- The manager or employer doesn’t know how to address the issues, or
- The issues are not clear cut, like having a negative or toxic employee.
What is a performance improvement plan?
A performance improvement plan is a formal written plan of action designed to help and support an employee get back on track with their role in the organisation. It is a different way of delivering a first warning, it’s not as confrontational to the employee as a warning, and usually has a significant impact in getting the employee on the right path. It can also be used to demonstrate that the employer provided formal feedback and an opportunity for the employee to improve.
What are some things that would lead an employer to resort to developing a performance improvement plan?
Often a plan comes into play after an employer has had informal discussions or provided informal feedback to an employee but there has been no change in behaviour or results. That said, the performance improvement plan might also be the first time the employee hears that there are areas for improvement.
Situations that lead to employers having to put their employees on plans can include:
- Not performing the role that they have been hired to do
- Not performing their role to an acceptable standard
- Unsatisfactory communication, behaviour and attitude towards their manager, colleagues and stakeholders
- Decreased productivity including not reaching KPIs and relevant targets
- Disengagement and disinterest in their role
- Consistent attendance and/or punctuality issues
How do you introduce a performance improvement plan to an employee?
Schedule a meeting with your employee. The manager should be prepared before booking the meeting with the employee, and be very clear on what the areas of concern are, and what improvements are required. I recommend a HR support person be present to help steer the conversation and make sure it stays on track.
What does a plan consist of?
The Manager should spend time drafting a written performance improvement plan that outlines:
- The area of concern
- Improvement required
- Details of how the improvement will be achieved
- Any tools or support being provided to help the employee achieve the improvements. This can be further training, mentoring, coaching or even software.
- Proposed dates to achievement improvements. You may think that changes need to be immediate, ongoing or there may be specific dates that need to be outlined.
- When meeting with the employee, the manager should also ask for the employee’s input on how they think they can improve and what things they need to make it happen. This may mean extra support, tools and training.
How can an employer start the conversation?
It’s really important that the discussion is framed correctly and that the manager’s tone is professional and understanding.
Ways that I recommend the conversation start includes:
“Thanks John for meeting with me today. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss some concerns I have about <insert behaviour/concern>. Today is aimed at talking about ways we can help you get back on track for the benefit of you and the business/team.”
Following this, the manager would provide the employee with an opportunity to respond to the concerns and listen to the employee’s responses to understand their perspective and reasoning.
The manager would present the draft performance improvement plan and work with the employee to agree on the content and actions to overcome the performance concerns. The timeframes for improvement must be fair and reasonable to allow the employee to achieve them.
Final advice for employers…
1. Be clear on expectations of staff and ensure that all staff know what is expected of them.
2. Stick to the facts. Document behaviours and patterns. Dates and all!
3. Be direct yet supportive and nurturing in your conversation with your employee. It is not about punishment it is ALL about getting your employee back on track.
4. Stick to committed weekly or fortnightly catch ups with your employee to keep it on the agenda and track improvements.
5. No positive changes? Get some HR advice on the next steps, including how to exit the employee from your business while complying with your employer obligations.
Remember that it costs time and money to recruit an employee, train them and have them working productively in your business. It is always better to try and maximise this investment and assist the employee getting back on track, rather than taking extreme action. That said, an employee who is not producing for you or contributing positively to your business needs to be managed – they will rarely make positive changes on their own without prompting. They need help, so you need to take action!
Contact us if you would like some support with your people management.