Implement Performance Improvement Plans

Help managers get employee performance back on track.


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Your Challenge

Managers often resist putting performance improvement plans (PIPs) in place. Improvement plans can seem like a lot of work for not much gain. Termination often seems like an easier option.

Avoiding performance improvement plans, or implementing them poorly, exposes the organization to financial, litigation, and reputational risk. Furthermore, a McLean & Company survey found that almost 3 out of 4 PIPs have a positive outcome.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • A timely PIP can not only improve employee performance at the time, but can also create sustained employee development over time.
  • Employee motivation is key to the success of a PIP. However, success also hinges on the manager’s attitude. Managers who want employees to succeed are more likely to support them with relevant and timely feedback.

Impact and Result

  • Use McLean & Company’s performance improvement process to implement PIPs fairly and consistently, mitigate the risks associated with poor employee performance, and foster employee engagement.
  • The project blueprint will help HR leaders:
    • Make a compelling case for the effectiveness of PIPs.
    • Recognize when PIPs are appropriate.
    • Develop and implement a PIP.
    • Guide managers and employees through the coaching process.


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.

Want to Participate in Our Research?

  • Analyst Interviews: Share your best practices, opinions, tools or templates with your peers.
  • Webinars: Interactive session to keep us focused on topics you want to tackle.
  • Upcoming Workshops: Accelerate your project with an onsite, expert analyst to facilitate a workshop for you. Contact us for more details.

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Get to Action

  1. Make the case for implementing a performance improvement plan

    Understand the organizational impact of performance improvement programs.

  2. Assess whether to put in place a performance improvement plan

    Think carefully before implementing a PIP.

  3. Train managers to develop and implement a performance improvement plan

    Design performance improvement plans that meet organizational goals.

  4. Train managers to coach employees to improve their performance

    Provide managers with coaching basics to address employee performance shortfalls.

  5. Prepare managers to assess whether the employee’s performance improved

    Help managers prepare for the task of assessing whether the performance of the employee has improved.

Guided Implementation icon Guided Implementation

This guided implementation is a five call advisory process.

    Guided Implementation #1 - Review the case for PIPs, and help train managers to weigh their options

  • Call #1: Make the case for implementing a performance improvement program

  • Call #2: Train managers to weigh their options

  • Guided Implementation #2 - Review the design of the performance improvement program

  • Call #1: Train managers to develop and deploy PIPs

  • Call #2: Train managers to coach employees on PIPs

  • Call #3: Prepare managers to assess performance

Onsite Workshop

Module 1: Current State Assessment

The Purpose

  •  Make the case for implementing a performance improvement program.
  • Train managers to weigh their options when considering implementing a performance improvement plan.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Identify key messages to make the case for a performance improvement program.
  • Identify key metrics to measure the impact of PIPs on your organization.
  • A decision process to help managers weigh their options when considering implementing a performance improvement plan.

Activities: Outputs:
1.1 Identify the impact of poor performance on your organization.
  • Engage managers with the reasons that motivate the implementation of a performance improvement program.
  • Explore the challenges and successes of managers around poor performance in your organization.
1.2 Identify metrics to track the impact of your performance improvement program.
  • A set of metrics to track the impact of the project on your organization.
1.3 Compare the cost of a performance improvement program with the cost of termination.
  • A comparison of the costs of implementing a PIP with the cost of terminating the employee.
1.4 Prune the PIP decision tree to tailor the procedure to your organization.
  • A performance improvement decision process adapted to the needs of your organization.
1.5 Develop a policy to assess the severity of a performance shortfall.
  • A policy to help managers determine the severity of the performance shortfall of an employee.

Module 2: Design a Performance Improvement Program

The Purpose

  • Train managers to develop and deploy PIPs.
  • Train managers to coach employees through the PIP process.
  • Prepare managers to assess the performance of employees at the end of the PIP process.

Key Benefits Achieved

This module will help HR leaders:

  • Guide managers as they develop, implement, and document PIPs.
  • Guide managers as they coach employees through the PIP process.

Activities: Outputs:
2.1 Adapt the Performance Improvement Plan Template to the needs of your organization.
  • A performance improvement plan document adapted to the needs of your organization.
2.2 Train managers to identify SMART goals that might work in the context of a PIP.
  • Practice developing relevant, realistic goals to address performance shortfalls.
2.3 Help managers identify potential next steps.
  • A progressive discipline policy tailored to the needs of your organization.

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Onsite Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn’t enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our Project Workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a road map in place to complete your project successfully.

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