corrective action plan

Corrective Action Plan: What It Is and Implementation Tips

Do you want to ensure your business meets customer needs and complies with state, federal, and local regulatory requirements? Consider implementing a corrective action plan.

At first glance, many managers may think that a corrective action plan is part of employee discipline or employee development. And while you can use a corrective action plan to address those issues, you can also use it to improve other aspects of your business.

In this article, we’ll help you understand exactly what a corrective action plan is and how to implement one in your company.

Table Of Contents

What is a corrective action plan?

manager creating a corrective action plan

At its most basic, a corrective action plan (or “CAP” for short) is a step-by-step plan that’s put in place to address specific shortcomings or errors in the operation of your business.

Most often, you’ll implement a corrective action plan in an effort to:

  • Streamline workflow
  • Identify cost-effective routes to correct errors
  • Improve processes or methods
  • Increase effectiveness and efficiency
  • Control or eliminate deficient practices

Despite those most-common uses, you can deploy a CAP any time you identify an issue within your business that you want to change.

The corrective action plan could be something as simple as how you greet your customers when they first walk in or something as complicated as how you set up your accounting practices.

Why a corrective action plan is important

Pieces of a corrective action plan and other business info on a wall

Think of a corrective action plan as a record of your actions. The CAP gives you a reference point to look back on when there are questions about implementation and when it comes time to evaluate whether or not the changes were successful.

With a written strategy in place, you and your team can monitor, manage, develop, improve, and evolve your solutions much easier — and more successfully — than if you randomly tried different approaches.

In many ways, a CAP is like the scientific method:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Research the issue
  3. Construct a hypothesis
  4. Test with an experiment
  5. Analyze data and draw conclusions
  6. Report your results

Once you’ve gone through the steps of your plan and analyzed the results, you can then refine the CAP to make further improvements.

Benefits of a corrective action plan

Woman seeing the benefits of a corrective action plan

1) Morale

Creating a corrective action plan for an individual, a team, a department, or your entire business may boost morale for everyone involved.

Not only does a CAP give your employees something to focus on, but it can also help them build their skills and change their behaviors for the better.

And, when your team sees that you’re willing to help them improve — rather than straight out disciplining them for their mistakes — they may be more likely to maintain a higher sense of morale while they’re at work.

That higher sense of morale, in turn, can make it easier for your employees to forge strong bonds, a sense of camaraderie, and a willingness to cooperate on even the most difficult tasks.

For help improving the morale in your business, take a few minutes to read this article from the Sling blog: 7 Tips To Boost Employee Morale For A Better Work Environment.

2) Engagement

Every manager wants their team to feel valued and engaged in the work at hand. A corrective action plan may help improve and maintain that engagement longer.

Putting together a CAP and giving your employees direction and guidance on how to get better at their jobs shows them that you are engaged in seeing them improve and actively invested in the growth of the team and the business.

Knowing that you are engaged and working for their success might motivate your team to break through their comfort zone into new realms of productivity.

Better employee engagement may also create a higher sense of purpose in your business that can translate into even more benefits for your company.

You can work on your employee engagement at any time — not just through a CAP — by trying out some of the suggestions from this article in the Sling blog: 30 Employee Engagement Ideas For A More Productive Team.

3) Job satisfaction

Job satisfation with a corrective action plan

While morale and engagement are two important variables in the productivity equation, job satisfaction should not be overlooked.

Job satisfaction (also known as employee satisfaction) is a feeling of fulfillment or enjoyment that a person derives from their job.

Creating a corrective action plan gives your team something to work toward and might provide a sense of fulfillment, enjoyment, and, yes, satisfaction, that may not have been there before.

Struggling with ideas to improve your team’s job satisfaction? Check out this helpful article from the Sling blog: 5 Expert Tips To Boost Employee Satisfaction.

4) Happiness

While morale, engagement, satisfaction, and happiness may seem like much the same thing, they are actually very different aspects of your team’s success.

Employees can have high morale and be engaged and satisfied with their job but still not be happy. This may translate to strained relationships with teammates and customers alike.

A corrective action plan can address the issues that are causing the negative feelings to flourish. This, in turn, may help improve employee happiness in every corner of your business.

For a further discussion of happiness in the workplace, take a few minutes to read this article from the Sling blog: 8 Ways To Increase Employee Happiness And Why It Matters.

5) Loyalty

As mentioned earlier, a CAP is a way to address specific shortcomings in employee behaviors and performance, speed bumps in the workflow, or errors in the operation of your business.

In regard to employee behaviors and performance, the CAP is a way of helping your team members improve at their job without the need for direct discipline.

When you are actively working to grow your employees’ skills, loyalty may improve because employees know that they are free to make mistakes (within reason, of course) without the fear of losing their job right away.

6) Motivation

There are many ways to motivate your team while they’re on the job, and you may have your own unique methods, but a CAP can be very effective at creating a foundation for improvement in every corner of your business.

Keep in mind that not every employee will respond to the same method of motivation. Different personalities will respond to different types of motivation.

It’s important to customize the CAP you put in place to address those personality differences — whether the plan applies to an individual or an entire team.

For a deeper discussion on employee motivation, check out these articles from the Sling blog:

Now that you understand what a corrective action plan is, why it’s important, and what some of the benefits are, let’s focus on how to implement one for best results.

How to implement a corrective action plan

Business owner looking at charts and info on a bulletin board

1) Examine the issue

In this first step, try to get an understanding of the underlying problem.

You may have quality guidelines or standard operating procedures in place, but there could be fundamental obstacles that make those guidelines and standards difficult to achieve.

When you get to the core issue, the solutions often present themselves. This makes it easier to plan, write, and implement your corrective action plan.

2) Talk to your team

Before you begin creating a corrective action plan, take some time to talk to your team and find out their perspective on the problem.

Consulting with team members can help you get to the heart of the matter and find out if the issues that prompted the need for a CAP were a one-time event or a recurring thing.

If the former, you may be better served letting the problem resolve itself rather than implementing an unnecessary CAP that may lead to more problems than solutions.

3) Plan the process

Once you thoroughly understand the problem in question, it’s time to plan the process for improvement.

During the planning stage, you may want to:

  • Investigate the root cause of the issue
  • Evaluate and assess nonconformance triggers (e.g., customer complaints, audits, process specifications, etc.)
  • Identify related issues
  • Determine solutions
  • Apply risk-management protocols
  • Establish responsibilities at various stages of the CAP
  • Set an adequate period of time to test the CAP

When you complete the planning process, it’s time to document your solutions.

4) Build clear and achievable goals

clear and achievable goals

There’s very little chance that your corrective action plan will be successful unless you build goals and benchmarks into the process.

These goals and benchmarks should be specific, clear, and achievable. In fact, it’s often better to set numerous small, easy-to-measure goals rather than one or two big goals that are more difficult to measure.

Small, specific goals serve the purpose of providing a sense of accomplishment that isn’t there if you give the employee a main objective to shoot for without any intermediate steps (and successes to inspire them).

So, for example, avoid setting the goal for your employee to “get better at customer service.” They may wonder what better customer service looks like.

Instead, set small, clear, measurable goals — such as smiling, being patient, engaging in small talk, etc. — that add up to the kind of customer service you’re looking for.

5) Set a time limit on your CAP

When building a corrective action plan for an individual or a team, be sure to set a time limit on the activities. If you leave your CAP open-ended, the individual or team may lose the drive necessary to accomplish the goals along the way.

Setting a time limit can also provide much-needed direction that helps the people involved know what they need to do first, second, third, and so on to be successful.

It will also give them a good idea of how quickly they’ll need to work to accomplish their goals, stay on track, and complete the action plan before the deadline.

6) Write the corrective action plan

Now it’s time to put pen to paper and write out the details of your corrective action plan. Be sure to include specifics such as:

  • The problem you are addressing
  • The solution for improving
  • Formal documentation of policies
  • Specific procedures put in place to deal with the problem
  • Team and individual responsibilities

7) Train your team

Coworkers having a training meeting about corrective action plans in a conference room

Depending on how big your CAP is, this step may be straightforward or extremely involved.

If the CAP focuses on an individual employee, the training may only occupy a few hours. But if the CAP focuses on a larger, business-wide issue, training may take weeks or even months.

When planning your training, lay out the process from start to finish so that your team has the knowledge, understanding, skills, and confidence necessary to comply with the corrective action plan.

8) Implement the CAP

Once training is complete, set a date for the plan to go live.

Before that date, ensure that your written plan is complete and that all instructions, procedures, and methods are in place and readily available to all of your employees.

9) Monitor progress

After you turn your team loose to work on the corrective action plan, be sure to monitor their actions along the way. Doing so can help you see if they’re making real progress or if you need to revise the plan on the fly.

Monitoring progress also lets your team know that you’re serious about their improvement.

10) Examine the results

Back in step five, you set a period of time to test the CAP. Regardless of the duration, when that time period has elapsed, it’s time to examine the results.

Did the corrective action plan perform as intended? Was the issue resolved? Could the results be better?

Think of this as a repeat of step one, and try to get as full a sense of the underlying problem as possible.

11) Adjust the CAP

When you’ve thoroughly examined the results, plan a new process (step three), adjust the process (step four), and start again.

Corrective action plan example

Plan Start Work scrabble tiles

The text in this section is an example of a corrective action plan. It is not meant to be used word-for-word but, rather, as inspiration to help you craft an appropriate plan for your employees, teams, and business.

April 04, 2022

In the first quarter of this year, Tom received a poor performance review during his one-on-one with team lead, Brady.

Tom’s work was below company standards and resulted in a significant drop in his customer satisfaction numbers.

Brady informed Tom that management had arranged to give him three months to improve during which Brady would monitor his work and evaluate the quality until he reached a minimum of 90% on his customer satisfaction rating.

During that time, Brady will help Tom determine the cause of his poor performance and outline steps he can take to get better at his job.

May 05, 2022

During Brady’s discussions with Tom, Tom admitted that he misunderstood the standard operating workflow, which dramatically affected his performance.

Brady will retrain Tom on the proper procedures.

July 07, 2022

After retraining, Tom was able to achieve a customer satisfaction score of 92% for the months of April, May, and June.

Schedule time to focus on your corrective action plan

Schedule time to focus on your corrective action plan

One of the most important aspects of implementing a corrective action plan is finding the time to focus on the planning, corrective actions, and analysis of the results. Scheduling software like Sling may help.

The Sling app can help you carve out time during the busy workday to discuss, examine, and refine your CAP so you can achieve the best results the first time through.

But that’s not the only thing Sling can do. The Sling suite of tools also includes:

  • Powerful, calendar-based scheduling
  • Built-in time clock
  • Attendance tracker
  • Labor cost optimization
  • Budget reminders
  • Overtime monitor
  • Extensive reporting
  • Timesheets for seamless payroll processing
  • Paid-time-off control
  • Efficient messaging system
  • Team-wide newsfeed
  • Flexible task list

With Sling, you can conduct all of your workforce management activities in one place instead of cobbling together various separate apps that don’t integrate well with each other.

For more resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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