Skip to main content

How to Make the Probation Period Work For You

By April 12, 2019Articles

In my last blog, I discussed the real costs of recruitment, in both time and money. So given the cost in bringing someone on board, it is absolutely crucial and makes logical sense that any business should have a robust probation process embedded in their business.

After spending all of this time identifying the right candidate, and inducting the new recruit into the business, providing clarity on performance and behavioural expectations, the lines of communication need to be opened up to ensure expectations are met from both parties. It’s so important to use the 6 or 12 months probation period, depending on the size of your business, to start the slow dance of  ‘getting to know each other’ and really determine if you are the right fit. I call it an intense period of curiosity!

Use The Time You Have Wisely

In any business I consult to, I ensure the probation process is robust and taken very seriously. This is the opportunity to communicate, for feedback to flow both ways, to understand how the person is integrating, and most importantly to assess culture fit. I was personally delighted when the probation period was increased to 6 months from 3 months, as over that period of time, you can get a good ‘feel’ for someone and assess his or her true personality and behaviours.

What you should be assessing together with skill is if there is consistency in attitude, what their strengths are and what development areas they have. You will also be able to determine the motivation levels and the goals they have. And throughout this process, you are assessing if they are the right person for your business now and for the future. If they are not, you can part ways, hopefully quite amicably if the process has been executed thoroughly.

Don’t Be Fooled – You Could Be at Risk.

There is a common misconception that you are able to dismiss an employee from your business during the probation period and not provide a reason. This isn’t the case and you must provide the employee with a reason why they haven’t worked out and document this.  This is critical in ensuring you protect your business against any legal claim the employee could take, which they may do regardless, but the point is you need to have followed a process and you need to document conversations.

Tips for Maximizing the Probation Period

I can’t stress how important and valuable this process is. In my experience when I have been part of this process with the business leader, most of the new recruits, regardless of seniority level, have appreciated this process. They value the transparency and timely feedback  Even the people, who haven’t been successful throughout the process, have been grateful for the feedback.

Here are 5 tips for doing this process well:

  1. Lock in a meeting time with the new recruit every 4 weeks.
    If you don’t have a time locked in, it won’t happen. Secure the time and seek feedback from those working with the person, positive and constructive.
  2. Be Curious
    Ask good questions that encourage a response. Don’t simply ask ‘how are things going’? Asking open and probing questions will encourage a conversation.
  3. Be Honest
    Be very transparent with your feedback. If the person is doing well, communicate how they are doing well. Similarly, if they aren’t meeting expectations, communicate where the gaps are and how that is impacting on the business and those around them. Be empathetic but also very honest and ask how you can support them to improve.
  4. Document the Feedback
    The discussion should be documented capturing the action items you have discussed. These may include improvement areas; how they will leverage the successful things they are doing, a goal you have set, a challenge. Ensure you have this recorded so you can follow these up in the next meeting and also use as a reference for future performance reviews.
  5. Follow Your Gut.
    This may seem a little fluffy but it’s one of the most important points. Often our intuition tells us that something just isn’t right but because we can’t pin point it, we let it slide. Then 9 months or 15 months down the track something happens or the employee leaves and you kick yourself for not listening to your intuition. If your gut is telling you something isn’t right, 99% of the time it isn’t.

By following this process, you have a better chance of early intervention if someone isn’t right, be able to put contingencies in place as the situation won’t come as a surprise, and if you have used a recruiter, avail of their guarantee period so the replacement won’t cost you another recruiter fee.

On a positive note, when the employee is right for your business, you’ve started to build a strong relationship with them, they feel valued, there is clarity on both sides and you have an engaged employee as part of your team. And that’s the result we’d all like to achieve.

If you need assistance in the area please don’t hesitate to contact us to have a chat