Employee Relations: How to Successfully Utilize a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

As a supervisor, you have a responsibility to ensure that your team understands Valencia’s Strategic Goals and how your unit/department goals and objectives align with the college-wide goals. This paves the way for setting realistic employee performance expectations and will help you to create individual performance goals for your employees that support the work of your department.

Managing employee performance is an important supervisory competency, in which all supervisors have a responsibility to clarify and communicate performance expectations. Effective performance management requires a focus on developing your staff by providing timely feedback and performance assessment, fair and equitable policy administration, training, and other opportunities for learning. In essence, as a supervisor, you have a significant impact on the focus and commitment of your team.

I have tried different approaches to develop an employee on my team. What happens when it appears I have followed all of the steps for promoting the positive performance of my employee and yet he/she is still not meeting performance expectations? Is it time to begin formal documentation? Should I consider utilizing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?

The tools and resources provided in the January and February ER Pathways articles discussed fostering a positive relationship, open communication, providing guidance, assessing performance, and coaching in your efforts to assist the employee in improving performance or behaviors. Before determining whether or not you should initiate a formal improvement plan, you must first understand performance, its purpose, and what the improvement plan entails.

Understanding Performance
Performance is something a person does. Job performance on the other hand, is conceptualized as a multidimensional construct. Below is a proposed, eight-factor model of performance based on research that attempts to capture dimensions of job performance existent (to a greater or lesser extent) across all jobs.

Eight Factor Model of Performance, John P. Campbell (1990)

  1. Task-specific behaviors ­– behaviors that an individual undertakes as part of a job.
  2. Non-task specific behaviors –behaviors that an individual is required to undertake, which do not pertain only to a particular job (e.g. admissions coordinator acting as trainer).
  3. Communication (verbal & written) – refers to activities where the incumbent is evaluated, not on the content of a message necessarily, but on the adeptness with which they deliver the communication.
  4. Effort – either day to day, or under extraordinary circumstances. This factor reflects the degree to which people commit themselves to job tasks.
  5. Discipline (personal) – individuals would be expected to be in good standing with the law, policies, etc.
  6. Helps others – especially in highly interdependent jobs (e.g. acting as a good role model, coaching, giving advice or helping maintain group goals).
  7. *Supervisory (Specific to positions supervising people) – individuals are to be relied upon to undertake many of the things delineated under the previous factor and in addition will be responsible for rewards and discipline.
  8. *Function Management/Administration (Specific to positions managing a function) – Entails those aspects of a job that serve the group or organization, but may or may not involve direct supervision of employees.

The Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a tool that usually indicates an employee is underachieving in his/her job. A PIP is considered a cautionary sign to the under-performing employee that offers an objective and positive approach to turning around the poor performance. Most supervisors are anxious about writing these plans, do not know when to utilize the tool, and usually have a hard time starting the process. The model below shows the minimum steps a supervisor should take preceding the desired outcome or performance.

The office of employee relations (ER) provides assistance on the interpretation of applicable policies and objective assessment of performance concerns by assisting you in evaluating the respective job description and critical functions of the job. The ER office also provides additional guidance to determine if the concern is related to a specific task(s), behavior(s), or lack of necessary skills.

If it is determined that a PIP may be the next natural progression, ER will provide you with Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) Toolkit to support you with making the process unbiased, organized, and well…easier! The goal is to ensure clarity, success and consistency on how performance improvement is managed college-wide.

Disclaimer: Recommendations are general examples and do not apply in all instances. All characters are fictional and based on general assumptions on employee situations that may occur in the workplace; hence, the steps provided are only a guideline and should not be considered the actions to be taken at all times. More information may be required to address an issue based on the totality of the circumstances.

Please contact Michelle Sever, director of employee relations, at msever@valenciacollege.edu or extension 8256 or Lisandra “Liz” Suarez, assistant director of employee relations, at lsuarez@valenciacollege.edu or extension 8210 for assistance.

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