By Robert Reddin
A probationary period gives the employer a period of time to make sure that the person they appointed to fill a vacancy was the right choice. It’s an opportunity to evaluate the new employee’s performance, commitment and general suitability for the job, and to take the necessary action if they are failing to meet the requirements.
Probationary periods generally last for between one and six months depending on the nature of the job.
Setting the standards
There are a number of things an employer should do to give their new recruit the best chance of passing their probationary period:
- Provide the employee with a clear job specification that adequately describes the role they are to perform;
- Provide an overview of the general business practices and procedures;
- Arrange any necessary training that will help the employee reach requirements; and
- Explain when the employee will be evaluated, and what methods will be used. Some of the tools you will use for these reviews are the job specification and personal profile you created at the start of the recruitment process.
To assess the new employee, the employer will first need to determine what they expect from the employee at the various stages throughout their probationary period. These checks should be clearly described, easily measurable, and are attainable.
Set up weekly or monthly one-to-one meetings where you can review the new employee’s progress and offer feedback on the various aspects of their role, explaining to them the areas where they are performing well, and areas where improvement is needed.
Getting feedback from the people the new employee works closely with is another important way of assessing how the probationer is performing.
Don’t be afraid to adjust the various requirements as you get to know your new employee better. If someone is struggling, try giving them something more attainable; if they are completing all the tasks with ease, give them something more challenging to see how they cope.
If you made adjustments to a disabled employee’s working arrangements to enable them to take up the job, review how those adjustments are working, and consider whether any changes need to be made to them.
Putting things right
Unfortunately, not every hire you make will be a success. It is important to take action when you discover you have made a mistake.
If this happens, you need to ascertain why things did not go as you had expected. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the job specification inaccurate?
- Did you get the personal profile of the candidate wrong?
- Have you set the expected requirements too high?
- Were there any external factors that affected the employee’s development, such as a delay in training)?
- What can you do to help things get back on the right track?
Not everyone learns at the same speed. Sometimes, all that is required is a little more patience. It may be that all the probationer needs is a bit more time, in which case, consider extending the probationary period by a month.
What should you do if got the right person, but put them in the wrong job. Before cutting your losses, look around your business to see if there is anywhere they would be more suitable.
In the event that you have to let someone go, make sure you follow the correct dismissal procedure, which should include an appeal process. Ensure that you give the correct notice and holiday pay as stated in the employee’s contract of employment. You might, however, wish to pay salary in lieu of notice.
You are also being evaluated
As well as being a time for you to assess your new employee, the probationary period gives them the opportunity to confirm that they have also made the right decision. As soon as the employee passes the probationary period they are committed to working for your company for at least the length of their notice period, so they will want to be sure it’s a place where they want to work.
To ensure you retain your new employee at the end of their probationary period, and thereby saving you the trouble and cost of going through the recruitment process again, you will need to make them feel that they are an important part of the team. Make sure they know where they fit in, and how much their skills and experience are valued. Make yourself available to listen to their questions and concerns.
At the end of the probationary period
By the end of their probation period your employee should have a thorough understanding of what it is they have been employed to do, and what they need to do to achieve it. However, you should not leave them alone to get on with things. If you’ve built up a good working relationship it’s important to continue to meet them regularly so you can discuss how they are working towards their long-term goals.
As a manager, the day you let your new employee know they have passed their probationary period is a time to smile, breathe a sigh of relief and let everyone know that your recruitment campaign was successful.
Robert Reddin has been providing HR support and guidance to a wide range of businesses in England and Wales since 2001. He has worked with hundreds of companies in many business sectors. He is the director of My Virtual HR Ltd which provides HR support and a range of employment contracts, employment handbooks, HR forms and template letters from its membership website. For more information visit our website at: http://www.myvirtualhr.co.uk This article is based on content in My Virtual HR’s knowledgebase