of this process, ensuring that the employee is on track to meet these goals and that the plan is effectively fostering improvement.

Are PIPs confidential? Who within the organization has access to them?

Performance Improvement Plans are typically treated as confidential documents within an organization. The access to them is usually limited to the employee under the PIP, their manager, and the HR department.

This confidentiality is crucial to maintain employee privacy, respect, and trust, as well as to ensure that the focus remains on performance enhancement.

However, in some cases, depending on the company’s policy, a higher-level manager or executive may also have access if necessary for decision-making or to address escalated concerns. But in general, PIPs are not made openly available to all employees in the organization.

How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan

Step 1: Identify the Performance Issues

The first step in writing a Performance Improvement Plan is identifying the areas where the employee’s performance is lacking or not up to the company’s standards. This should be done through a fair and comprehensive evaluation of the employee’s job responsibilities and performance.

Step 2: Set Clear and Measurable Goals

The next step is to establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that address the identified performance gaps. These goals should be realistic, directly related to the areas of concern, and achievable within a predetermined time frame.

Step 3: Develop an Action Plan

Once the goals are set, develop a detailed action plan outlining how these goals will be achieved. This could include training, coaching, mentoring or other resources necessary for the employee to improve in the identified areas.

Step 4: Establish Check-Ins and Evaluation Criteria

It is crucial to have regular check-ins and progress evaluations to monitor the employee’s progress towards the set goals. The criteria for evaluating progress should be clearly defined and communicated to the employee.

Step 5: Document and Communicate the PIP

The final step is to document the Performance Improvement Plan and communicate it to the employee. The employee should be given a chance to ask questions and clarify any uncertainties. The PIP should be treated as a confidential document, accessible only to relevant personnel.

Performance Improvement Plan Sample

Employee Information:

Name: [Employee’s name]

Position: [Employee’s current position]

Department: [Employee’s department]

Performance Assessment:

Identified Area of Performance Gap: [Specify the area where the employee’s performance is not meeting expectations or standards.]

Performance Improvement Objectives:

Objective 1: [Insert a specific objective for the employee to work towards.]

Objective 2: [Insert another specific objective for the employee to work towards.]

(Include as many objectives as necessary to address all identified performance gaps.)

Action Plan:

For each objective listed above, outline the specific steps that the employee should take to achieve it. Each action plan should be:

  • Specific: Clearly define what needs to be done.
  • Measurable: Include criteria to evaluate the progress.
  • Achievable: Make sure the employee has the necessary resources to achieve it.
  • Relevant: Ensure that it directly addresses the performance gap.
  • Time-bound: Set a deadline for when the objective should be met.

Support and Resources:

Outline what resources and support are available to the employee to help them achieve their objectives. This could include training programs, mentorship, or additional resources.

Monitoring and Evaluation:

Set regular check-in dates to assess progress and make adjustments to the plan if necessary.

Review Schedule:

A critical part of the performance improvement process is regular review and evaluation. This will help ensure the employee is making progress towards their objectives, and allow for adjustments to the plan if necessary.

  1. Initial Review: [Set a date for an initial review, typically 2-4 weeks after the plan has been implemented.]
  2. Ongoing Reviews: [Set dates for ongoing reviews, typically every 4-6 weeks.]
  3. Final Review: [Set a date for the final review, typically at the end of the performance improvement plan period, usually after 3 or 6 months.]

During each review, the employee’s progress will be evaluated against the objectives set in the plan. Feedback will be provided, and if necessary, adjustments to the plan will be made.


Employee Signature: ________________ Date: ________

Supervisor Signature: ________________ Date: ________

HR Representative Signature: ________________ Date: ________

The Bottom Line

This document outlines the comprehensive process of creating and implementing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). It emphasizes the importance of setting SMART goals that address specific performance gaps and providing the resources needed for achievement.

Regular monitoring and evaluation are key components, including a schedule for initial, ongoing, and final reviews to assess progress and adjust the plan as needed.

The process concludes with signatures from all parties involved, symbolizing their agreement and commitment to the plan’s implementation. The document demonstrates that the ultimate aim of a PIP is to enhance an employee’s performance and productivity.

Why wait to customize your HR ecosystem?

There’s no better time to explore the PeopleSpheres platform. Zero obligations.

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