As a Practice Manager or Owner, leadership comes down to you. This includes not just congratulating those who perform to task or above expectations, but assisting those team members that are underperforming.

It can often be one of the toughest parts of an Owner or Manager’s position.

This is where a Performance Improvement Plan, otherwise known as a PIP, comes in handy.

What is a PIP?

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is used when you have a team member who is consistently underperforming.

Significantly, they are not underperforming due to a lack of skill or ability.

The PIP is used for those team members who have what it takes to succeed, they are just continually falling short for whatever reason.

A PIP is a common tool found in many big corporations to assist where better performance is required. It clearly outlines the necessary results that are needed to retain satisfactory employment status, the resources required to succeed along with an expected timeframe and consequences if the guidelines are not met.

How employees view a PIP

Understandably, your employee who is being introduced to a PIP may not receive it with the greatest of enthusiasm.

However, it is likely to not come as a surprise.

It is important to clarify with your employee that the PIP is not a punishment, yet a tool to help them get back on track.

That it is being implemented by management as a tool to achieve success and is supported by all levels of management. It is not the first in a set of termination, or official notice paperwork.

How to implement a PIP

The way a PIP is introduced to your team is of paramount importance.

Back up the PIP with a high level of support and care – not as a form of discipline.

When going through the PIP, encourage your employee to discuss their areas of concern and reasons why they may be underperforming.

This in itself can start the conversation of what areas may be affecting their work – whether it be within the workplace or personally.

Be prepared to listen. You may not have all the answers, but listening is the first step.

Ensure your team member knows the discussions are confidential to encourage an open dialogue.

PIP goals

Your PIP should contain SMART goals for your employee to work on. That is:

  1. specific
  2. measurable
  3. attainable
  4. relevant
  5. time-bound

This will help to break down the expectations into bite-sized, doable pieces and not overwhelm your employee.

It also helps you to keep your expectations in check.

If you have had any customer or other employee complaints about the team member, discuss them openly. Again, this feedback should be given in a constructive way – not as a targeted attack on them personally.

PIP timelines

Once you have some goals in place, set a timeline to review them. Whether it be 30, 60 or 90 days to have a regular check-in and discuss progress.

This does not necessarily have to be face-to-face on a regular basis.

Implementing a digital team line such as Slack or Skype to facilitate active, regular communication between staff. Implementation of such a simple communication system can go a long way to boosting staff morale.

Be accessible

As a leader, you need to be accessible to your staff.

Have an open-door policy.

Let your staff know they can approach you and discuss any issues with you at any time.

Encourage your team members who are experiencing difficulty in performance to touch base regularly and check in.

Expanding your PIP

Fast forward and your PIP has been implemented and staff performance has improved. You can now expand on your PIP and use it for future Professional Development plans and performance reviews.

If anything else, it gives you a good base to work from when evaluating and discussing your staff’s ongoing performance, salary reviews and promotions.

At the end of the day, assisting your team comes down to effective communication and fostering an engaged and productive workforce.

If you’d like to chat to us about your veterinary clinic operations and team, give our team a call. We are experts in assisting veterinarians purchase, sell and manage their clinics across Australia.