The Ultimate Blueprint for Writing a Successful Performance Improvement Plan

CoachHub · 2 March 2023 · 5 min read

A performance improvement plan (PIP) is a program that supports the growth and development of underperforming employees. When a PIP is implemented, the manager and employee work together toward improving the performance of the employee.

The purpose of a PIP is to guide employees toward a better execution of their duties. During a PIP, specific areas for improvement are highlighted, strategies are given and resources are put in place to ensure their success. With appropriate metrics and defined strategies, an employee is empowered to make improvements to their performance.

This article aims to provide guidance on preparing for the creation of a PIP, including the essential elements that should be included and strategies to handle potential challenges. Although implementing a PIP might be met with apprehension, with proper resources and effective communication, it can transform into an empowering and positive experience for everyone concerned.

Assessing Performance Needs

Before building a successful PIP the factors that determine being placed on a PIP must be defined as well as what successful performance looks like. Managers must have clear guidelines to follow as to when to place employees on a PIP and what elements of poor performance to look out for.

The PIP must be informed by a clear strategy so that it can be successful in acting as a path to performance improvement. This preparation phase of a PIP is essential and should be given adequate time and attention. Management must be clear on what success looks like and how they can measure it.

Follow the steps below to ensure your PIP is well-researched and serves the performance needs of your company:

  • Gathering Performance Data:
    • What data can be collected from current performance in order to measure it?
  • Evaluating Performance Strengths and Weaknesses:
    • What does success look like in this role? What specific factors define success?
    • What does poor performance look like in this role? What specific factors define poor performance?
  • Determining Performance Goals:
    • What are the primary objectives of the team, department and company?
    • How does each role contribute to the success of these goals?
Performance Improvement Plan

Creating the Performance Improvement Plan

An effective PIP leaves room for flexibility so the unique needs and requirements of the employee and department are catered to. There are, however, several essential elements that should be included:

  • Specific Performance Expectations: What elements of their performance need to be improved?
  • Realistic Performance Targets: What metrics can be used to measure their performance improvement?
  • Developing Action Steps for Improvement: What specific steps should be taken to improve in these areas?
  • Incorporating Digital Coaching as a Tool: What role can a digital coach play in ensuring their success?


Implementing the Performance Improvement Plan

When it comes time to implement a PIP clear communication, effective support and continuous progress reports are what will drive its success. It is imperative that the employee knows exactly why they have been placed on a PIP and are given the resources to make the necessary improvements. Making sure the employee feels supported and guided will help them open up to receiving help and be motivated to do the work to improve.

Communicating the Plan to Employees:

  • Give adequate warnings and notice to the employee before implementation.
  • Provide detailed outlines as to what elements of performance need to be improved.
  • Give specific instructions as to how they can improve.
  • Ensure they are clear on what is expected of them as well as how long they can expect to be on a PIP.

Providing Support and Resources

Monitoring Progress

  • Define times for regular check-ins
  • Agree on a method of evaluating progress
  • Discuss the success metrics that they will be measured on

Making Adjustments

  • Account for flexibility and adjustments to be made as the program progresses
  • Make ongoing improvements to metrics and expectations
  • Invite a digital coach to consult the evaluation and adjustment process

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Overcoming Common Challenges

Being placed on a performance improvement plan will undoubtedly be difficult for an employee. It is vital to be aware of the potential challenges they may face in order to be able to offer them the support they need. The following list outlines potential pitfalls to consider during the process:

Resistance to change

An employee may not be open and willing to do the work to make the necessary changes in their performance. They may take being put on a PIP personally and be closed off from outside support. Ensure the employee knows you want to help them evolve and that the purpose of the PIP is to contribute to their growth.

Lack of resources

Once a PIP is in place there must be additional resources offered to the employee. If an employee is left to improve their performance without any additional support the plan may have little impact on their development. Avoid implementing a PIP in isolation and ensure there is additional training or counseling available during this period.

Poor communication

An open and regular dialogue must be in place between the employer/manager and the employee. Ambiguity or miscommunications during this time can be detrimental to the success of the PIP. Ensure there is frequent communication and regular check-ins with the employee.

Utilizing digital coaching for support

Consider offering digital coaching to the employee. This will contribute to a sense of security for the employee during an uncertain time. An external party who is dedicated to helping the employee grow and improve their performance will be instrumental to their development and make the employee feel much more at ease during this challenging time.


A strongly executed and well-structured PIP can be a fantastic tool to help employees level up their skills and performance. Once the plan is implemented with clear communication and backed up with adequate resources, the employee and organization will reap the benefits. The key is that the employee is assured they are being supported and feels secure in their position. Begin the process today of building and implementing PIPs to improve performance and increase results.

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Cathy Stapleton
Cathy is an Irish writer based in Berlin, Germany who is passionate about using words to inspire growth. As a certified mindfulness facilitator and performance coach, Cathy aims to create work that helps people connect with themselves and heighten their awareness. When she is not writing she is usually running in nature, meditating or contemplating an existential crisis.

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