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How to Structure Performance Improvement Plans

Underperformance
Conflict solving
Career Path
One-on-one
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

18 April, 2018

Edmond Lau discusses his approach to performance improvement plans, and the questions he asks employees to get the best out of them.

Problem

Performance improvement plans are very important, especially when you have a team of five or more. Because of this, I usually set up performance improvement plans as monthly plans, where they have set goals month to month, if not week to week. This allows employees to incrementally improve each month. However, how do you set up an effective performance improvement plan?

Actions taken

I usually start by asking each employee the same set of questions. The first is "Which area do you think you can improve on?". If they know they can do something faster or more efficiently, then we start by focussing on that. I also encourage them to think about their career. Often, developers are unclear about what they want for their future careers, so in order for me, as a manager, to help them improve their performance, I need to force them to come up with a goal to aim for in the next 12, 18 and 24 months. For developers who eventually want to work in management, they need to be able to effectively mentor others and manage their own time. When it comes to people who just aren't performing, it's important to be clear with them about where they are lacking and how you expect them to improve. For these people, you should set up your improvement plan to be very structured and milestone-based, as you aren't just looking for small incremental improvements, you're looking for big changes.

Lessons learned

You have to tailor your performance improvement plans for each individual employee. Not every employee will want to be promoted or change their role every 12 months. For those employees, you need to identify ways for them to do more with less time, so they're a more effective employee generally. For those wanting to be promoted, you need to be transparent with them to make it easier for them to achieve their goals.


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