July 17, 2022
20 min read

The Best Performance Improvement Plan (+Template)

Today, many firms and businesses strive to establish performance improvement programs with quantifiable objectives in order to help low-performing employees raise performance and thus achieve better results. 

Why is this important? Research shows that companies that implemented a continuous performance feedback framework were 39% better at enticing the best talents in the workforce and 44% better at retaining them (Betterworks, 2020).

If you'd love to learn more about a performance improvement plan and how you can implement the best template for your business or company, keep reading.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a performance improvement plan?
  2. How to know what to improve?
  3. Who should take care of the performance improvement plan?
  4. How should the performance improvement plan be developed?
  5. Performance improvement plan template
  6. Conclusion: How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan
  7. FAQs: Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

What is a performance improvement plan?

An employee Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a formal document that highlights employees' continuous performance deficiencies, including measurable steps to improve their overall performance to meet company expectations.

In simple terms, it is a way for employers or HR managers to identify underperforming employees and help them improve within a specific area.

Performance improvement plans can vary from organization to organization, and you may highlight specific areas for improvement based on the needs of a specific position. For example, the improvement plan might indicate what skills a group member needs to work on, what character traits they need to address, or what type of coaching they should receive.

The primary goal is to develop high-performing teams that are engaged and productive. This benefits both the company and its employees. Not only that it gives your employees a nudge in the right direction but also helps create a pleasant work environment that boosts overall productivity and visible results.

How to know what to improve?

If managers continuously engage with an employee or team member, they can quickly identify their strengths and weaknesses, thus, knowing where they need to work on.

For the purpose of this article, we will look at two major ways for managers to know what to improve.

1. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of employees

Managers can improve employee performance by identifying strengths and weaknesses. The following are some ways to do so 

  • Carry out competency-based reviews
  • Test their strengths and weaknesses
  • Provide feedback

Competency-based review

These reviews help managers understand how employees’ actions contribute to overall company goals. The impact can be either positive or negative and it provides the basis for understanding which skills employees excel at and which ones they must improve.  

There are different categories to observe in a competency-based review. You can check technical, leadership, core or general competencies. All of these fall into two main categories:

  1. Competencies that contribute to the company as a whole 
  2. Competencies that are tied to a specific role  

With these, you can implement a performance action plan to help employees note the additional skills they ought to develop to achieve measurable objectives.

Testing of employees' strengths and weaknesses

It's essential to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your employees and team members. Thankfully, there are several tools and resources that managers can use to identify where their team members excel and where they have performance issues. A famous example of such tools is the CliftonStrengths Online Assessment by Gallup.

It will help you maximize their strengths and harness their weaknesses for better performance.

Providing 360-degree feedback

It is a system through which an employee anonymously receives thorough feedback from employers, superiors, subordinates and colleagues. It enables both the employee and the company to note areas of poor performance and focus on steps to put the employee on the right track within a specified period.

Tools like Effy make it easier for you to automate this process and seamlessly get 360 feedback and appraisal.

What makes a good performance improvement plan?

2. Employee engagement

It is important to gather employee feedback in addition to hearing their thoughts and impressions. This can help you understand how people perceive their jobs and the company as a whole. 

There are several ways to collect employee feedback, including online surveys, surveys, one-on-one meetings, and regular check-ins. 

A thriving workplace demands a great deal of work and effort. In Gallup's scheme, the 12 elements are grouped into four sets, depending on the employees' performance needs. 

  • Basic needs (Q01-Q02)
  • Personal needs (Q03-Q06)
  • Teamwork needs (Q07-Q10)
  • Growth needs (Q11-Q12)

The 12 elements of an engaged workplace according to Gallup are as follows:

  1. Q01: I know what is expected of me at work
  2. Q02: I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right
  3. Q03: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
  4. Q04: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  5. Q05: My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
  6. Q06: There is someone at work who encourages my development
  7. Q07: At work, my opinions seem to count
  8. Q08: The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important
  9. Q09: My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
  10. Q10: I have a best friend at work
  11. Q11: In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
  12. Q12: This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

With these, you can know how employees feel and what you need to do to ensure a suitable work environment that encourages productivity and high performance.

Therefore, it is vital to have a system in place that can help you engage your employees and receive helpful feedback from them.

Who should take care of the performance improvement plan?

An effective development plan requires input from both the employer and the employee. By including the employee in the decision-making process, the employer gains a better understanding of how to best assist the employee in improving. 

Depending on the company, two individuals are responsible for taking care of the development plan, they are:

  1. Manager or team lead
  2. HR team or department


This could be the direct team lead, supervisor or head of a unit. 

Today, managerial duties go beyond administrative work and budgeting. Managers must be excellent coaches who can inspire and motivate employees to continue learning. 

As coaches, they ought to learn how to conduct coaching conversations with their subordinates. The popular Gallup Coaching Conversations guide highlights a framework that managers can use to achieve this. Managers can have these conversations by 

  • Establishing expectations with their team members
  • Continually coaching their team by staying connected with them and checking in on them
  • Creating accountability systems to monitor the progress of their team

When you motivate people to be better rather than simply instructing them what to do, you are guaranteed to see better results in their performance review. You also become more mindful about how you undertake your obligations, because you must be competent at fulfilling your duties before you inspire others. 

Managers should ensure compliance with the performance development plan. This also means including disciplinary action when an employee fails to achieve specific goals within the stipulated time frame, as stated in the development plan and job description.

It is not a one-off thing, so there is a need for both the manager and the employee to discuss performance issues continuously to ensure positive results and improvement in performance.

HR department

The HR team can develop a template for effective coaching and provide guidance to the managers and employees where necessary. They can also support managers to implement some of the already established coaching templates.

Thanks to their expertise, HR managers usually make great coaches, so they can help both the employees and managers with career growth. 

Thankfully, tools like Effy can help develop performance improvement plan templates for your employees, and you can also hold one-on-one sessions with employees with the tool.

How should the performance improvement plan be developed?

Before coming up with a development plan, discuss with your employee what to include in it and how to go about it the right way.

The steps below highlight how to develop a performance improvement plan for your employee.

1. Prepare conclusions about strengths and weaknesses

Both the manager and the employee need to take part in coming up with a performance development plan.

Based on the feedback gotten from previous reviews, the manager and the employee can prepare their individual conclusion about the strengths and weaknesses of the employee. They can have one-on-one meetings where they discuss their conclusions and review them together to know the way forward. 

This way, both parties can be accountable and involved in achieving the common goal.

2. Discuss plans

After going through their conclusions, the manager and employee can now discuss how they can both come up with the developmental plan. 

This is where they both discuss the career plans of the employee and how they expect to achieve them. Also, if employees think certain tools or training are necessary, this is where they let their managers know.

The manager can outline additional training and helpful resources to help employees improve their results.

These discussions help both the employee and manager synchronize and clarify their expectations to avoid confusion later on.

This will be the basis for the performance improvement plan and subsequent discussion with the employee.

3. Set clear goals 

The next step is to set clear goals and objectives for the performance action plan. Here, you outline what you expect from the team member and how they can achieve this.

A team member also informs you about what they want from you in order to improve. These objectives should take the employee's strengths into account, their personal development plans, and the objectives of the company or team, in order to succeed. 

Having clear goals gives you a distinct idea of what to expect from the employee and serves as a guideline to monitor their progress, and vice versa. Your goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

You can break the goals into smaller milestones to not overwhelm your employee. Also, ensure that you document everything accurately for future reference. If possible, you can use HR software that will be accessible by both you and the employee.

Effective Performance Improvement Plan

4. Draw up a plan

After setting clear goals, both the manager and the employee can now draw up the performance improvement plan which will include

  • Strengths and weaknesses of the employee
  • Expectations from the employee and manager
  • Goals for both the employee and manager
  • Helpful training or resources to help achieve goals
  • Duration of the plan
  • Possible disciplinary action plan for non compliance
5. Set up a follow-up schedule to monitor progress

Frequent check-ins and performance reviews are recommended to monitor their progress and compliance with the agreement of the action plan, as well as to better support the employee during the duration of their improvement plan. 

It also allows you to support and mentor them where necessary to achieve their objectives. With Effy, you can check in on your employee and give them feedback in real-time, seamlessly.

How do you evaluate a performance improvement plan?

Performance improvement plan template

With the help of HR management tools or software, anyone can quickly develop a template. They make it easy for you to implement your action plan seamlessly without wasting so much time.

How to use performance improvement plan templates (PIPs)?

Our template as seen in the picture above is well detailed and concise. We arrived at our improvement plan structure based on the experience of thousands of our clients who have used our tool successfully to achieve results in their teams and companies. This means our tool is tested and trusted to yield positive results.

The Effy performance improvement plan covers

  • Top strengths of the employee: This is where the manager outlines the top strengths of the employee based on previous reviews and discussions with the employee.
  • Areas to improve: Here, the manager outlines areas of performance deficiencies and what the employee can do to improve
  • General summary: The manager gives their general feedback here and also outlines the goals and expectations of the plan, based on their discussion with the employee.
  • Development/improvement plan: This is where the manager outlines the main plan, including helpful resources and the duration of the plan.
  • Action items: This outlines the actionable steps the employee and the manager will take to achieve their common goal

The Effy software is an all-in-one customizable HRM software for IT companies that can help you to

  • Monitor the performance of your team
  • Carry out surveys and 360 reviews
  • Hold one-on-one meetings or team meetings
  • Translate data into actionable insights
  • Develop clear goals and development plans
  • Organize and manage your employee profile and data
  • Simply leave management

Effy supports third-party tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Telegram, and it can also help you track projects, teams, and skills.

With our tool, both the manager and the employee can access the tool to monitor the plan's progress.

If you want to know more about Effy's works, you can log in to the web-app or request a demo.

Conclusion: How to Write a Performance Improvement Plan

It is one thing to plan, and it is another thing to execute your plans through the appropriate channels. We have carefully explained all you need to know about a performance improvement plan and how to develop one for your business.

Having a development action plan helps you keep your employees in check. It doesn't just end at planning; you also need to leverage a tool that makes it easy for you to frequently review the plans, analyze the data, monitor your employee's progress, and improve the plan when needed.

The Effy software is a reliable tool you can use to improve the performance of your team to achieve positive results. Our performance improvement template highlights the major areas of a performance improvement plan and it has been used by thousands of clients to yield visible results for their businesses.

You can book a consultation with one of our product experts to get a personalized demo and learn more about how the Effy software can solve the HR needs of your company.

Sign up on Effy for free to take your HR management to the next level.

FAQs: Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

1. Is termination the goal of a performance improvement plan (PIP)?

The short answer to this question is no.

Receiving a PIP from your team lead, manager or HR team doesn't necessarily mean they want to end your contract. Employers develop performance improvement plans for underperforming employees who are not meeting the organization's expectations, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they want to terminate cooperation.

If anything, it shows that your employers care about you enough to allow you to improve your performance, rather than just firing you without prior notification. It is up to you to make the best of it and prove yourself worthy of being retained.

2. What are the benefits of an employee performance improvement plan?

There are many benefits of having a performance improvement plan for your employees; some of them include:

  • Saves your business time, money and resources: If you already have a template and leverage the right tools, you can automate the process and save your business the time and cost of recruiting and training new staff.
  • Boosts productivity: It improves your employees' performance and makes them more productive because they have a clear path and measurable steps to achieve their objectives.
  • Promote a healthy work culture: When your employees know that you have their best interest at heart, it encourages them to do more and creates a healthy work environment for them to do their best.
  • Promotes personal development: One of the steps involved in drawing up a performance improvement plan includes specific training and resources that the employee can undergo for their individual and career growth. This promotes individual growth for employees and creates an avenue for managers to support employees.

3. How long should a performance improvement plan (PIP) last?

The duration varies depending on the situation and how long it may take to improve the issue. Generally, they usually last between 30 to 60 days and sometimes up to 90 days.

  • Top strengths- Research, strong vocabulary, clarity, meeting deadlines, grammar
  • Areas to improve- Attention to detail, willingness to revise drafts, conciseness,
  • General summary- Your writing is excellent; however, there are still areas you need to improve to achieve better results for the company and our clients.
  • Development plan- The goal of this plan is to improve your overall output as a writer for better results
  • Action plan- Read through our writing guidelines carefully before submitting drafts
  • Ensure to watch the provided videos to help you with tips on how to write clearly and concisely for your target audience
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