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What is performance improvement?

Importance of performance improvement

Performance improvement plan (PIP)

Performance improvement examples

What is performance improvement

Performance improvement describes a strategy that helps employees better their performance and manage their growth. The organizational development strategy prioritizes output and efficiency to improve overall results.

Performance improvement can be applied to all aspects of business, including employee level, team level, each division, or organization as a whole. 

Extra effort is needed when tracking performance in remote teams as it’s easy for employees to be neglected without effective performance management strategies. 

What is performance improvement?

Performance improvement is a branch of performance management. Managers help underperforming employees improve their performance and meet the organization’s requirements and expectations. 

The focus of performance improvement is usually focused on individual employees, working on improving their productivity and behavior. When applied to the organization as a whole, then the strategy is known as organizational performance improvement

By assessing performance gaps, managers apply corrective action and improve work quality. The improvement process is monitored and tracked to assess the employee’s progress. For example, a manager may monitor an employee’s timecards, ask for peer feedback, conduct quality control, or host performance reviews. 

These metrics for tracking progress will differ on an organizational level while including a structured plan and measurable goals. 

Performance improvement differs slightly from quality improvement. While quality improvement focuses on the organization’s systems and processes, performance improvement addresses human performance.

Importance of performance improvement

Managing performance issues is important in improving workflow and achieving organizational goals. The process identifies gaps in performance and strategizes ways to improve on these issues. Identifying targeted solutions is an efficient and effective way to manage performance. 

When handled correctly, performance improvement efforts offer the following benefits:

  • Boost employee productivity by streamlining workflows
  • Improve work quality of the team and organization as a whole
  • Reduce work errors by identifying bottlenecks and introducing automation when possible
  • Improve employee job satisfaction and morale
  • Save time fixing errors 

Empowering the human resource management team to manage team members and employee performance offers long-term benefits for individual employees and the organization as a whole.

Performance improvement plan (PIP)

A performance improvement plan (PIP) is a tool to allow underperforming employees to succeed. The SHRM also describes a PIP as a performance action plan, and the intention is to address failures and improve on performance gaps. 

The HR manager is responsible for determining whether a PIP is the best route of action, administering all PIPs with the manager, and providing guidance for both the manager and the employee. 

In some instances, employment action is taken, such as a transfer, demotion, or termination of an employee

What’s included in a PIP

While each situation is unique, there are a few key details to include in a PIP template, ensuring that all aspects of performance are addressed. 

  • Identify the level of acceptable performance so that the employee understands where they have fallen short 
  • Establish measurable objectives for improvement
  • Set a proper support structure in place
  • Create a schedule for check-ins
  • Ensure that repercussions are known if the employee fails to improve
  • Invest in required skills when necessary

A PIP should have a timeline after which the results of actionable steps are monitored and assessed. A common timeframe for a PIP is 30 to 90 days, depending on the performance area.

When to implement a PIP

Implementing a PIP is beneficial when there is hope for an employee to improve performance after addressing the issue's root causes. 

For example, if a historically-good employee fails to meet expectations in more than one performance area. In another instance, a reliable employee is experiencing personal challenges that interfere with their work performance for a long period of time.

Another instance when a PIP is beneficial is when a new hire needs more time to learn skills to do their job effectively during probation.

Common performance issues addressed by an extensive PIP include;

  • Missed deadlines
  • Failure to meet targets and goals
  • Sub-par work quality
  • Poor team behavior

When to be cautious of a PIP

There are instances when a PIP is ineffective in correcting seemingly poor performance. For example, if a hardworking employee is placed under a new manager with higher standards or if an employee’s abilities are misaligned with new work requirements.

Other instances when a PIP may not be the best course of action include if a long-time employee has a history of average performance but has never received feedback, or if a problematic employee partakes in a serious incident such as theft or violence.

Performance improvement examples

A performance improvement plan is highly effective in various instances and across different departments by serving as an intervention and addressing problematic issues. 

Consider the following case studies as examples of how a PIP helps with quality improvement and the business process. 

Better customer service

If customers complain about customer service or the department’s attitude, then a PIP can help improve client interactions. 

For example, poor customer service leads to a high churn rate.

  • Objective — improve customer retention and engagement
  • Steps — customer service training and working closely with customers to resolve issues
  • Metrics —a lower customer churn rate

Improve low-quality of work

When an employee constantly produces mediocre work, a PIP can help improve the quality of work. 

For example, an employee consistently produces flawed work past the deadline. 

  • Objective — produce error-free work by the stipulated deadline
  • Steps — collaborate with a senior team member for accountability and advice for improvement
  • Metrics — measure quality of work and the timeously of delivery

Boost productivity

When employees fail to produce results or contribute to growth, a PIP introduces accountability and increases the stakes to improve productivity. 

For example, a manager is responsible for growing a program but fails to produce results.

  • Objective — increase the number of clients that join a specific program
  • Steps — improve campaign efforts and refine the marketing strategy
  • Metrics — increase in subscriptions for the program

Address unprofessional behavior 

Unprofessional behavior manifests in different ways, including harassment, insubordination, and tardiness. A PIP can straighten out unprofessional behavior. 

For example, an employee shows bad manners in the workplace.

  • Objective — improve employee manners
  • Steps — insist that the employee speaks respectfully, remains attentive, and lowers aggression 
  • Metrics — Peer review and general observation (a subjective metric)
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