What Is a Performance Improvement Plan? (With an Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 11, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Succeeding in the workplace requires you to work towards reaching your career and team goals. After assessing your performance, your employer may offer a performance plan that guides you to improve your work. Understanding the purpose of this action plan and how to use it can help you excel in your role. In this article, we explain what a performance improvement plan is, explore the benefits of receiving one, discuss tips for responding to one effectively, provide examples, and cover frequently asked questions.

What is a performance improvement plan?

A performance improvement plan (PIP), or a performance action plan, is a formal document that outlines improvement areas and how to become better at your job. Employers typically provide this document after a performance review to help you improve your work. These plans often include specific objectives, steps for improving performance, potential outcomes of reaching goals, and timeframes. Employers typically meet with you to discuss the plan's details and respond to questions you may have.

Benefits of receiving a performance action plan

Here are the common benefits of getting a performance action plan from your employers:

It motivates you to become a better employee

Receiving a performance action plan shows your employer or manager wants to see you succeed. Knowing that they care about your professional development can inspire you to put more effort into reaching your goals. For example, suppose you are adjusting to a new customer service role. If your supervisor sends a performance action plan, they likely want to help you settle. This gesture can motivate you to adjust to the work style and increase your performance. By attempting to help you instead of hiring new employees, an organization can save time, resources, and money.

It prepares you for a promotion

These plans can also make you ready for a promotion or lateral career move. A lateral career move is a switch to a job that's on the same level in an organizational structure and similar in pay to the position you already have. For example, your employer may send a performance action plan if they feel your skill set and experience would suit a management role. Working towards achieving the objectives of the plan can also help you decide whether you want a promotion or a lateral career move.

It helps you enhance your skills

A performance action plan describes what you need to do to improve and the actions you can take. You can also use the document to realize your potential and enhance your skill set. For example, suppose you're working in an organization's back office. Back office positions rarely involve meeting directly with customers. Your manager may put you on a performance action plan to help you develop your communication skills and ability to interact with customers. Receiving an action plan can also help you better measure your progress as you build your skillset.

Related: How to Write an Action Plan to Help You Achieve Your Goals

Tips for responding to a performance improvement plan

Here are tips for responding to a performance improvement plan and completing its requirements:

Have a positive attitude

See a performance improvement plan as an opportunity to develop yourself and contribute more to the organization. Being positive can help you reach your goals easily. It can also show employers you take their recommendations seriously.

Take responsibility

If your employer or manager meets with you, listen actively and accept their suggestions. Also, take a moment to process their message about your work. For example, suppose your supervisor mentions you struggle to meet weekly goals. You can reply with: "I am sorry for failing to reach my weekly goals. I hope to work on my time management skills and improve my productivity using the steps highlighted in this plan."

Determine your next course of action

After reviewing the plan, start thinking about your next actions. For example, you may need additional information about certain steps or how your employer plans to measure your progress over the timeframe. Alternatively, your next step may be to request more time to fulfil your performance action plan. Understanding the details can help you navigate the improvement process with confidence.

Related: Create a 30-60-90 Day Plan for Your New Job

Consider what to improve

Assess factors that affect your work and state explicit actions you need to improve based on the performance plan. For example, it may be hard to perform well without on-the-job training. Here are possible steps you could take to enhance your performance:

  • Prioritize tasks and plan your day in advance

  • Review how you spend time on the job and remain productive

  • Reorganize your workspace and remove distractions

  • Take courses on the improvement area

Read more: How to Perform a Self-Assessment

Ask for help when necessary

Reach out to your mentor, supervisor, or manager and seek their advice or ideas about the details of the action plan. For example, your mentor can give you insights into how you can better understand the company's products and improve your ability to make sales. Seeking help is a strength, especially when working on an improvement plan.

Report performance progress regularly

Show your commitment to fulfilling the action plan by reporting your progress regularly. For example, you may request bi-weekly meetings with your manager to determine whether you need to change your approach to completing the plan's objectives. When reporting to your manager or supervisor, make sure you describe the actions you took.

Discuss with your team

Contact your colleagues who reach performance goals to find out how they approach their responsibilities. You may gain insights you can apply to your work. For example, if your supervisor tells you that your research paper needs more information, reach out to a researcher who writes detailed reports. They may provide tips and techniques for improvement.

Set personal goals

Aside from the objectives of your action plan, having personal goals can help improve your work easily. For example, suppose your manager says you need to complete 15 designs before the end of the quarter. Consider setting a goal of completing 20. Focusing on a goal that is a greater challenge makes fulfilling the performance plan easier.

Related: Performance Review Goals (Definition, Types, and Importance)

Example performance improvement plan

Review the following example to help you create your own:

Sam Wright
Engineering Project Manager
July 1, 2021

Reason for Performance Plan

This performance plan is to address issues in your work and help you succeed at FGH Company.

Performance Action Plan

This document outlines improvement in the following work areas:

Issue 1: you are expected to complete quality checklists and update the centralized database. These tasks were only partially completed in Q2 2021.

Issue 2: you are expected to ensure a quality standard of 82% for every quarter. Your quality standard score was lower than 82% in Q2 2021.

Steps to improve your performance

To improve your work performance, upper management expects you to complete the listed tasks within 90 days:

  • Commit at least 30 minutes to complete quality checklists every day

  • Conduct quality evaluations on our products every day

  • Resolve quality issues from the production department to ensure the quality standard is at least 82% per week

  • Review your job duties and responsibilities in the employee handbook

  • Seek training in quality management and just-in-time manufacturing

  • Meet with the quality service manager every week to discuss pending tasks and completed assignments

  • Ask your colleagues for help and mentorship if required

By following this action plan, we are confident in your improved performance at FGH Company.

If the quality standard is lower than 82% by September 30, 2021, you may be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions. Send me an email if you have questions about this plan or your work role.


FAQs about performance plans

Review the most common questions about performance action plans:

Does every employee receive a performance action plan?

Only employees who need to address their work duties may receive a performance plan. These documents offer management the opportunity to intervene and help you correct performance issues. Performance plans are useful for holding you accountable for your work, rather than beginning the termination process.

What do you do after meeting the plan's objectives?

After meeting the plan's objectives, your employer would formally close the performance plan. They would recognize your success and allow you to continue in your role. Report your progress regularly to show your dedication to reaching your goals.

What is the difference between a performance plan and a professional development plan?

A professional development plan is a document outlining actionable steps for reaching your career goals. Create one and use it to guide your goals for skills and experience to gain. In comparison, a performance improvement plan is a document from your employer on how to succeed in the workplace.

Related: How Employee Performance Is Measured and Why It's Important

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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