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How To Use Performance Improvement Plans To Boost Employee Engagement

March 22, 2018 | Peter Corless

Boost EngagementEvery manager wants to see his or her employees succeed, but sometimes, certain people struggle. And when a manager notices an individual’s performance is not up to par, it may be time to implement an employee performance improvement plan, also known as a PIP.

Here’s what LTC and senior living organizations need to know about creating, delivering and following through on PIPs to boost employee engagement and performance.

What Is The Benefit Of A PIP?

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, “PIPs may lead to several different outcomes, including improvement in overall performance, the recognition of a skills or training gap, or possible employment actions such as transfer, demotion or termination. Alternatively, a PIP may be used for employees who may be new to a role as a tool to communicate performance expectations.”

And since performance is a key indicator of employee engagement, PIPs become all the more important for decreasing turnover and ensuring your staff is providing the best resident care possible. 

Delivering and executing a PIP must be done carefully and with a well-thought-out plan in place. While those that are put on a PIP might be scared or concerned about their job, the reality is, improvement plans are simply a tool to develop and enhance an employee’s performance.

When Should A PIP Be Used?

A PIP may be needed when an employee’s performance (i.e. the quality or quantity of work produced) slips or doesn’t meet expectations or when an employee exhibits inappropriate behavior that needs to be documented and corrected. A PIP will help guide struggling staff by laying out a set of goals and expectations that he or she must meet over a designated period – typically 90 days, but possibly sooner in the case of more troubling situations.  

Prior to issuing a PIP, as part of the investigative process and dialogue, you should rule out any misunderstanding of expectations. Sometimes an employee may be calling off frequently or showing up late because the shifts they have been assigned are not the ones they requested when they started. Simply allowing employees to request and update scheduling preferences could solve many of the problems that usually warrant a PIP.

“It is critical to allow for an open dialogue and feedback from the employee to help determine whether the employee has been provided all the tools and resources necessary for him or her to be successful,” SHRM says.

Once you have determined that someone needs a PIP, you should clearly document the reasons for instituting the plan prior to communicating it to the employee. Be as specific as possible, denoting dates that incidents occurred and a detailed account of each. The PIP should also contain the following action items:

  • Specific examples of what the employee must improve on
  • A target date to meet improvements
  • New expectations that must be met consistently
  • A system for communicating including how the employee can ask questions and how the feedback will be provided
  • Resources employees can utilize that will help them improve performance
  • Consequences that will be delivered if performance has not improved by the target date

Some workers might see a PIP as a first step toward being fired, but that is largely a misconception. PIPs are a tool designed to correct performance or behavior and provide employees with a future in the organization.

How To Deliver A PIP

If a senior care community practices open communication, employees won’t be surprised when they’re put on PIP. In ideal circumstances, managers will have discussions with employees not meeting performance standards early and will have communicated the possibility of implementing a PIP if behavior does not improve.

When it comes time to deliver a PIP, a formal meeting should be organized. You, the employee and a human resources representative or other witness should attend. The discussion should revolve around why the employee is being put on a PIP and then focus on what the employee needs to do to improve.  It is always best to encourage the employee to determine the steps that they will take (with your assistance) to improve.  An employee is more committed to following through on a plan that they have offered versus one that is imposed upon them. 

The manager should also discuss the timeline. Depending on how individual PIPs are organized, improvement timelines may range from immediate (i.e. another occurrence will lead to an immediate consequence) to 90 days in length.

Follow-Through & Next Steps To Ensure The PIP Is Effective

Part of the PIP process is closely monitoring the employee’s performance and behavior once the plan has been delivered to ensure improvement. Regular check-ins must be conducted so employees can ask questions and seek guidance throughout the process. If roadblocks prevent an employee from making progress, those should also be discussed to see how to best navigate through them.

These sit downs can also introduce, or reintroduce, training elements. Part of the PIP process is ensuring employees have resources at their disposal to succeed, and regular meetings will highlight those.

Once the PIP timeline is reached, a meeting should be organized to review the employee’s progress. If all parties agree the employee has made demonstrable progress, he or she will be taken off the PIP. If enough progress has not been made, you will need to follow through on the consequences laid out in the PIP, which may be:

  • Extension of the PIP
  • Transfer or reassignment to another department
  • Demotion
  • Termination of employment

It’s in the best interest of senior care communities to have all its workers succeed. PIPs may seem daunting, but they’re a valuable tool for boosting employee engagement and performance. After all, happy employees that are committed to your mission provide better resident care and drive your organization’s success.


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About Peter Corless

Peter Corless is Executive Vice President of Enterprise Development for OnShift. Peter is a recognized HR leader in post-acute care and is well-known for his achievements at some of the country’s largest post-acute care organizations, including Kindred Healthcare and Genesis HealthCare. As an experienced, chief administrative and human resources officer within these organizations, he developed strategies that reduced turnover, improved recruiting and hiring strategies, and reduced labor costs.

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