The reason some employees fail to live up to our expectations is often unclear. Poor performance may relate to general disengagement, personal issues outside of work, lack of proper training, and the list goes on and on.
The truth of the matter is that we can only understand employee behavior through dialogue. And we can only improve employee performance by making our expectations clear and ensuring that employees have the appropriate resources to meet those expectations.
To help you provide your employees with a fair and structured opportunity to be successful, we suggest following these four steps to create a performance improvement plan. The following has been adapted from a how-to guide published by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Document performance issues
Before anything, document areas in the employee’s performance that need improvement. Stick to the facts, remain emotionally neutral, and use as many examples as possible.
If, for example, your employee has a habit of calling off work, you might document your concerns like this:
Employee has developed a pattern of missing work on Fridays and Mondays. Currently, the employee has five unexcused absences and has already used all paid time off. In addition to these absences, employee has been tardy to work five times since _____. I have given the employee two warnings since______. Please review the attached sheet for more detailed information about the employee’s attendance.
Develop an Action Plan
After documenting the performance issues, establish an action plan that includes “specific and measurable objectives.” Additionally, consider whether or not the employee needs:
- Additional resources
- Training or coaching
As you draft your performance improvement plan, keep in mind that it is not enough to write, “Joe Smith must produce necessary units and submit them to supervisor on time.”
Instead, say something like, “In January, February and March, Joe Smith must produce at least 150 units that have no more than three percent quality errors per month.”
Review performance plan
Before you present the performance improvement plan to the employee, meet with someone from HR for approval.
Meet with employee and follow up
Now you’re ready to present your performance improvement plan to the employee. In addition to discussing objectives, you will want to set up a series of follow-up meetings. Meeting regularly will help you track the employee’s progress and give him/her the opportunity to ask questions, receive clarification and coaching, if necessary.
There may be extenuating circumstances that interfere with an employee’s ability to meet your expectations. For example, an employee may meet all of objectives except one—or you may determine that your expectations were unrealistic given the time frame you set up. If this is the case, you may choose to offer a week or month-long extension of the performance improvement plan.