Things to consider with probationary periods

Things to consider with probationary periods

Most companies offer new employees jobs with a probationary period but do not have a plan for what the periods should include or how the employees should be evaluated. In this article we explain how you, the employer, can use the probationary period in the best interests of both the company and the employee. 

Perhaps you’ve hired the wrong person in the past – someone who didn’t deliver the results you expected. The question is whether you recruited the wrong person or whether the onboarding and training process was inadequate, or perhaps you had unreasonable demands as an employer?

With a probationary period, the employee is hired for a fixed-period of up to six months, with the intention of then making them a permanent employee. During the probationary period the notice period is shorter than usual and the employee does not qualify for protection against unfair dismissal.

In many cases, the probationary period has already ended and the employee has become a permanent employee and worked for the organisation for many years with mounting dissatisfaction on the part of the employer. It’s a shame to let things go that far, as often the problem could have been prevented or resolved during a probationary period.

A well-thought-out plan is needed

During the probationary period you, the employer, not only need to make sure that you have hired the right person but also that the new employee is happy and has been given the right foundations and conditions to do a good job.

You need to establish an onboarding and training process for new employees, if you do not have one already. With probationary periods, you have to identify what you, the employer, need to know and, therefore, which activities need to be carried out so that you can determine whether or not to make the employee a permanent employee at the end of the probationary period.

These activities need to be methodically planned and worked on, as the six months pass quickly. It’s no good realising what you should do when there are only a few weeks of the probationary period left.

What you need to consider and plan for during the probationary period:

  • What is your corporate culture? What behaviour do you expect from your employees and what is important at your workplace?

  • What are your expectations and requirements regarding knowledge acquisition, initiative, work input and results during the probationary period? Are they reasonable? Are the right conditions in place?

  • What should the employee learn and over what period of time? Make a brief plan for the first six months.

  • Ensure that the plan for onboarding is adhered to – by the new employee, the manager and other relevant employees alike.

  • Have regular follow-up talks with the new employee during the probationary period (read more below).

  • Invite the new employee to a development review as you would your other employees. This is a good opportunity to discuss and document goals, priorities and expectations for the role in general.

The importance of follow-up talks

Many managers consider follow-up talks during the probationary period a waste of time, but they are absolutely crucial in getting new employees to deliver good results.  

Whatever the role, you will benefit greatly from having follow-up talks that address whether the employee is happy, what training they have done, what performance goals have been set and an evaluation of what progress the employee has made. They are also an opportunity to tailor the onboarding to the present needs and give specific feedback on any behaviour and work performance that needs to be changed. 

A well-thought-out plan for probationary periods with regular follow-ups results in new employees who feel welcome and understand what is expected of them. For employers it also leads to more successful recruitments.

Do you need better procedures for onboarding, training and follow-up during probationary periods? Azets is ready to help you with procedures adapted to your business.
Contact us to find out more