5 Must Dos in a Performance Improvement Plan

A manager’s job is a lot more uncomfortable than creating a performance improvement plan with an employee. On one hand, the employee may feel the pain, while the manager must deliver hard truths. They may be uncomfortable, but you cannot get away from these when performance is lacking. If an employee is failing to meet expectations, misrepresenting core values, or displaying inconsistent performance over time, steps have to be taken.

It’s essential that the employee understands they have an opportunity to improve. Avoid making employees feel like they’re being laid off, rather, emphasize their opportunity for growth. They need to know what must be improved and when. Make it clear that they are ultimately accountable for their improvement, but they have your support and resources.

Here are five tips you can follow to enable performance improvement in an employee:

  1. Being Specific and Keeping it Objective

Clearly specify exactly why the employee’s productivity and/or behaviour isn’t up to par. Bring examples of what good performance looks like, maybe even reminding them of their own good performances in the past. Prepared yourself with answers to questions regarding why the performance does not match expectations.

  1. Plan and Align

Create mutually comfortable expectations with each other. When employees agree and understand the intention, they shall buy in and are likely to take on these challenges head-on. Provide clarity by designing SMART goals that you and the employee feel address the current problem. With clear, outlined steps, employees get crystal-clear visibility.

  1. Accept the possible outcomes

Will the employee be let go? Will they be transferred to another department? Forced IJP? What will happen if their performance gets better? The employee should be aware of all possible results.

Don’t scare your employees but be honest. Outline positive and negative possible outcomes. Not only will this give transparency, but it shall motivate improvement.

  1. Follow up regularly

Have regular check-ins, regardless of their performance. But when performance is not improving, these conversations are even more critical. Suggest checking in with the employee twice a week to monitor progress and discuss what’s working and what’s not. Always coach, rather than manage your employees’ performance. Employees should have control over their productivity and performance, while your job is only to motivate them.

  1. Document everything, especially conversations

It’s easy to forget what was discussed and when, so make sure your conversations are detailed in a central location that both of you can access. This makes your expectations concrete and clear and enables both parties to reflect on and track progress according to the discussion. Any possible miscommunication or forgotten details are minimized with an effective one-on-one tool.

Some more points to consider:

The conversation is still probably going to be uncomfortable, but these tips should make the meeting a little easier and lessen the awkwardness.

  • Don’t read off a script. Allow for personalisation, flexibility, and authenticity, and make them comfortable
  • Be Upfront
  • When a calendar is sent, be careful of your language.
  • Make things clear about performance being non-satisfactory
  • Don’t surprise them
  • Give them time to prepare for the conversation
  • Let them have a voice too and allow them to share
  • They may have outside factors that you may not be aware of
  • Make this a two-way discussion, not a lecture where the employee feels threatened
  • The meeting’s location is significant
  • Don’t make your conversations public
  • If the conversation is held online, ensure neither of you is in an open office
  • Check in the following day to ensure both of you are on the same page
  • Ensure that the employee has the right resources to tackle their challenges

These conversations may be difficult, but they are necessary for the success of your employees and the health of your organization. Develop top talent with the right approach to your performance improvement plan conversations.

Aditya Chakravarty, HR Leader

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