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The importance of probationary periods

why do you need a probation period

Love them or loathe them probationary periods are still very much a part of some organisation’s onboarding process.

Ideally your recruitment process has helped you find a candidate who is a good fit for the role, so why the need for a probationary period?

Some employers like to use the first 3 or 6 months to explicitly lay out their expectations and to offer close support to the new starter as they find their feet. This approach can work well for employees too. When it’s clear what is expected of people, they can assess whether the role really is right for them and if they need help, there is a framework already in place.

With such a process in place, it’s important to make full use of it. Afterall, a process can’t work by itself. To make the probationary period work as well as possible for you, as an employer first consider its purpose. If, as I have suggested it provides a settling in period for the employee then think about what should be provided to the employee so they can do their job to the best of their ability. If you’ve given them the hardware they need then next, ask yourself if the new recruit knows how to use everything they have been given and whether they know how to access help. Who can best help them? What are you best placed to support them with?

As part of the probationary period framework, I would expect to see milestones and review periods set out in advance and closely adhered to. Any discussions that take place can be noted as part of the overall onboarding discussions and could possibly feed into recruitment and probationary for future hires.

The best type of probationary period goes to plan and run smoothly. Everything falls into place (hopefully because of your forward thinking) and at the end of the period you sign off the probationary period, the employee passes and they feel fully integrated in to the team and the wider organisation.

The alternative is when, during the probationary period, there are some hiccups. Having a probationary period doesn’t guarantee immunity from some of the bumps in the road that come with recruiting new members of staff. There is a long list, too long for this post, of things that may not work out.   My list of recommendations, however, is quite short: have a conversation and nip it in the bud.

The details of what to say will be different for each scenario but finding out more will help you decide how to proceed. The longer you wait the closer to the end of the probationary period you will get and the further the employee will veer off track.

With probationary periods often come short notice periods (that increase once the probationary period has been passed), so it in your interest to act swiftly.

Alternatively, if this is an employee you want to keep it would be a pity to lose them in a short amount of time if you’re not able to provide them with the challenge and stretch they have been looking forward to.

How do you manage probationary periods in your organisation? For advice on how to get the best out of your employee’s first few months contact me on 01273 284191.

Claire Carson