Performance Improvement Plan: Contents and a Sample Form

See a Success Story in Performance Improvement—They Do Happen Frequently

••• Your Manager Wants You to Succeed on a PIP. Copyright Digital Vision / Getty Images

For those of you who believe that the staff person who needs a formal Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) will never succeed in your organization, here is a success story.

The newly promoted plant manager of a 150 person organization was failing miserably in the key deliverables his boss expected. Communication and performance improvement coaching did not appear to have an impact nor demonstrate that the manager was capable of improving. The manager's boss, the VP of manufacturing grew increasingly unhappy with the plant manager's performance.

A formal PIP was developed for the plant manager that cited eleven goals and their measures of success. A ninety-day time frame was provided as these goals were challenging and not short-term items to accomplish.

The manager was given a strong, supportive environment in which his supervisor's expectations for his success were a key factor. And guess what? He succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. All he had needed was serious direction about what he needed to do to succeed.

With the specific direction as laid out formally in the PIP, he had gathered his whole team, four supervisors and several members of his support staff, and shared the PIP with its eleven key goals. He asked for their help in reaching the goals so that he (and they) could succeed in the eyes of his boss. They did.

So, watching this process play out made everyone involved believers in the power of a well-planned, measurable PIP that is reinforced by positive and expressed measurable support and encouragement.

Performance Management: Performance Improvement Plan

The Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is designed to facilitate constructive discussion between a staff member and his or her supervisor and to clarify the exact work performance they must improve.

It is implemented, at the discretion of the manager, when it becomes necessary to help a staff member improve his or her performance. The manager, with input from the affected employee, develops an improvement plan; the purpose of the activities outlined is to help the employee to attain the desired level of performance.

The PIP differs from the Performance Development Planning (PDP) process in the amount and quantity of the detail. Assuming an employee is already participating in the company-wide PDP process, the format and the expectation of the PIP should enable the manager and staff member to communicate with a higher degree of clarity about specific expectations.

In general, people who are performing their jobs effectively, and meeting the expectations of the PDP process, will not need to participate in a PIP. It is the rare, underperforming employee, whose performance the manager believes can improve with assistance, who is the normal participant in the PIP.

In all cases, it is recommended that the manager's manager and the Human Resources department review the plan. This will ensure that employees experience consistent and fair treatment across the departments and across the company.

The manager will monitor and provide feedback to the employee regarding his or her performance on the PIP and may take additional disciplinary action, if warranted, through the organization's Progressive Discipline Process, if necessary.

The supervisor should review the following six items with the employee when using the document.

  1. State the exact performance that must be improved; be specific and cite examples.
  2. State the level of the work performance expectation and that it must be performed on a consistent basis.
  3. Identify and specify the support and resources that you will provide to assist the employee to succeed.
  4. Communicate your plan for providing feedback to the employee. Specify meeting times, with whom and how often. Specify the measurements you will consider in evaluating the employee's progress.
  5. Specify possible consequences if the performance standards you are establishing in the document are not met.
  1. Provide sources of additional information such as the Employee Handbook and anything else you believe will assist the employee to improve his or her performance.

Now that you are formally committed to helping your staff member improve his or her performance, please use the form that follows to document this commitment.

Performance Improvement Plan Form

Employee Name:




Performance in need of improvement: (List the goals and activities the employee will initiate to improve performance. Include skill development and changes needed to meet work performance expectations.)

The targeted date for improvement.

Expected results: list measurements, where possible.

Dates to review progress by the employee and supervisor.

Progress at review dates.

Employee Signature:_____________________________________________


Supervisor Signature:_____________________________________________



The formal performance improvement plan will not help every employee meet performance expectations every time that you use the process. But, if your organization approaches the tool properly, as a tool to help an employee succeed, you will have successes. 

Refuse to think about the PIP as the first step in an employee leaving your employment. If you are convinced your employee will fail on the PIP, why would you write one at all? Just terminate the person's employment. It saves a lot of misery and anxiety all around and along the way. Use the PIP when you sincerely believe that the employee is capable of improvement.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.