Imagine this scenario: Every day you find yourself getting more and more aggravated with a certain employee. You tell him or her to do something and they consistently under deliver, thereby requiring someone else (oftentimes you) to pick up the slack. You are sick of it and seriously considering firing this person.
Before you write out a pink slip, it might be worthwhile to create a performance improvement plan (or PIP) for your troubled employee. With a little concrete nudging, they may just turn into the employee you always wished for.
Here’s how to get started:
Step #1: Look at yourself
Take a moment to think about the direction that you’ve given your employee. Have you taken the time to clearly define his or her job description?
“In your mind, you may want them to increase sales by 30 percent, but if you’ve never told them that, it really isn’t their fault that they are under delivering,” says Roberta Matuson, HR consultant and author of the new book Talent Magnetism: How to Build a Workplace That Attracts and Keeps the Best.
On the flipside, have you strapped your employee with unattainable expectations? Asking someone to double revenues on a product that isn’t doing well in the first place may be unrealistic and could cause serious frustration on the part of your employee, says Matuson. It might be time to alter your expectations.
Step #2: Consider the potential usefulness of a PIP
Performance improvement plans take time to construct and implement; you want your time to be well spent. Consider this: is it possible for your employee to do what you want?
“If you have an employee who you want to be nicer to customers and being nice is truly not in their nature, it might be best not to do with an improvement plan,” Matuson says. “It might be best to just part ways.”
Step #3: Write down specific objectives
When coming up with the verbiage for a performance improvement plan, be as specific as possible. Don’t assume anything is common sense. Matuson gives the example of asking your employee to turn in a report every Monday morning.
“You need to tell them that the report should be there by 10 a.m. on the dot,” she says. “Otherwise, it might come in at 11:59 a.m. and you may find yourself frustrated.”
Step #4: Get feedback from your employee
Schedule a meeting with your employee to discuss the PIP. Bring your notes (and specific expectations) to the meeting and ask for your staffer’s feedback. Ask them to be honest with you. Can they achieve your expectations? What concerns do they have? Try to be as non-threatening as possible in the meeting to help them open up and express any concerns they may have.
Step #5: Explain punishments for un-met plans
“As hard as this can be, you need to be forthright and tell them that if they can’t meet the objectives laid out in the plan, you will need to end the working relationship,” Matuson says. “They need to know how serious this is.”
Step #6: Get it in writing
It may take a few drafts, but once you have your agreed-upon PIP down on paper, make sure that you and your employee sign and date the page. You and your employee will be more likely to stick to something if it is in writing.
Step #7: Follow-up
The best thing you can do as a manager is to touch base with your employee during the plan’s duration. Check in on a daily or weekly basis, Matuson recommends. That way, he or she will feel supported throughout the process and be able to ask you questions along the way.