I briefly mentioned Probation in my May blog in reference to Induction and I thought it was worth revisiting this topic in more detail.
Having recently worked with a client who although had a three month probation for new employees, did not have procedures in place which lead to probation reviews being missed and employees passing their probation by default. This is a problem I have seen happen in both small and larger companies.
So is it worth putting in the effort to get a probation procedure that works in place and what benefits will it bring to small businesses?
Let us look at what probation actually is – according to the dictionary it is ‘a period of time at the start of a new job when you are watched and tested to see if you are suitable for the job’. Another description is ‘serving your sentence, but you are not in prison’!
During a probation period employees can feel vulnerable and it may seem to them they are indeed serving a sentence until they receive confirmation they have ‘passed’.
However it can also be an exciting period for a new employee, as if handled correctly, it will be during the probation period when they will receive their Induction into the company, meet their new colleagues, start to find their feet and hopefully be welcomed into their new company. It is also during this period that they may also be provided with some initial training and they will get a feel for whether they have made the right decision in joining the company. Yes, that is correct, the probation is a period for both employee and employer to decide whether they are right for the job and the job is right for them!
For the employer the probation period is about focusing on the investment they have made in their new employee, ensuring they receive the best start in their new role as they possibly can and equally about monitoring their performance, conduct and suitability for the role and the company.
Length of Probation
Probation periods are normally for 3 months and this should be sufficient time to evaluate how your new employee is performing in their role. However, this is assuming they will have someone who is responsible for monitoring their progress, answering any questions and providing any initial training that is required to get them up to speed.
A longer probation period may be considered for school leavers or graduates as normally they will have little experience to bring to a role and may take longer to settle into the world of work. It is suggested no longer than 6 months is appropriate.
There is an opportunity to extend probation periods if required and as a rule of thumb one extension of 3 months should be the limit of any extension.
It is useful to assign the job of keeping track of employees probation to an individual, especially if there are regular new hires starting with the company. This will help to ensure the process runs smoothly and this important phase of the employment cycle does not get overlooked.
In order to gather feedback from the line manager of the new employee, I would suggest designing a probation feedback form which fits your business and could include things like:
- Technical Ability
- Team working
- Interpersonal skills
This form should be completed in a timely manner, before the end of probation in order to highlight any areas of concern and provide enough time to deal with any issues. I would point out that just as in the appraisal process, nothing on this official feedback form should come as a complete surprise to the new employee as they should be receiving informal feedback and support during their probation period.
If there are concerns or issues that come to light during probation, they should be addressed as soon as practical and if required the probation period should be extended to allow the new employee time to improve in the areas identified.
When a new employee is informed they have passed their probation period it can be a highly effective motivational tool to share with them the comments on the feedback form. It also lends credibility to the employer that the probation period was taken seriously.
There is nothing more demotivating for a new employee than not to receive any feedback from their new employer during probation and having to ask the question themselves ‘have I passed my probation period’!
I would answer my initial question with a firm yes, it is worth putting in the effort of getting in place an effective probation procedure as it provides benefits for both the employer and the new employee.
If you need help with implementing an effective Probation Procedure or just want some advice on probation or any other employment issue, email or call Michelle who will be happy to help.