I’m sure you all watched or heard about the Super Bowl on Sunday night: Despite the fact that his team was trailing by 25 points, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led New England on the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Brady’s season began with a four-game suspension for his involvement in the “deflategate” scandal and ended as Super Bowl MVP. It’s a comeback within a comeback. Despite not knowing much about sports, as a New Englander, I would be remiss if I let this opportunity pass without drawing some sort of analogy to HR. Because my law firm is based in Atlanta, I admit, I’m cowering just a little.
As HR professionals, we are often called upon to assist managers in addressing concerns with employees who appear to be falling behind company expectations. How can we encourage employee “comebacks” and assist supervisors by providing effective tools to help employees to do so?
When verbal counseling and written disciplinary action have not been successful at correcting performance-related deficiencies, a performance improvement plan (PIP) is often used as a means to correct performance and avoid termination. Developed and used properly, a PIP can be an effective tool. Here are recommendations for developing an effective PIP:
- Outline, with specificity, performance-related concerns, i.e., the reasons for the PIP. This section should be very detailed (in terms of facts and dates), include applicable requirements from the job description, and summarize/reference previous performance-related discussions/discipline.
- Establish specific quantifiable and realistic goals for the PIP so that the employee can clearly understand what is expected. The PIP should include consequences for failing to meet the goals.
- Provide a list of available tools. For example, the employee can be provided with training that targets any deficiencies, whether inside the organization or through a third party. Alternatively (or additionally), a mentor can be assigned to answer questions on an ongoing basis. The employee should be given an opportunity to discuss what tools he/she believes are necessary to meet the goals outlined in the PIP. The tools may change as the employee progresses through the PIP. The employee should be given an opportunity during feedback meetings to discuss whether any additional tools are needed.
- The PIP should include a schedule for the feedback meetings, which should be frequent and meaningful. The employee should be aware of how he/she is progressing through the plan at all times. The meeting frequency may need to be adjusted depending upon how the employee is progressing. The discussions should be calm and free-flowing.
- The PIP should include a duration. The time period may need to be adjusted depending upon the particular circumstances. For example, if some progress is made and there is promise but the employee hasn’t yet reached a satisfactory level of performance, the time period may need to be extended.
- The PIP should be signed by the employee.
Hopefully, the PIP will result in the improvement in overall performance, even without the assistance of Lady Gaga falling from the sky.