How to Write A Performance Action Plan

How to Write A Performance Action Plan

A performance action plan or performance improvement plan Is a detailed document, which holds information about the areas an employee is backsliding or needs to improve on. It helps struggling employees meet goals that have been assigned to them. A performance improvement plan is also used to curb bad behaviors. It is often referred to as a probationary time for employees.


Some employees view this as a sign that the company might let the employee off soon. They are not wrong as a performance improvement plan is only issued when something is not done properly. On the other hand, for a company to take out time and resources to arrange an improvement plan for an employee, it means they still want to retain the employee. The truth is that a well-performing employee can suddenly start backsliding. It could be a result of personal or professional problems. The company will not just lay off an employee just because of a rainy day, forgetting all the employee has contributed to the growth of the organization.

The performance improvement plan will detail the skills or training the employee lacks. It is normally written by the employee’s manager or direct supervisor and submitted to the human resources department. A deadline is normally given to the employee to achieve the set targets in the performance plan. After which disciplinary action will be taken.

A performance improvement plan can also be written alongside the employee. The employee is the one wearing the shoe, he knows where it is pinching him. Listening to what the employee has to say about the cause of his sudden drop in performance, will help the management decide on how best to handle the situation. Even after the performance improvement plan has been crafted, the management should always review the employee’s performance to examine any sign of improvement. This is to ensure that the employees are adhering to the outlined plan.


When should management issue a performance improvement plan?

A performance improvement plan is usually set in place when an employee is backsliding or struggling to fit in or archive tasks or meet up with targeted goals. A good manager always tracks or monitors employees’ performance. Every company has key performance indicators which they assess their employees with. These performance indicators are reviewed monthly, quarterly or yearly. When the indicator consecutively shows that an employee’s performance is dropping, then there is a need for alarm. Something is going on. Increased disengagement from work or sudden habitual lateness is also a bad sign.

A performance improvement plan can be implemented in the following circumstances

  • During the probationary period of an employee
  • When an employee that has been performing well suddenly starts performing badly.
  • If an employee lags in a specific area
  • When an employee is going through personal problems that are affecting their performance at work

Whatever the case may be, a performance improvement plan should only be issued when there is a clear trend of poor performance and negative changes. The purpose of issuing a performance improvement plan is not to have a record of the employee’s poor performance so he can be laid off but as a means for employees to right their wrongs. The goal is to find a solution to the poor performance and increase the productivity of both the employee and the company. A performance improvement plan is not only issued for negative actions. It can also be issued to an employee that wants to move up in the company but lacks the understanding of ways to achieve it. It is also issued to an employee who would be a better fit for a different position.


The Benefits Of A Performance Improvement Plan

You might be wondering why employers go through the stress of drafting performance improvement plans when they can just fire the employee. It is popularly said that the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know. At least with the existing employee, the company has a track record of previous good performance and there is hope to revive whatever that is lost. But with a new employee, you are never sure what to expect. There are several advantages of crafting a performance improvement plan. Some of these benefits include:

Improves company culture

Performance improvement plans serve as a reminder to every employee that they must meet the expectations of the company or face disciplinary actions. Knowledge of this eliminates any form of bad attitude. It promotes employees’ sense of accountability and commitment. It serves as a signal for every employee to push harder. This is because when a performance improvement plan is given to one employee, other employees tend to sit up to avoid being in the same situation. This always motivates hard-working employees because they know that laziness is not left unsanctioned.

Minimizes staff turnover

Employers are familiar with the cost associated with firing and hiring new employees, so they try as much as possible to prevent it. Companies invest a lot of funds in interview processes. Some companies have up to 4 different recruitment stages. These processes consume both time and money. Instead of going through all these processes, companies prefer to aid current employees to improve their performance.

Better risk management

Laying off an employee can go two ways. It’s either it goes smoothly or badly. Legal norms are guiding every organization. An employee can claim that he was dismissed unfairly. Lawsuits are not always a good picture for any company. Whether the company wins or not, it leaves a mark on its image. A performance improvement plan is written proof that the company tried its best to help the employee improve or change.

Better than reviews

Regular performance reviews are rarely backed up with disciplinary actions. The fear of being sanctioned after doing something can prevent an individual from doing that particular thing. In addition to this, some individuals react poorly to verbal criticism or constructive feedback. A performance improvement plan provides an employee with the exact areas he is performing poorly and specifies the actions he has to take to rectify it.


How  To Write A Performance Improvement Plan

Know the right situation for a performance improvement plan

A manager needs to ascertain the proper time to write a performance improvement plan. For instance, an employee who just started working will probably make mistakes while trying to adjust and settle into the new environment. The employee should be given more time before writing an improvement plan for him. You can issue a performance improvement plan if (1)  the employee has already been given constructive feedback or performance review and has not improved (2) Coworkers have complained severally about the employee’s behavior (3) When an employee has repeatedly struggled to meet up a given goal.

State the problem and acceptable performance

Just identifying where an employee is backsliding is no good use, because even the employee himself already knows that he is backsliding. What the employee would be most interested in is how to perform better. The manager should describe the characteristics of acceptable performance. To make it easier for the employee to understand, the manager can use specific examples.

Create SMART goals

The smart (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) framework helps managers to carefully plan clear and traceable goals. It can be used to determine how success can be measured. When setting goals for an underperforming employee it needs to be clear and specific. Managers have to set achievable and relevant goals.

Ensure organizational support is made available

As stated earlier, the cause of the employee’s poor performance could be a result of some personal challenges. This could be range from health care issues, accommodation, or transportation problems. If the employee is of great value to the company they can decide to offer assistance to the employee. Even if the employee is not so great, the company should support him by any means available.

Set milestones

A manager should regularly follow up on an employee’s performance after issuing a performance improvement plan. There might be a need for the employee to receive clarification, ask questions, and request extra coaching. The manager can create a timetable or check-ins calendar to determine if employees are improving. The manager can also break down the objective into milestones, so the employee can see visible changes or improvements as he tries to achieve the general objectives. This significant change will motivate the employee to push harder since he can see his effort is not wasting.

Describe the consequences of continued poor performance

Even though the main idea of a performance improvement plan is not to dismiss an employee, you need to communicate the possibility of this happening if the set target is not met by the deadline given. The manager should clearly state the repercussions of continued poor performance, which include: loss of employee benefits such as bonuses and incentives, demotion and termination of employment.

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