It is very common for managers at some point to come up against an underperforming employee. To overcome such problems the manager would then talk to the human resource and together they will draft the “perfect” performance improvement plan to guide, coach and assess the said employee based on the objectives listed down. The best illustration would be you are the protagonist at level 0 and you have been given a scroll (PIP) to level up yourself to reach the final dungeon where you either pass the test or fail along the journey.
As daunting as that sounds PIP is just a simple document which lays down where an employee is falling short and ways to improve. The most common example would be where an employee is falling behind his deadlines and was not able to submit/complete the tasks given on time. In this instance, the said employee would be placed on a PIP for 3 months and will be given a set of KPI containing objectives to be achieved as per the timeline. It is important to take note that the most common reason why PIP fails is due to the fact that the employee performance was not monitored closely and no proper reviews were done as per the timeline.
The placement of an employee under PIP, however, is a double edge sword. For decades, PIP is seen as a medieval tool used by the Human Resource to terminate an employee. Hence whenever an employee is placed under the PIP program, most of the time their reaction towards it is always negative and defensive, Can an employee then refuse the PIP? In the case of Lim Chean How v BIC-GBA Sdn Bhd (AWARD NO 675 OF 2013), the Industrial Court concluded that refusal to participate in PIP amounts to insubordination which warrants termination. Hence, it is clear that the Court’s general view is that an employee cannot reject a PIP just because they disagree with it.
What should be inserted in the Performance Improvement Plans?
1. Specific Shortcomings Must Exist and Detailed
If the Manager himself is unaware of the employee’s shortcomings, then it’s worth considering whether the employee should be placed under a PIP program. It is crucial for the Manager to lay down the employee shortcomings in the PIP. These details must be highlighted expressly and communicated to the employee so that the said employee is aware of what he should work on to improve his productivity. Wherever possible, list down the specifics with examples of the poor performance.
2. The Duration of the PIP
It is important for the duration of the PIP to be expressly laid down so that the said employee is aware that within this timeframe, the Manager is constantly reviewing his works and performance to ensure that he is sticking to the objectives and to find ways to guide him as termination should be the last retort. Keep in mind that the Duration of PIP can be extended as needed according to the circumstances of the case.
3. Setting Realistics KPI and objectives
When setting the KPIs and objectives, always keep in mind to set a clear and realistic target. These targets should be measurable and it should be crafted specifically in accordance with the employee years of experience, background and previous task that he was familiar with. It is unreasonable for the Manager to set the KPI of a fresh graduate to that of a senior executive with 20 years of experience. Always tailored the KPIs and objectives to the employee at hand instead of using general KPIs.
4. Identify the cause for underperformance
What causes the employee to suddenly underperform after years of service? Is it because of the vague job description? A new job role and responsibilities due to transfer? The Manager together with a representative from the Human Resource and the said employee must sit down together to discuss and analyse where went wrong in order for the employee to graduate from the PIP programme. If the issue is tackled, then the employee performance would improve and the company would avoid unwanted law-suits.
5. Consistent Reviews and Feedback
PIP is not a document to be issued to the employee and leave him to fend for himself with the employee. It is a plan which requires teamwork from all relevant parties. The Manager must ensure consistent reviews and feedback sessions with the said employee whether one every fortnight or once a month to ensure that the PIP plan is effective. During the reviews and feedback session, both parties can voice out their concern and determine whether more time is needed, or maybe the employee requires coaching and ways to improve employee performance.
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