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The Myth of Effective Performance Improvement Plans.

It should come as no surprise that about 80% of Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) fail to achieve any improvement in performance.


If you are a line manager, you know the reason is because the person does not want to improve. You’ve already had unsuccessful conversations with them about their performance so why would a PIP lead to a different outcome?


Yet we HR Practitioners, still insist you develop a Performance Improvement Plan.  Why?

I’d argue it’s because HR is trying to help protect you and the company if the situation ends up in court.  That’s a commendable goal I support.  Unfortunately, the evidence strongly suggests that claiming PIPs will achieve this goal is simply a myth.


We need a better approach that delivers better outcomes.


Over the past 20 years, the approach outlined below has:

  • Resolved every under/poor performance issue

  • Helped return the employee to acceptable or better performance about 65% of the time.

  • And has a 100% success rate of defending the management actions and decision on the rare occasion an unfair dismissal claim is lodged.

The key is to stop focusing on trying to improve performance.  Instead concentrate on articulating and resolving the management problem caused by the under/poor performance.


  1. Start by jotting down the incidents that have occurred and the management problems they cause you.

  2. Next write down the outcome you want to achieve

  3. Plan the discussion to gain agreement on the incidents and problems that have occurred so the solution becomes obvious.

  4. Seek the support and endorsement from your boss.  Only once that support and endorsement is achieved should you arrange the discussion with the under/poor performing employee.

  5. Use the conversation to help the employee understand how the incidents have led to your problem and engage them in identifying the solution.

  6. Finally document the conversation so, as my colleague Dr Wally Hauck argues, ‘you create a contract with the employee’.

If this does not turn around the performance and termination occurs, the process and paperwork will demonstrate that you have taken reasonable management action in a reasonable way.  That is the key to successfully defending your management action and decision.


So next time you find an employee’s performance is declining, stop and think about your problem and how the employee can help you solve that problem before you have the conversation. 


Why?  Because it is not a myth.  It works.

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