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By R.L. Burns

Drafting an effective improvement plan

Before an improvement plan can be executed, it is extremely important that clear and accurate documentation be made of each case in which the employee did not meet the set standards of productivity. This documentation should include the following:

  • Date and time the issue occurred.
  • Detailed description of what the employee did (or did not do).
  • Effect this situation had on the team/customer(s)/company.
  • Any warnings given that address employee expectations moving forward.

It is up to the supervisors and administrators to decide how many warnings an employee is given before an improvement plan is deemed necessary. Some deciding factors may include:

  • Number of like infractions (repetition of the same error).
  • Consistency of infractions (not necessarily like).
  • Long periods between infractions (this could result in an employee having multiple warnings before an improvement plan is even enforced).

Once an improvement plan is deemed necessary, the information already compiled through the documentation process will act as the outline to the performance improvement plan. If there's more than one infraction, it is up to the providing official how the improvement plan will be organized. Infractions can be listed from most severe to least severe, or from least to most.

However the organization of the list of infractions, it is important to include the same four bullet points of information collected during the documentation period:

  • Date and time: On Tuesday, May 17, 2016
  • Detailed description: Financial reports were not provided in time for the board of directors' meeting
  • Effect: This resulted in multiple projects being side-barred until budgets could be approved
  • Warnings given: On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, we spoke to discuss the importance of meeting deadlines and you assured me you'd make the next deadline of Monday, May 23, 2016

It also proves helpful to outline any part of the employee's job description that directly correlates to their ability to perform their duties in relation to the infraction. Doing this provides stable ground for the improvement plan.

The improvement plan should be just as detailed as the outline of infractions. Expectations need to be clear and concise. For example, the improvement plan for the above infraction should read:

It has become clear that time management is something that needs to be a point of focus on your desk. Beginning today, June 1, 2016, the following directives will be executed:

  • All deadlines will be set as notifications on your work calendar.
  • Financial reports will be delivered to me before you end your day each Friday.
  • We will continue to meet every Wednesday to discuss the improvement plan until it is deemed you're able to complete this process without the assistance of your supervisor.

How to measure improvement

Measuring improvement will require the same amount of dedication and documentation as addressing the infraction(s). It is beneficial for the acting supervisor/administrator to set one-on-one meetings as part of the improvement plan; this will help streamline the documentation process. It is also important for the employee's deadlines to be set as deadlines on the supervisor's calendar; this way, the supervisor is alerted to when a deadline is met or missed.

The key to any improvement plan is documentation and clear communication. The employee must understand that they've done something wrong and they must be given the coaching and direction to make corrections to their actions.

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