Improvement Plans

Improvement Plans set a path to potential growth.

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Have you considered an improvement plan for an employee? Improvement Plans set a path to potential growth. This is the time of year that independent schools consider whether to offer contracts for employees to return. For high-performing employees, these decisions are quick and easy. For employees that are underperformers, and who have shown consistent signs of underperforming, it might be time to consider an Improvement Plan. An Improvement Plan, sometimes called a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan), makes clear what the person needs to work on in order to stay in their position at the school. It clarifies expectations, spells out goals and timelines, and has an emphasis on growth and support. 

It’s essential that the employee understands they have an opportunity to improve. Avoid making employees feel like they’re being laid off, rather, emphasize their opportunity for growth. They need to know what has to be improved and when. Make it clear that they are ultimately accountable for their improvement, but they have your support and resources.

Elise Paulson, Five Must-Haves In An Employee Improvement Plan

What’s the End Goal? The end goal is to…

  • Improve the quality and level of performance of individuals and your team.
  • Create a level of directness and clarity in your communication with your team members.
  • Invest in your individual team members and their growth.
  • Get clarity about what it means to meet expectations and thrive at your institution.
  • Hold people accountable.

When should I consider an improvement plan? 

You should consider creating an Improvement Plan…

  • When your data reveals that you have a direct report that is underperforming. As a supervisor, when your observations of the person at work show concerns without significant growth and/or when you notice feedback on the person that specifies a pattern of not meeting standards and expectations it is time for an Improvement Plan.
  • If you are getting feedback from other constituencies in the community that this person is not meeting expectations. Then, if you have not already, it is time for you to do your own observations and gather your own data.
  • When you have set clear expectations for growth with this person already and have still not seen significant or expected growth.

Tips for creating a thoughtful and effective Improvement Plan:

  • Gather your data over a significant period of time. Observe and gather feedback.
  • Look carefully at your data and look for patterns in behavior. Define the behavior that is showing up and the barriers keeping the person from meeting expectations.
  • Define the goals for this person. Make the goal/s clear and assessable. 
  • Decide how you can assess the goal/expectation you have set.
  • Have direct conversations with this person over a period of time so that the written Improvement Plan does not contain any surprises or new information. 
  • Document all your conversations. Write follow-up emails to all your communications that clarify the main points that need to be heard.
  • Connect with your HR people and your supervisor keeping them informed along the way and getting their input.
  • Write everything down in a clear, thoughtful, and direct manner.
  • Decide on a time frame to reconnect and reassess.
  • Have a face-to-face meeting before presenting the plan to discuss the contents.
  • Follow up with a communication that contains a copy of the plan with a clear set follow-up.

Clear, direct, and thoughtful communication is the key here to supporting growth in your direct reports. Improvement Plans can lead to growth. Take the time to gather data, reflect, and communicate over a period of time with clear expectations and you will likely see growth. PRACTICE, REFLECT, AND IMPROVE.