Implement Performance Improvement Plans

Get employee performance on track before it rides off the rails.

Your Challenge

  • Managers dread implementing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) because they think it’s a waste of time.  However, in a recent  McLean & Company survey, 68% of employees who were placed on a PIP were still with the organization. When a manager starts the PIP process with a positive attitude towards performance improvement, the PIP is more successful.
  • Poor performance can cost an organization more than just hard dollars. Poor performance negatively impacts employee engagement and productivity, as well as customers and other departments. Addressing poor performance through a timely PIP can minimize this impact.
  • Organizations risk discrimination and legal challenges when performance improvement efforts are seen as unfair and inconsistent. A consistently implemented process for fair and reasonable PIPs can provide solid supporting documentation should the organization face a legal challenge.  In fact, 69% of organizations felt that their legal risk was reduced or eliminated as a result of PIP implementation.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Managers must deal with poor performance before it begins to significantly affect other employees and the organization’s bottom line.
  • The PIP process isn’t about preparing for termination; PIPs are about improving performance so that an employee can make positive contributions to the organization.
  • Managers shouldn’t attempt to implement a PIP without HR or legal counsel. The process can become a mine field!
  • A negative attitude towards a PIP is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If the manager thinks the employee will fail, the employee will, because the manager is looking for documentation, not improvement. When a manager takes a positive approach with a motivated employee, both the employee and manager can win.

Impact and Result

Experience less grief in the process by:

  • Recognizing and avoiding the stumbling blocks in addressing performance issues through PIPs.
  • Understanding how different employee situations/profiles affect how the PIP should be approached.
  • Setting fair and reasonable performance expectations with a simple template for drafting the PIP.

Save time by:

  • Following guidelines when developing the PIP.
  • Addressing performance issues before they’ve wasted too much time.
  • Avoiding legal investigations through a well documented and fair process.

Save money by:

  • Avoiding costly legal battles with an understanding of the high level legal vulnerabilities associated with an ineffective PIP process.
  • Turning around an underperforming employee who is impacting other employees’ performance as well as customer experience.
  • Relating the PIP process to the risk tolerance of the organization.


Interviews were conducted with the following individuals:

  • Mike Capewell, Consultancy Manager, Dell Corporation, U.K.
  • Geoff Ramey, Director, HR, St. Andrew Goldfields Ltd
  • Linda Haft, HR Consultant, the HR Office, Inc
  • Jacque Rowden, Technology Program Manager, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
  • Martha McIver, VP HR, CBRE
  • Jeff Fowler, Quality Control, MOBIS Alabama LLC
  • Rene Melchers, Manager IM/IT, Brockville General Hospital
  • Two individuals have asked to remain anonymous due to sensitivity of information

A survey directed at HR professionals to better understand their experiences with using PIPs and the outcomes they realized attracted over 100 respondents.

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Get to Action

  1. See how a PIP fits into the overall performance management process and decide if it is the right course of action

    Improve performance of underperforming employees with a timely PIP implementation.

  2. Ensure the developed PIP won't create legal challenges

    Develop a fair and reasonable approach to improving employee performance with a well documented and reasonable PIP.

Talk to an Analyst

Our analyst calls are focused on helping our members use the research we produce, and our experts will guide you to successful project completion.

  • Book an Analyst Call on this topic. You can start as early as tomorrow morning. Our analysts will explain the process in your first call.
  • Get advice from a subject matter expert. Each call will focus on explaining the material and helping you to plan your project, interpret and analyze the results of each project step, and setting the direction for your next project step.

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