Calgary & Strathmore Employment Lawyers Advising Employers on Performance Improvement Plans

A Performance Improvement Plan is a document provided to an employee by their employer to help the employee improve their performance at work, and/or to document evidence of employee misconduct or poor performance.

A Performance Improvement Plan highlights:

  • Employer expectations of the employee,
  • How the employee is failing to meet those expectations, and
  • How the employee can solve performance problems.

A Performance Improvement Plan is not a disciplinary action, but if an employee fails to improve after receiving a Performance Improvement Plan, disciplinary action and even termination could follow. Employees should consider a Performance Improvement Plan a strong warning.

How a Performance Improvement Plan Can Help Employees in Alberta

A thoughtfully prepared Performance Improvement Plan can help employees improve their performance in the workplace by clarifying employer expectations—such as specific objectives and a reasonable timeline. It can also pinpoint problems and provide a clear plan of action the employee can follow to meet the employer’s expectations.

A Performance Improvement Plan can be an effective tool to motivate an employee because it also details the undesirable consequences of failing to improve, such as termination. The Performance Improvement Plan serves as a warning.

When should a Performance Improvement Plan be implemented?

A Performance Improvement Plan is one step in a disciplinary process, but it shouldn’t be used in every deficient performance scenario. For example, a one-time failure doesn’t warrant a Performance Improvement Plan, but repeated and ongoing poor performance may improve with a Performance Improvement Plan.

When the issue is more about an employee’s behaviour (such as discrimination or unlawful conduct) than their work performance, a Performance Improvement Plan is not the best course of action. Egregious misconduct is typically cause for immediate termination without a lengthy progressive disciplinary process.

Performance Improvement Plan Considerations for Alberta Employers

Before an employer issues a Performance Improvement Plan, ensure the employee understands your expectations. Try to improve performance with a verbal reprimand first, a written reprimand next, and then consider a Performance Improvement Plan.

Performance Improvement Plans are most effective when they’re used to empower employees to improve their own performance and overcome roadblocks. Employees with a work history of effective performance are more likely to implement the recommendations of a Performance Improvement Plan, whereas employees with a history of failing to respond to correction and poor performance are less likely to benefit from a Performance Improvement Plan.

How should a Performance Improvement Plan be implemented?

A Performance Improvement Plan should be drafted using precise, unbiased language that’s genuinely helpful. Remember that a Performance Improvement Plan is not a disciplinary action but an effort to revitalize an employee. The goal is to provide a clear process and helpful tools to empower the employee to improve.

The Performance Improvement Plan should include:

  • The employer’s expectations of the employee—the employee’s role or job position, duties, and measurable performance targets
  • The specific areas of performance the employee needs to improve
  • Specific, measurable, and realistic ways the employee can improve
  • Resources the employer will provide to help, including support, mentorship, and training
  • Scheduled meetings for follow-up and tracking progress
  • An appropriate duration for the Performance Improvement Plan (typically 1-3 months)
  • Consequences of failing to meet the objectives, such as demotion, suspension, or termination with cause (i.e. without severance)

The Performance Improvement Plan should be presented to the employee in a private meeting near the end of the work day and not near a major deadline. During this meeting, accept their feedback regarding the obstacles they’re facing. They may have identified a need for additional training or support, in which case the employer should provide those needs as soon as possible.

Throughout the implementation of the Performance Improvement Plan, keep detailed records of the employee’s performance, including dates and examples. This allows you to track progress or deterioration, and equip you for whatever next steps are required.

Have an employment lawyer review your PIP before presenting it to an employee. The employment lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates can help.

Performance Improvement Plans & Employee Termination

Some employers use a Performance Improvement Plan to build a case for just cause termination, which requires evidence of employee wrongdoing. In a wrongful termination lawsuit, a Performance Improvement Plan can be a crucial piece of evidence that shows cause for dismissal and the employer’s attempt at progressive discipline to resolve the issue.

Note that a Performance Improvement Plan does not always lead to an employer’s success in proving just cause for termination. A judge examines all the facts and various factors in determining just cause.

In Canada, the courts support employees and make it challenging for employers to justify termination with cause. Employers must provide evidence of repeated warnings and progressive disciplinary actions to show that the employee had fair warning and many opportunities to remedy the situation.

Getz Collins and Associates: Providing Comprehensive Advice on Performance Management to Employers Across Alberta

Employers facing employee performance issues may be hesitant to take on the cost of an employment lawyer. However, retaining the knowledgeable employment lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates helps Alberta employers avoid expensive mistakes and reduce risk. We provide trusted support at every step of the performance management and progressive discipline process, including the implementation of Performance Improvement Plans, to help clients mitigate liability and prevent wrongful dismissal litigation in the future.

A cornerstone of the Alberta legal landscape, Getz Collins and Associates has established lasting relationships with employers across the province. With convenient locations in Calgary and Strathmore, the firm maintains an unyielding commitment to providing exceptional client-centred services to businesses and employers of all sizes throughout the surrounding communities, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, and Hussar. Call us at 587-391-5600 or reach out online to schedule a consultation.