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Writing Effective Performance Improvement Plans

Writing performance improvement plans can be a daunting task. If you’re unsure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will provide you with all the tools and steps necessary to write an effective performance improvement plan. Before I go on, performance improvement plans get a bad reputation. Yet, they are meant to help your employees become successful in the areas they are weaker in or change their behaviors, not as a punishment.

With this step-by-step guide, you can create a performance improvement plan that helps the individual improve but also helps your organization reach its goals. Whether you’re a seasoned HR professional or own or manage an eye care practice, this guide will provide the knowledge and resources you need to write a successful performance improvement plan.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan?

A performance improvement plan is a written plan that outlines the steps an employee needs to take to improve performance or meet the organization's expectations. Performance improvement plans are often used when employees struggle to fulfill their job responsibilities or receive disciplinary action. However, they are made to help employees excel and meet organizational goals by setting specific goals and timelines to meet them.


Performance improvement plans let employees know exactly what to do to improve and how to achieve that goal. Performance improvement plans are often used in conjunction with disciplinary action. Yet, they differ from disciplinary action notices in focusing on improving instead of punishing employees for past mistakes.


Benefits of Performance Improvement Plans

Performance improvement plans give employees a detailed outline of what they must do to improve. This can help boost productivity by giving employees a clear path to success. They also help managers by guiding them on how to coach their employees. By outlining the steps, managers need to take to coach their employees, performance improvement plans make it easier for managers to follow the right path and provide the proper assistance to employees.


Performance improvement plans can also be beneficial because they allow employees to correct their behavior. Employees who receive disciplinary action may need to learn how to fix their behavior. By providing a detailed outline of what they need to do to improve, performance improvement plans give employees the guidance and support they need to do better.


Creating a Performance Improvement Plan

Now that you’ve written a performance improvement plan, it’s time to create one. To create a performance improvement plan, you should follow these steps and include the following:


  • Current Performance: Here you should put their current performance based on their monthly and yearly performance

  • Gap Analysis: This step involves comparing the employee’s performance with the expected performance. It should consist of data that verifies the gap between the employee’s performance and the expectations. It should also include data demonstrating the gap between the employee’s performance and past performance.

  • Goals: These are the specific goals the employees have set for themselves. A goal could be as simple as “meet all deadlines” or as complex as “meet sales goal by the end of the year.” Goals can also be set for the organization and are often called key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • Action Plan: This is the plan the employee and manager created to meet the goals in the performance improvement plan. Make sure the action that you are setting forth is achievable based on the current performance which small increases until they reach the goal. Weekly performance reviews are recommended until they meet these goals for your organziation.

  • Disciplinary Action: This is the first step in creating a performance improvement plan. If an employee has received disciplinary action related to their performance, this should be included in the performance improvement plan. Please include the date when the disciplinary action was given, why it was shown, and who gave it.


Tips for Writing Performance Improvement Plans

Performance improvement plans should be approximately 2-3 pages long. This will help keep the plan concise and to the point. When you’re writing the plan, keep in mind that it’s not a disciplinary action notice. It’s meant to help employees improve and succeed, but as with anything, you have expectations that need to be met and consequences for if the expectations are not met.


When writing disciplinary action, gap analysis, and goals, it’s essential to use positive language. This will help the employee feel supported and empowered to do better. It will also help the employee feel less attacked. Remove negative words like do not, not only is it self-deafeting, it is known that people respond to positive words. Do not forget to meet with them weekly and see what there thoughts of where they can improve.


When you’ve written the plan, have the employee sign and return the plan. This will show that the employee understands the plan’s terms and has agreed to follow them. This can help reduce the risk of the employee not following through with the plan. This is a stressful time for your employee as most people want to do well. You must be there for them and show them that you support them.

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