As the drop-off in Tribunal claims continues, HR people may well enjoy being able to focus more on the “day job”. In my experience that day job usually includes the following:

  • A – Alignment of employees with the business’ strategy
  • E – Engagement between employees and employers
  • I – Immersion of the business’ core values
  • O – Openness and transparency
  • U – Upskilling of employees, junior and senior
I’m sure I’d be able to fill the consonants as well, but you get the gist. Get all of the above right and that will have a direct and positive effect on the performance of employees and of the business.

So how does the Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP, fit into this? Hasn’t it always been a dirty word, a stick with which to beat under performing employees?  I know that’s how it’s seen in some quarters, but it doesn’t have to be – nor should it be.  A classic example came out recently in a constructive dismissal claim I was defending on behalf of the employer. The (relatively senior) employee resigned in a fit of pique after being placed on a PIP by the line manager.  Under cross-examination my line manager witness explained to the Tribunal that the PIP was a support measure which did not form part of the employer’s 3-part formal capability procedure.  “Come, come, we all know PIPs are seen as a disciplinary measure” advanced the Claimant’s barrister, to which my witness retorted that he had recently placed himself on a PIP as a mechanism for realigning, challenging himself and driving himself and his team forward in line with the business’ new strategies.  What fantastic evidence but also what a great role model.  Needless to say, the claim failed.

The point is this: I have seen PIPs used as a stick and, even when they are not, I understand that people perceive there to be a hidden agenda.  But when communicated transparently and empathetically, when used properly as a means of engaging the employee, aligning them to business needs and helping them to develop the skillset they need, I have seen PIPs work wonders for both the business and the employee. Whilst it may sometimes be hard work getting there, the rewards can certainly make it worthwhile.  In the situations I have been involved with, the majority of outcomes have been successful, whereby the employees have become empowered by a sense of alignment and achievement, and the employers have gained a new level of commitment and loyalty.  And for the cynics out there, just look at the bottom line in terms of the savings made by investing in existing employees rather than incurring the costs of prematurely exiting them and recruiting and training the replacements…

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