Managing Probations

July 13, 2018

Looking around the internet there are numerous blogs on probations, why we have them and the effective use of them. With so much literature out there, companies are still unsure of their use and how to effectively evaluate the performance or fit of a new employee. Tim gives his advice on how to manage probations.

By Tim Frear

A probationary period is a specific period for the employer (and in turn the employee) to evaluate, assess and decide if the right recruitment decision has been made. Included in this, they also need to decide if the person fits the culture of the organisation as well as ensuring they have the skills and experience needed to complete the role they were recruited for.

It’s easy to get to the 6-month stage and say the employee is not working out and want to terminate them, however if you’re an effective leader, you’ll have done a few things prior to this:


  1. Set expectations

You know what the employee should be doing, but does your employee? An effective leader will set clear expectations, clarify the job role and duties, where they sit within the organisation and how their role complements others. You should be clearly defining the vision and values of the business and how the employee is to work to complement and drive the values. This, in my experience, is the fundamental part of a probation but is the one that’s missed out the most often!


  1. Review

We have all been in a situation where we have interpreted what is needed differently to that of the requestor. Therefore, it’s important to review the work, case load and performance of the employee on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid – it’s not micromanaging them, in the first few months most employees need to understand expectations and standards and it’s your responsibility as a leader to clarify these.


  1. Feedback

Don’t be scared to give feedback, a new employee needs constructive feedback; positive negative and neutral. There is a fine line between praising for motivation and praising for work being done. Praising substandard work will provide a disparity between what the employee thinks they are doing and the requirements of the business. if something is not being done in the way it needs to be done just explain this to the employee.

If you have effectively communicated to the employee, the requirements of the role it will stand them in great stead for their probationary review and their career in the organisation. I would always suggest a 121 meeting for the probationary review and ideally one meeting at the midpoint, to make sure they’re on track.

This meeting should discuss the quality and accuracy of their work, along with their skills and knowledge in their field. It’s also important to review their working relationships and how they fit into the culture of the business.

Once you have reviewed the probation you have a few options. You can pass the probation, providing effective feedback and setting ongoing expectations for the future, extend the probation period if you believe the employee may reach the required standard with appropriate support, (again you must provide constructive feedback) or the final option is termination. If you honestly believe there’s a disparity between the person and the requirements of the job and you have followed the above guidelines, and further training or support will not help the employee to meet the standards of the organisation then termination might be the best option.

It’s worth checking your contract, an effective contract will state that an employee only passes their probation when confirmed in writing. This allows for a buffer when time is an issue, or a manager is on annual leave etc.

If you’d like to know more about managing probations, just get in touch with the team.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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