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Performance Improvement Plans: What Should Be Included


Managing underperforming employees can be a challenge. Being able to improve employee performance in a sustainable manner is critical. Performance improvement plans allow for managers to have something in writing that holds the employee accountable for their performance.

We have previously written about performance improvement plans – we want to stress that performance improvement plans are hard to get right (in fact, 80% of performance improvement plans fail). If effective feedback is given continuously and there is a good culture of feedback in your organization, performance improvement plans should not be needed. However, if your organization insists on using them, we list some important considerations regarding performance improvement plans in this article.

What is a performance improvement plan?

A performance improvement plan is often the last resort to improving the performance of your employees. The plan helps identify the root causes of why an employee is struggling. The plan also outlines a strategy to help employees improve.

What should be included in a performance improvement plan?

Downloadable performance improvement plan template

1) Area of improvement

This is the primary focus of a performance improvement plan. This area should focus on behaviors and actions that an employee should change and/or improve on. The performance improvement plan can also contain specific examples of poor performance when appropriate, and it may also outline what is causing the poor performance (which may guide the Support Section – see point #5).

2) Improvement goals

When setting improvement goals, the goals need to directly relate to the areas of improvement that are mentioned above. The goals should be SMART goals; and therefore need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. We suggest setting between 2-3 goals that both the employee and manager agree upon that will improve the employee performance.

3) Activities (Optional)

Activities are tactical steps that employees can take to work towards their goals. They should be strategic and both employee and manager should outline them together so that everyone is on the same page and know what to expect. This section can be optional, but it is recommended as it helps break down those improvement goals to make it easier for employees to comprehend what they can tactically do to meet those goals. Furthermore, setting these tactical steps to meet these goals also makes it easier to track progress along the way.

4) Expectations

Expectations are a critical part of performance improvement plans. Managers should explicitly outline their expectations in this section. This section leaves no room for miscommunication and ensures that the employee understands what they need to do to improve.

5) Support (Optional)

Employees depend on their managers to support them when they are struggling. Only 58% of employees are happy with the support they receive from management. Therefore, a section where managers can outline how they will support the employee should be considered in a performance improvement plan. The managerial support will look different on a case-by-case basis, but it may include extra check-ins, training, and/or coaching & mentoring.

6) Progress report

Tracking the progress towards the improvement goals is crucial for the employee and the manager. In its entirety, the point of a performance improvement plan is for employees to truly improve performance. By tracking progress, there is a record that helps both parties to remember their actions and makes it easier to follow-up after the end of the PIP. Furthermore, it gives insight into whether the outlined activities are actually improving employee performance. Managers may want to revisit goals and expectations based on the progress report.


Overall, performance improvement plans have the power to help employees develop and improve in their challenge areas. It can be a tough conversation for managers to bring up performance improvement plans to employees, but in today’s workplace, many employees are willing and wanting to improve their performance. Please enjoy the free downloadable template provided by Pavestep for your next performance improvement plan for your employees!

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