September 15, 2015

Probationary Periods and how to use them

Probationary Periods and how to use them


You may have gone through a robust recruitment process – first interview, second interview or even assessment centres and then picked the most appropriate candidate but you won’t truly know how suitable your new employee is for the role until they actually start working in the job.


This is where the probationary period comes in. It’s designed to give both the employer and employee a defined period of time where you can decide whether the employee is suitable for the post and indeed whether the company is right for your new employee.


But what should you do within this time, how do you use the probationary period to its maximum effect? When you take on a new member of the team ensure that they know what is expected of them and what tasks and duties you want them to carry out, a job description is a big help and should be issued to every employee on commencing employment with you.


Also make sure that they know who their line manager is and who they can go to when they have any questions. To leave a new employee floundering without guidance when they need it is a big mistake and could end up having disastrous consequences.


Within that first few months you should be meeting with your new employee on a regular basis, there is no set defined frequency when you should meet with them, however once a week is a good gauge as this allows both parties to communicate on a regular basis about performance and also if there are any issues that need to be dealt with.


There is a lot of confusion about the duration of probationary periods, we have seen some companies issuing two year probationary periods! This is completely unacceptable and best practice states that the average probationary period is three months, however you can look to extend up to a maximum of six months.


As mentioned this is considered good practice and is thought to be a sufficient amount of time to gauge suitability for the role. We advise that probationary periods are initially for three months and if needed can be extended one month at a time until the six month period. If you reach the six month stage and you still aren’t sure whether the person is right for the role, then you should be looking to terminate their employment with you.


When your employee’s probationary period is due for review, sit with them and go through their performance to date. Talk about what’s gone well and what hasn’t gone so well, where they might need some help and what you can do to support them. When you have held the probationary review meeting you can decide how you want to take it forward and you have three options:


1. Tell the employee that they have passed their probationary period successfully
2. Inform them that they still have a bit more work to do, the reasons why and therefore you are extending their probationary period
3. If you feel that the employee hasn’t performed then you can chose to fail their probationary period which therefore results in dismissal (however take advice before you decide to dismiss as there are certain procedures you must follow)


If used correctly the probationary period can be a very useful tool in building a productive relationship with your employee and also deciding whether they are the right person for the job, but remember communication is the key and no employee should be surprised by the outcome of a probationary review meeting.

HR Heroes