Managing performance improvement processes–FAQs

Under Section 26 of the Public Service Act 2008, managers must proactively take steps to manage the performance and conduct of their employees and take prompt and proportionate steps to address instances of unacceptable performance or conduct. Managers and employees have a responsibility to work together to achieve better outcomes and improve performance, and that this should be done is a way that is mutually-respectful, supportive and considers the individual circumstances of each employee.

1. How can I set an employee up to succeed in their role?

Employees work best when there are clear goals outlined and they understand what is expected of them. It is also important that they receive regular and constructive feedback about how they are performing and what they can do to improve, and are recognised for what they do well. Performance development (including regular feedback and scheduled performance reviews) is essential to engage and develop employees and strengthen performance within an organisation.

Good performance management is about managing all aspects of an employee’s performance consistently, equitably and transparently. A vital element of this process is open and honest communication between employees and managers through regular conversations.

2. What should I do if I notice an employee’s conduct or performance is outside of expectations?

A manager should hold an initial conversation with the employee to explore the circumstances and seek to understand what’s happening. Minor or isolated incidents are generally more effectively managed through a collaborative approach where supportive improvement strategies are implemented and monitored through regular conversations with the employee.

3. Should I wait until a performance and development meeting to raise concerns about an employee’s conduct or performance?

No. Regular conversations with employees are the most effective tool a manager has for addressing concerns regarding conduct or performance. Managers are required to take steps to proactively manage circumstances of poor conduct or performance and timely feedback is important for assisting employees to self-correct and take steps to improve. Feedback should be provided as close as possible to when the poor conduct or performance arises, and should be structured around identifying the issues, while putting in place strategies to improve and ongoing monitoring through regular conversations.

4. What if an employee’s personal circumstances are impacting on their conduct or performance?

Managers should work with employees to understand whether any personal circumstances may be impacting their performance or conduct. In circumstances where an employee discloses factors that may be affecting them (for example domestic violence or family caring responsibilities), managers should engage with the employee to put in place supports or workplace adjustments to assist them in improving their situation. Working with the employee, managers should then monitor the effectiveness of these supports against the required standards of performance or conduct.

Where an employee’s conduct or performance is impacted by a medical condition, the manager should consider the available medical information and provide reasonable adjustments as required to support the employee. If reasonable adjustments do not assist in achieving the required standards, an agency can consider a direction to an IME under the relevant sections of the Act and the related directive.

5. What is the difference between a performance and development agreement and a performance improvement plan (PIP)?

A performance and development agreement enables managers to support the performance of an employee and their team. This document is initially used to establish and clarify performance and conduct expectations for an employee, and is then used to regularly review and provide feedback on the employee’s progress. It is also a collaborative tool that managers can use to understand future development and career goals for the employee and develop plans to support progression. Performance and development agreements should be put in place for all employees upon commencement, and monitored and reviewed at least twice yearly and used as a basis for feedback.

A PIP is a process that can be utilised when early discussions and support interventions have not assisted an employee to self-correct and achieve the required standard of conduct or performance. It is a formal plan with a defined timeframe and specific strategies for achieving the level of improvement necessary for the employee to consistently perform at the expected standards required in their role. It provides measurable goals and outcomes and tailored support mechanisms to support the employee, and sets out the consequences that may occur for the employee if these are not achieved.

6. When should a PIP be considered?

The PIP checklist (PDF, 158 KB) (Word) (DOCX, 119 KB) has been developed to assist managers determine whether a PIP is an appropriate step to take.

A PIP is most effective in supporting employees improve their performance where there may be a skills or knowledge deficit, or in addressing minor interpersonal or conduct matters. It should not be considered to address matters of serious misconduct as defined under section 187 of the Act.

7. How can I tell the difference between a performance matter and misconduct?

If an employee can’t comply with expectations due to a gap in their skill set or knowledge, a PIP may be an excellent vehicle to support them in achieving the required standards of conduct or performance.

If an employee is aware of what is expected of them and is choosing not to comply, a PIP may not be of value in addressing the matter. Depending upon the seriousness of the conduct, management or discipline action may be a more appropriate pathway to take.

8. What should be included in a PIP?

There are a number of things that should be included in a PIP. The agreement should document the gaps between actual and expected performance. It should outline what the employee is expected to achieve with clear and measurable outcomes, what support and strategies will be put in place to assist this, and how frequently review meetings will be held to measure progress against the outcomes. It should also include how additional feedback will be provided, how long the PIP will be in place and the potential consequences for the employee should the required standards not be met. The PIP template (DOCX, 87 KB) has been designed with examples to guide agencies across all of the mandatory inclusions of the PIP.

9. How long should the PIP go for?

The duration of a PIP is generally 12 weeks, however can be for a longer or shorter period, depending on the circumstances and the nature of what the employee is expected to achieve. For example, if an employee achieves and sustains what is required of them in a shorter period than 12 weeks, a manager may choose to conclude the PIP earlier than its original timeframe. If an employee requires formal training that extends beyond a 12-week timeframe, it may be appropriate to consider a longer PIP.

10. What happens during a PIP?

Employees are required to actively participate in the process to support improved conduct or performance. During the PIP timeframe, managers and employees must meet regularly (usually weekly or fortnightly) to review the employee’s progress against the requirements of the PIP. Managers must consider each requirement of the review period and provide feedback to the employee on whether they have met or not met each requirement. This feedback should be specific with examples and evidence provided against each requirement, and the employee given the opportunity to comment. In circumstances where the employee has not met what has been required, managers should consider the reasons for this and whether any additional supports or training could be put in place to assist the employee in achieving what is required. The review meeting and its outcomes must be documented and a copy provided to the employee.

11. Can the duration of a PIP be extended?

Yes, it may be reasonable to extend the initial duration of a PIP where the employee has met some of the required standards or has demonstrated good progression towards these and it is anticipated they will be achieved within a short period or with additional supports.

Any extension to the duration of a PIP must be for a reasonable period and the reasons should be clearly communicated to the employee prior to the cessation of their initial PIP period.

12. What happens following the end of the PIP?

At the end of the PIP, an employee should be able to demonstrate that they have been able to achieve and maintain the required standard of conduct or performance. In this circumstance, the employee should be advised of the successful completion of the PIP and that the expected standards will be monitored through regular performance development processes.

If an employee has not been able to achieve and maintain the required standards, agency delegates should consider whether extending the PIP for a further period will achieve the required outcomes, or whether it would be more appropriate to consider if there are grounds for discipline under section 187 of the Act.

13. Can I progress directly to discipline?

In some circumstances it may be appropriate to commence a disciplinary process where issues of unacceptable conduct or performance are identified. These may include serious misconduct matters as defined at section 187 of the Act or conduct matters including bullying or sexual harassment.

It may also be appropriate to consider a discipline process in circumstances where previous PIP processes have occurred and the employee has not maintained or achieved the required standards of conduct or performance.

14. Where can I go for more information?

Further information can be found at