Preparing a Performance Improvement Plan

One of the biggest challenges for new supervisors is to understand and develop a performance improvement plan for an underperforming employee.


The first question that must be answered before doing anything is to ask if the poor performance is can’t or won’t!

If the employee is able to perform a task but simply isn’t doing it, then the answer may be won’t!

But don’t act to fast! Many factors could come into play that were not originally there.

In other words just because the employee performed the task in the past does not necessarily mean that they are refusing to perform it now. Age may be a factor!

Perhaps there was a long period between the time they performed it the first time and now! Maybe the employee has had something happen in their life that has affected their concentration! Maybe they are trying to do too much and are feeling rushed to do more resulting in poor performance!

In other words try to get to the root of the problem. Don’t jump to conclusions!

On the other hand if the answer to the above question is can’t then a performance improvement plan is a good solution.

Prior to developing the performance improvement plan you need to do some fact checking. What is the current performance, versus what is the desired performance? It does no good to just say I want the employee to do better!

So as a simple example let’s say the employee is making widgets. The normal or standard amount of widgets that you expect the employee to produce daily is ten, but they are only producing seven. In fact they have never produced more than seven since you implemented a change in procedure more than two months ago. Everyone else in the shop, thirteen employees, are all producing ten widgets since the change was implemented. Everyone received the exact same training. You have worked closely with the underperforming employee but have not had any luck.

The purpose of the performance improvement plan is obviously a means to help improve the employee’s performance. However, it should also be a means to bring an end to the poor performance by either improving the performance or by removing the employee from that position. This could ultimately mean termination.

Therefore, the performance improvement plan should include;

Clearly state the current performance.

Clearly state the desired performance.

Clearly state what steps need to be accomplished and specific dates to do so. This could include training, daily/weekly meetings with you. etc.

One clearly defined deadline to improve to minimum acceptable standard and the consequences if that is not met.

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