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Boosting Employee Performance: A Guide to Implementing Effective Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) in the Workplace

No one ever wants to hear they've been put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). It sounds pretty daunting, right? But, hold on a minute before you panic or start packing up your desk. While the term "Performance Improvement Plan" might initially strike fear into the hearts of many employees, it's not necessarily the career death sentence it’s often made out to be. In fact, with the right approach, it can be a golden opportunity for growth, learning, and yes, improvement.

Let’s break it down: a PIP is essentially a formal document your employer might use if certain aspects of your work aren’t up to snuff. It outlines where you’re going wrong and, more importantly, how you can make it right. Think of it as a roadmap laid out by your employer to help navigate your way back to top performance, complete with clear milestones and support to guide you along the way.

So, why not look at a PIP through a more positive lens? After all, it’s a sign that your employer believes in your potential and is willing to invest time and resources into helping you achieve it. With a clear set of goals, a bit of elbow grease, and the right mindset, you can turn a situation that feels like a setback into a stride towards success. Let’s dive into how Performance Improvement Plans work in the corporate world, and how you can make the most of them if you ever find yourself on one. 

Understanding Performance Improvement Plans

A Performance Improvement Plan is a formal document that identifies areas of an employee's job performance that are lacking and proposes specific steps to improve them. Typically, a PIP outlines:

  • The specific areas of job performance that require improvement.
  • Measurable goals for the employee to achieve within a set timeframe.
  • Resources and support available to the employee for meeting the PIP objectives.
  • A schedule for regular check-ins to discuss progress.

The Purpose of a PIP

The primary aim of a PIP is not disciplinary but developmental. It serves to clarify performance expectations, provide feedback, and support employees in their professional growth. From the employer's perspective, PIPs are a step towards ensuring consistency in performance standards and maintaining a productive work environment.

Implementing a PIP: Best Practices

  1. Specificity: Clearly define the performance gaps and the expected improvements. Vague descriptions can lead to confusion and demotivation.
  2. Support: Offer resources such as training sessions, mentoring, or more frequent feedback meetings to help the employee improve.
  3. Timeline: Set a realistic timeframe for achieving the goals outlined in the PIP, usually ranging from 30 to 90 days.
  4. Feedback: Provide regular, constructive feedback throughout the PIP process. This helps keep the employee motivated and on track.
  5. Documentation: Keep detailed records of all discussions, agreements, and progress related to the PIP. This documentation can be crucial for future reference.

Examples of when a PIP is needed

In the real world, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) come into play in a variety of scenarios, ranging from missing sales targets to poor teamwork or even failing to adhere to company policies. Here are a few examples to illustrate how PIPs can be effectively used and addressed:

Example 1: Missing Sales Targets

Scenario: An employee in the sales department has not met their quarterly sales targets for the last two quarters. The reasons identified include inadequate product knowledge and ineffective sales techniques.

PIP Action Plan:

  1. Training: The employee is enrolled in a comprehensive product training program to deepen their product knowledge.
  2. Mentorship: Pairing the employee with a high-performing sales mentor for personalized coaching on sales techniques.
  3. Progress Monitoring: Setting up bi-weekly review meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and strategies for improvement.
  4. Goal Setting: Establishing smaller, achievable sales targets to help the employee gain confidence and momentum.

Example 2: Poor Teamwork

Scenario: A project manager has received feedback about their poor collaboration and communication skills, which are affecting team morale and project outcomes.

PIP Action Plan:

  1. Communication Skills Workshop: Attending a workshop focused on effective communication, active listening, and empathy in the workplace.
  2. Team-Building Activities: Participating in team-building exercises designed to enhance trust and collaboration among team members.
  3. Feedback Sessions: Implementing regular feedback sessions with the team to open channels of communication and address any ongoing issues.
  4. Leadership Coaching: Working with a leadership coach to develop skills in leading and motivating teams effectively.

Example 3: Failing to Adhere to Company Policies

Scenario: An employee has consistently been late submitting reports, violating the company's policies on timely reporting and documentation.

PIP Action Plan:

  1. Time Management Training: The employee attends a workshop on time management and learns to use project management tools to organize their workload better.
  2. Regular Check-ins: Setting up weekly check-ins with a supervisor to monitor progress on report submissions and address any roadblocks.
  3. Clear Expectations: Reiterating the importance of adhering to company policies and the potential consequences of continued non-compliance.
  4. Support System: Offering access to a peer support system or mentor who can provide guidance and advice on maintaining discipline and adhering to deadlines.

In each of these examples, the key to addressing the issues laid out in the PIP is a combination of clear communication, setting achievable goals, providing the necessary resources and support, and regularly monitoring progress. The ultimate goal of a PIP is not to penalise but to guide the employee back to a path of success and high performance within the organisation.

How can Learn Amp help?

Delivering a performance improvement plan is never easy. It requires careful planning from the person who is delivering it and the person receiving it knows they need to start producing results.

A system like Learn Amp can help make it easy to first identify the need for a PIP with:

  • Objectives: Setting objectives makes it easy to see if someone is hitting their targets. Are they doing enough to flag that they're behind or their objective is at risk? Learn Amp allows them to do this
  • 1-to-1s: Regular discussions with managers make it easier to identify if someone is consistently not hitting the levels expected of them as well as giving the ability to provide guidance to the employee
  • Check-ins: Check-ins allow the learner to flag where they're not being as productive as they may expect so that you as a manager can help to get them unblocked.
  • Observation surveys: Gather feedback on the person from others to help create an actionable plan.
  • Learning data: See if the individual is seeking out content to help them to progress.
  • Skills: Understand how someone's skills are developing to see if they are on track to correct the challenges they're facing.

Learn Amp can also help with some of the interventions:

  • Content: Provide engaging content to help people to develop. Whether it is best practice guides or informative content.
  • Events: Run events that help people to upskill and apply their learnings to the workplace
  • Experts: Our personalised recommendations connect people to experts to help them to develop
  • Community: Community tools help people to flag up challenges they're having and collaborate with others to develop.


Performance Improvement Plans, when approached positively, can transform potential terminations into opportunities for growth and learning. They emphasize the value of investing in employees' development and aligning individual performance with the overall goals of the company. A well-implemented PIP not only aids in enhancing individual performance but also contributes to building a culture of continuous improvement and support within the workplace.