PIP and SMART Principle – Part One


A company is as strong as its manpower. When employees are highly motivated and perform well, the company benefits from it. Productivity will increase resulting in more revenue and profits. Annually, companies spend a large portion of its budget on recruiting and training employees. Perhaps this would be a good time for employers to shift their focus to retaining and enhancing its existing workforce instead of taking the unfruitful path of termination as what a waste of resources it will be.

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The issue of poor performance usually begins when the immediate superior or the manager realises its subordinate is incapable of executing his tasks or shows a decline in performance. When such a matter comes to light, employers are urged not to be so quick to dismiss an employee. This is because you are legally bound to put in effort to assist the employee and instant dismissal would not be financially fruitful for the organisation. This article serve as a guide on how to handle a performance issue.

Curbing Performance Issues from the Beginning

Steps to tackle this issue need not begin when performance has already plummeted. It can be avoided from the very beginning at the recruitment stage itself. During the interview, candidates are not always truthful or might oversell themselves which may lead to a mismatch with the position offered. In the long run, you will start to see the employee’s inability to perform and its ripple effect. This is why it is always good to have candidates take personality tests such as the Saville Assessment to see their actual ability and suitability with the position offered. Nevertheless, this solution may not be viable for companies needing high number of employees within very short periods of time. Simple interviews are usually done without further screening then the employee is off to the production line which in the end causes high turnovers. An employer can also assess an employee’s capability during his probationary period or while the employee is on a fixed term contract. With this data, one can decide on whether the particular employee is worth retaining or not.

Deciding on the Correct Route to Tackle a Performance Issue

There are few suggested solutions in addressing the issue at hand such as a performance improvement plan (PIP), re-designation, demotion, and of course, termination of employment. I’ll elaborate further on PIP as a solution which is aimed at rehabilitating and enhancing an employee’s productivity.

PIP is a programme designed on a case to case basis by both the employer and employee to increase his/her performance up to an acceptable standard. A PIP shall set him/her up for success ensuring positive effects for both the business and the employee.

Before deciding to place an employee in PIP, managers should first do their preliminary investigation. The question in mind should be, ‘Is PIP the appropriate programme here?’ These are the few key points to be taken into consideration:

Is it a performance issue or a disciplinary matter?

If it is the latter, the correct route would be to undertake disciplinary action such as the issuance of a show cause letter.

Is the employee actually performing poorly or is there a problem between him and his superior?

Most of the time it is due to the difference in understanding between the superior and the subordinate of the goals targeted. If that is the case, PIP is not suitable. Instead, a thorough target setting session should take place.

There are also times when the superior uses PIP as a way to legally terminate an employee. By setting up the employee for failure, the purpose of PIP is defeated altogether.

Is the superior committed to helping the employee?

PIP requires both the employee and the superior to be disciplined in the implementation. The employee must strive to achieve the target while the superior must conduct timely reviews guided according to the appropriate standards. If the superior is not keen on helping or participating, PIP would not be a success.

Has the employee been performing poorly since the start of his employment or did it happen instantly or gradually?

If the employee has been struggling since joining, recruitment should relook into their hiring process. The employee then should either be placed in PIP or re-assigned to a more suitable position.  In situations where a good employee suddenly underperforms, it would seem to suggest that there might be external pressures affecting him such as personal problem or work environment changes which caused the employee’s inability to cope. For example, when there is advancement in technology in which he has not been trained for. Upon identifying the root cause of the problem, then the superior can customise the PIP programme accordingly.