How to Excel During Your Performance Improvement Plan


Career Advice / Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Reviews at most organisations may have come and gone, but the performance improvement exercise is usually a tough pill to swallow for many employees who encounter it in their career. Leaves you feeling whether you are deserving of it or not. Also known as PIP by human resource professionals, many people dread the performance improvement plan exercise and would do anything to avoid having one. From my personal experience, I can indeed say that in retrospect, they aren’t as bad as we consider them to be; mainly when carried out with utmost objectivity.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan

According to the Society of Human Resource Management(SHRM), A “performance improvement plan is a tool to give an employee with performance deficiencies the opportunity to succeed”. PIP’s are used to address job goals or behavioural gaps to help an employee succeed in the work environment. In a professional work environment, you are only as good as your last performance. Being at the top of your game would tell positively on your team and eventually the organisation at large. Hence, companies seek out strategies to optimise team performance and ensure they are building the right individuals focused on the right goals.

Why Performance Improvement Plan

There are many reasons why organisations adopt the performance improvement route. In many cases, if as an employee, you have a good performance record previously, it is only right to the opportunity to improve. Another reason is that for organisations, it is a cost-saving move. Hiring and firing costs organisations a lot, and many organisations avoid it through a performance improvement plan. PIP’s are an opportunity to improve employee talent, ensuring firing is the last resort when the process does fail.

Excel During Your Performance Improvement

As a career professional, regardless of what actions or inactions that got you here, the most important thing now is to survive it, learn from it and become better through it on the job or away from it. Surprise, a performance improvement plan won’t always end in you being able to retain your position at the organisation. The ultimate goal is to improve your performance, focus on that and let us take a look at what you should do to excel during your performance plan.

1. Embrace The Process: Embracing your performance improvement plan and understanding it is only there to help you grow your career, skills and on the job performance. In most cases, you may not agree with your line manager or HR professional that you need a PIP. Having such stand-point can short-sight and lead to low commitment during your performance improvement period. Release your mind of all perceived wrong during this process and approach it from a place of mindfulness, awareness and improvement. Practise mindfulness and affirmations to help you manage your emotions going through it.

2. Set Clear Goals: Beyond the goals set by your organisation, set clear personal goals to guide your expectation from yourself from the process. Clear goals help you know what short-term and long term actions you can take during and after your PIP. One of the things I would advise you to do is to write down your goals and break them down into action points to take. Conduct frequent personal reviews on your performance to help you optimise.

3. Get an Accountability Partner: Accountability partners might be an element of your performance improvement plan from your organisation. Whether this happens or not, please find an accountability partner. An accountability partner is a person who coaches and helps you keep the commitment to a plan or goal. Your accountability partner should be your career coach; such individual can develop a plan that would see your performance improve and also help determine what career trajectory or actions you can take beyond the PIP, regardless of the result. A great tip here is to ensure constant feedback with your accountability partner during the PIP process.

4. Move on Graciously: There is life after a performance review within and beyond the organisation. Make sure you are not short-sighted by emotions or the process to know this. Learn to move on graciously from the incidents that led to a performance improvement plan and well as after it. If you will remain at the organisation after your PIP, avoid the errors that led you there, forgive and demand more from yourself.

If at the end or during of your PIP plan, you choose to leave the organisation, please make sure you exit in the best professional standards. If the organisation decides to terminate your employment as well, learn to embrace it and keep a positive attitude always. An excellent exit attitude would benefit your career and future going forward, maintaining your highest standards of professionalism.

Final thoughts

Whether you excel during your performance improvement plan or not, it is not the end of your career. It can be the turning point for it if you ensure you go at it with the right perspectives. I have gone through the processes, learnt my lessons and gone on to become better. I have observed other professionals turn it around, and I believe anyone can. 

I would not deny there’s a human element away from just your performance that could lead to being put on one, and my ultimate advice is for you to learn to manage people’s ego, and “don’t play into their hands”. If you ever find yourself in one, it is time to turn a new leaf and to demand more of yourself. What I can guarantee you is that the future beyond a performance improvement plan is not bleak.

Read: LinkedIn Pressure: How to Manage Resentfulness

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