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How to create Performance Improvement Plan? Sample Examples and Templates

18 min read

performance improvement plan

Even the most talented individuals can find themselves in a rut, struggling to meet expectations and deliver results. This is where a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) comes into play.

An employee improvement plan is not a punitive measure; it’s a roadmap for growth and development. Are you still trying to understand how?

Don’t worry! This blog explains A-Z about PIP, so you are left with no doubt. Let’s read then.

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?  

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a way to allow underperforming employees to succeed while still holding them accountable for past performance. It involves input from managers, supervisors, employees, and HR.

PIP is a structured document companies use to help employees meet performance or KPIs. It aims to address performance issues when an employee falls short of expectations. Identify the gaps between an employee’s skills, performance, and job roles. And set assessment plans for improvement.

performance improvement plan components

The motive behind the implementation of PIP is to;

  • Assess skills: The PIP helps employees understand their skills and training gaps.
  • Take Actionable Steps: It outlines specific steps the employee needs to take to improve.
  • Implement SMART Goals: SMART implies specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives.

Note: Organizations should consider Performance Improvement Plans to allow employees to improve their performance before resorting to more severe measures like termination.

During the entire process, the HR’s role includes;

  • To determine if a PIP is appropriate for the situation.
  • To collaborate with managers to create an unbiased PIP.
  • To guide employees and managers throughout the process.
  • To monitor progress and ensure accountability.

The purpose of a Performance Improvement Plan  

purpose of performance improvement plan

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) serve vital functions within an organization, and their significance is undeniable:

  • Employee development: PIPs can be leveraged as a tool for employee development and efficiency. They can help identify areas where employees can expand their skills and acquire new capabilities, leading to personal and professional growth.
  • Defined expectations: PIPs establish unambiguous performance benchmarks for employees. When performance problems surface, providing clear direction on what needs improvement and how to achieve it is essential.
  • Opportunity for growth: PIPs allow employees to enhance their performance before facing more serious repercussions, like termination. They provide a structured framework to address performance planning and gaps.
  • Understanding the root causes: Organizations can delve deeper into the underlying reasons behind performance issues by implementing a PIP. It may reveal factors such as insufficient training, resource limitations, or personal challenges that require attention.
  • Legal safeguards: A well-documented PIP process demonstrates that the organization has made good-faith efforts to support employee success. However, it can be critical in employee disputes or legal challenges related to employee terminations.
  • Performance responsibility: PIPs hold employees accountable for their work performance, emphasizing that subpar performance is unacceptable. This accountability can motivate employees to take the necessary steps for improvement.
  • Enhanced communication: PIPs foster open communication between managers and employees regarding performance concerns. This two-way dialogue allows for clear expectations, identification of support needs, and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Improved performance outcomes: Effective PIPs aim to achieve demonstrably improved employee performance. By addressing shortcomings and providing a roadmap for improvement, PIPs can contribute to a more productive and successful workforce.

Benefits of a Performance Improvement Plan 

performance improvement plan benefits

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) goes beyond just addressing performance issues. It offers a valuable opportunity for both employees and the organization to thrive. But let’s investigate how PIPs contribute to a positive work environment:

  • Employee Motivation and Morale: PIPs shift the focus from punishment to development. Constructive feedback and clear goals empower employees to succeed and foster a positive, motivated workforce.
  • Reduced Turnover and Enhanced Retention: High turnover disrupts workflows and can be expensive. PIPs demonstrate the company’s commitment to employee development, which can help retain valuable talent. By addressing challenges and offering a path to improvement, PIPs encourage employees to invest in their future with the company.
  • Culture of Accountability and Efficiency: Clear expectations are crucial for a productive team. PIP helps establish these expectations and provides employees with the necessary guidance to fulfill their roles effectively. This approach fosters a culture of accountability where employees take ownership of their performance, leading to a more efficient and results-oriented work environment.
  • Structured Development Pathway: PIPs aren’t simply about fixing problems; they’re about growth. PIPs provide a clear roadmap for employees to develop their skills and knowledge by defining goals and opportunities for growth. Investment in employee development always strengthens the overall capabilities of the workforce.
  • Promoting Personal and Professional Growth: PIPs can catalyze professional development. Employees can unlock their potential through training, mentoring, and skill-building opportunities within the PIP framework and showcase their commitment to continuous improvement.

Overall, PIPs contribute to a supportive, pro-learning-centric company culture where employees feel valued, efficient, engaged, and successful workforce.

The pros and cons of performance improvement plans  

Can a stressful period with increased scrutiny and pressure to perform improve your morale or discourage you?

This might be a critical question to answer right away.

Therefore, before concluding, let’s analyze the Pros and Cons of PIP and understand it from the perspectives of both the employee and the employer.

Pros of PIPCons Of PIP
A PIP provides a structured process that reassures other employees. They know they will receive feedback, a fair process, support, and an opportunity to improve.Properly implementing a PIP usually requires a significant amount of effort.
PIP is preferable to involuntary termination without warning.PIPs can disrupt the regular workflow.
PIPs allow employees to take ownership of their performance and behavior. They can demonstrate commitment to improvement and address problem areas.Both managers and employees find PIP conversations uncomfortable during and after the process.
In some cases, an employee becomes a stronger performer after going through a PIP.PIPs may not always be successful.
With an authentic documented process for improvement, the risk of litigation decreases if an employee’s performance doesn’t improve, and termination becomes necessary.Once an employee is on a PIP, there’s a risk they interpret it as the first step toward inevitable termination or perceive feedback as antagonistic. In extreme cases, this can lead to toxicity, resignation, or extended sick leave.

Performance Improvement Plan Examples

Example 1: PIP: Copywriter (Performance Improvement Plan)

Situation: A copywriter at a marketing agency has consistently missed deadlines and produced content requiring more creativity and persuasiveness

Notice of Performance Improvement Plan:

  • Missed Deadlines: You missed deadlines on 3 of the last 5 projects. In the future, deadlines must be met consistently.
  • Content Quality: Recent client feedback has indicated a need for more creativity and persuasive language in your writing.

Performance Improvement Requirements:

  • Deadline Adherence: All future projects must be completed on time. A revised workflow will be implemented with clear milestones and check-ins.
  • Content Improvement: You will participate in a copywriting workshop focusing on creative storytelling and persuasive writing techniques.
  • Quality Assurance: Drafts will undergo a more rigorous review process to ensure content meets agency standards.

Support and Resources:

  • The copywriting workshop will be held on [Date] at [Time].
  • We encourage you to utilize the agency’s online resources and style guides.
  • Your supervisor is available for regular check-ins and feedback sessions.

Consequences of Non-Improvement: Failure to meet the outlined expectations may result in further disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Timeline: This PIP will be in effect for 60 days, with regular progress reviews scheduled.

Example 2: PIP: Product Marketer (Performance Improvement Plan) 

Situation: A product marketer at a software company has shown a lack of understanding of the target audience and consistently underperformed on lead generation goals. 

Notice of Performance Improvement Plan:

  • Target Audience Misunderstanding: Recent marketing campaigns have not resonated with the target audience, leading to low engagement and conversion rates.
  • Lead Generation Performance: Lead generation goals have been missed in the past 3 quarters.

Performance Improvement Requirements:

  • Target Audience Research: Conduct in-depth research to gain a deeper understanding of the target audience’s needs, pain points, and preferences.
  • Campaign Optimization: Revise current marketing campaigns based on audience research and best practices for lead generation.
  • Lead Generation Goals: Meet or exceed the established lead generation goals for the next quarter.

Support and Resources:

  • The marketing team will provide access to market research data and customer feedback reports.
  • You will be assigned a mentor within the product marketing team for guidance and support.
  • Training resources on lead generation strategies and campaign optimization will be made available.

Consequences of Non-Improvement: Failure to meet the outlined expectations may result in further disciplinary action, including termination.

Timeline: This PIP will be in effect for 90 days, with progress reviews scheduled every 30 days.

Tips to help create an effective performance improvement plan  

Creating an effective Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is essential for helping employees improve their performance and align with organizational goals.

Below are eight tips to help you create a PIP that works effectively:

  1. Encourage open dialogue and provide feedback that focuses on improvement and development.
  2. Customize the PIP to address the unique challenges and performance issues of the individual.
  3. Provide the necessary tools, training, or mentorship the employee might need to succeed.
  4. Set up regular check-ins to discuss progress and make necessary adjustments to the plan.
  5. Acknowledge and reward progress to motivate continued growth and development.
  6. Clearly communicate the reasons for the PIP and the consequences of not meeting the objectives.
  7. Be prepared to offer additional support if improvements are made or take further action if performance does not meet expectations.

What to avoid when writing a performance improvement plan? 

Here’s what to avoid while writing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), with examples:

  1. Lack of Documentation or Clear Goals:

Scenario: Suppose Rahul, a software developer, receives a PIP mentioning “needs improvement in coding skills.” However, the PIP lacks specific examples or instructions on how to measure improvement.

Clearly define the issue. In this case, specify areas in coding needing improvement (e.g., bug fixing accuracy, code maintainability). Mention quantifiable goals (e.g., reduce bugs by 40%).

  1. Unrealistic Expectations or Timelines:

Scenario: Suppose Priya, a sales representative in a high-pressure environment, is placed on a PIP requiring a 50% increase in sales within a month.

Set achievable goals based on past performance and market conditions. Consider a gradual increase (e.g., a 15% monthly increase).

  1. Ignoring Underlying Reasons:

Scenario: Suppose Sameer, a customer service representative, receives a PIP for low customer satisfaction scores. However, the company recently transitioned to a new CRM system on which Sameer hasn’t received proper training.

Investigate the root cause. If the issue is due to a lack of training or resources, provide necessary support before placing someone on a PIP.

  1. Unilateral Communication:

Scenario: During the PIP meeting, Ankita, a marketing manager, is presented with a pre-written plan with no room for discussion or feedback.

Make the PIP a collaborative effort. Discuss the plan with the employee, understand their perspective, and incorporate their suggestions for improvement.

  1. Lack of Support or Resources:

Scenario: The PIP mentions attending additional training sessions, which are held during work hours and clash with Ankita’s childcare responsibilities. The company offers no alternative solutions.

Provide the necessary resources and support for the employee to succeed. In Ankita’s case, explore options like online training or flexible timings.

Bottom Line  

A performance improvement plan facilitates compliance with expectations by providing leadership and employees with an easily comprehensive framework. It aims to ensure a comprehensive feedback mechanism within the organization.

And to simplify that, PMS comes into the picture.

PMS stands for Performance Management System, which includes OKR, 1:1, KPIs, and 360-degree reviews. It is a tool or technique for assessing an organization’s people’s performance.

KEKA HRMS’s Performance Management System streamlines performance management and assists HR in establishing clear performance standards. It enables managers to emphasize their employees’ accountability to achieve their objectives and evaluate their performance.


1. Why are Performance Improvement Plans used in organizations?

To improve employee performance and bring it up to expectations.

2. When is a Performance Improvement Plan typically initiated?

When an employee’s performance consistently falls below standards and needs documented corrective action.

 3. How does a Performance Improvement Plan differ from regular performance feedback?

PIPs are more formal and specific, with concrete goals, timelines, and regular progress reviews. Regular performance feedback is ongoing and less structured.

 4. What are the key components of a Performance Improvement Plan?

  • Specific goals for improvement
  • Measurable benchmarks for success
  • Timelines for achieving goals
  • Resources and support provided by the company

 5. What types of performance issues warrant a Performance Improvement Plan?

Serious and persistent performance issues, such as not meeting goals, attendance problems, quality issues, or behavioral concerns.

 6. What is the duration of a typical Performance Improvement Plan?

The duration varies depending on the issue’s severity and complexity, typically from weeks to months.

7. Who is typically involved in the development of a Performance Improvement Plan?

The employee’s manager, and potentially HR (though not always required).

 8. How often are progress reviews conducted during a Performance Improvement Plan?

Progress reviews are conducted regularly, often weekly or monthly, to monitor the employee’s progress and adjust the plan if necessary.

 9. What happens if an employee fails to meet the goals outlined in a Performance Improvement Plan?

Failure to meet goals can lead to disciplinary action, potentially including termination, following a progressive discipline approach.

 10. Can an employee appeal or contest a Performance Improvement Plan?

Yes, employees can usually appeal a PIP through HR or established grievance procedures.

 11. How should managers communicate a Performance Improvement Plan to an employee?

Communication should be clear and constructive and provide an opportunity for discussion.

12. What alternatives to a Performance Improvement Plan exist for addressing performance issues?

Alternatives can include additional coaching, training, project reassignments, or exploring if there’s a better fit for the employee’s skills elsewhere in the company.


Table of Contents

    Meet the author

    Parismita Goswami

    Content Writer

    A writer, poet and cinephile by passion. Parismita is Content Writer at Keka. She shares her interest in having good conversations over tea, traveling, exploring and reading. When she is not experimenting with her culinary art, you can typically find her introspecting or taking a cozy corner.


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