How a performance improvement plan can help struggling employees


If your business has an employee who is struggling, then there are ways to offer them support. A promising member of your team can always have issues. And instead of replacing them, you can provide them with training to push them on towards success. In this guide, we explain one such process you can establish in your business.

What is a performance improvement plan?

Also commonly referred to as a performance improvement action plan, it’s a way for you to formally identify areas of concern in an employee’s performance. Then you can work together over a period of time to address the issues. The idea going forward is then to support them towards a higher rate of work quality and productivity.

How your business can take advantage

The benefits of a performance improvement plan are that it allows you to clearly inform staff where they’re falling short of expectations. In turn, that gives them a clear focus on areas that may require extra attention. You can implement a plan for a number of reasons. These can include:

  • Persistent lateness.
  • A failure to meet deadlines.
  • A drop in work quality.
  • Consistent sick days.
  • Longstanding problems with meeting KPIs.

Despite there being no legislation governing the use of a performance improvement plan, Acas recommend you use them to motivate and develop staff, spot and improve poor performance as well as deliver tasks and projects quickly to the required standards.

How to finalise the right process

While they’re often in use to assist staff with less responsibility, it’s also possible to introduce a performance improvement plan for poor leadership that experienced line managers are likely to benefit from. Again, this acts as a way of getting employees to focus on higher standards of work. You can train already skilled managers to bring out their full potential, rather than looking to replace them. Developing a performance improvement plan in the UK can be difficult in the first instance. However, you can help the process with the use of a sample. The process will usually include:

  • Confirmation of the area that requires improvement.
  • The measures you’ll take to help the employee improve.
  • A deadline for when you’ll evaluate their improvements.

With a performance improvement plan template, you can then set KPIs across a spreadsheet for you to address at regular intervals. Items on the list can include:

  • Areas of concern: The issues that have led to the creation of a plan and how you intend the business and the employee to respond.
  • Previously addressed issues: If applicable. You can use this section to cover previous concerns with the employee, as well as an indicator of how they're progressing during performance reviews.
  • Goals: A list of aims for the staff member to work towards.
  • Expected results: What you're hoping to achieve with the plan.
  • Timeline for improvement: Detailing when you're hoping for improvements over the subsequent weeks and months.

The performance improvement plan sample identifies at the outset if the employee has any outstanding medical condition to take into consideration when setting performance targets, ensuring reasonable adjustments are in place where necessary. A relevant manager or HR representative will oversee the process. And it’s advisable to check in with the employee at regular intervals to review their progress. While its primary purpose is to improve the quality of an individual’s performance at work, it can also be an early step of a disciplinary or capability process if an employee fails to show significant improvement. The plan will help demonstrate you took reasonable steps and the employee had sufficient opportunity to improve before any warning or dismissal occurred. It’s important the employee is aware of the potential repercussions when they’re initially placed on the plan, including what may happen to them if they fail to improve.

Need our help?

If you’re looking to introduce an employee plan, get in touch with us for advice on developing your process from the ground up: 0800 028 2420.

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