You have an employee who is under-performing. You're frustrated and you don't know what to do.
Perhaps it's time to develop and implement a Performance Improvement Plan or a PIP. (You don't want to confuse this with the Gladys Knight variety!!)
Performance Improvement Plans demonstrate a positive and effective approach to remedy performance problems, while positioning you to dismiss for cause if an immediate and sustained improvement in performance is not achieved.
If you are faced with dealing with a non-performing employee, you must:
- Define the standard of job performance required.
- Establish that the performance standards were communicated.
- Prove that reasonable warnings were given to the employee and that failure to meet the performance standards could result in dismissal.
- Give the employee a reasonable opportunity to meet performance standards.
- Provide reasonable supervision and instructions to the employee, and in general, ensure that the employee is provided with proper support.
- Establish an inability on the part of the employee to meet the performance standards prior to dismissal.
When a performance problem occurs, you should analyze its causes and inform the employee of the specific steps required to correct the problem. If the intention is to dismiss, an incompetent performer must be advised that dismissal is being considered. With respect to written warnings, one written warning is not enough except in extreme cases.
You must ensure that performance standards conveyed to the employee are clear and consistent, especially those set out in documents such as job descriptions. Another useful document is the written annual performance review, where different aspects of the employee's performance are listed and evaluated. In the case of a poor performer, it is important that low scores be recorded in the review, so that you will have written documentation as evidence of the employee's inadequacy. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to give a positive performance evaluation, and perhaps a pay raise, to an employee shortly before a performance complaint and termination.
It is also critical that you maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with your employee. Feedback is essential and must be thoroughly documented.
You must provide the employee with the requirements for improvement and reasonable time lines within which performance should be improved. Third parties do not look kindly upon an employer that dismisses an employee who is improving his or her performance a short time after a warning is issued. You also have an obligation to establish that you did what was required to assist the employee. Poor performance in some instances is caused by an inadequate delineation of guidelines or inadequate supervision rather than an inability to perform.
Once the above steps are taken, you have a defense if the employee challenges you by taking the termination before a third party.
A good PIP should include:
- a clear description of the performance problem;
- a description of the performance standards to be met, which must be reasonable;
- a strategy to improve the performance, which directs the employee to resources in the Company and outlines any steps to be taken by him or her;
- a completion date;
- an outline of the plan, its length, and most importantly, dates of performance review.
If you know of someone who would like to read this article, please feel free to pass it on to them.
Dave Hagel is a Certified Human Resources Professional and President of High Performance Human Resources, a company that specializes in providing human resources services to small to medium sized entrepreneurs. You can reach him at email@example.com or phone, toll-free 1.866.878.4134.
Last revision on July 21, 2006