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Best practices in managing employees on probation

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Employers sometimes use “probationary periods” when hiring new employees or promoting employees into a new position. Employers use the probationary period as a time to assess whether the new hire or newly promoted employee is a good fit for the position.

A probationary period is period of time at the start of a permanent full-time or part-time employment relationship that gives the employer the opportunity to assess whether their new employee is capable, reliable and suitable for the job. Factors that some employers take into consideration during an employee’s probation period include performance, skills, abilities, attendance and general conduct. If you don’t offer a probationary period, you run the risk of being stuck with an employee who doesn’t meet the expectations of the role.

Probationary periods are also important for employees as they give them a chance to determine if they will be happy working at your company. This is vital as unhappy employees tend to lack motivation and enthusiasm, and this can have a knock-on effect on performance and productivity (not just in terms of the employee in question, but also the impact they have on their colleagues and teammates).

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However, without good management and the right support, even the best people can struggle. So, it’s important to consider using best practices to get the best possible sense of the person’s ability. Some of the best practices include: (1) Using a well thought out induction plan. The better your induction, the faster a new employee will get up to speed with your organisation’s processes and goals, as well as behavioral norms within the company. (2) Being clear on your expectations. Outline your expectations of the employee early on, so they understand what’s required of them. (3) Setting simple and realistic targets. Setting targets will provide you with something to measure performance against. Make sure these targets are achievable, though. Don’t forget that the employee will need time to get to grips with the way your business operates. (4) Reflecting on the employee’s performance weekly and taking notes. It is helpful to reflect on how the employee has performed each week, especially for the first month. (5) Meeting the employee regularly. Hold regular catch-ups with your new employee to discuss their progress and ability to meet your expectations. Email a summary of your discussion to the employee after each meeting, to ensure they have the clearest possible understanding of expectations and next steps to take. (6) Communicating any concerns early on. Although it can feel difficult, clearly communicate to your employee if they are failing to meet expectations as soon as possible. This way, you will be giving them the best possible chance to try and change things if they can. (7) Keeping notes. It’s important to keep notes on progress and concerns throughout the probation period so that you can evidence any decisions you make during or at the end of the probation period.

Before the probationary period ends, you should meet with the employee and let them know whether they have passed probation. Prepare for the meeting by reviewing your notes from your catch-ups with your new employee, and ensure you have clear examples of where they have met or failed to meet required standards. Start the meeting by explaining its purpose – to review performance and conduct during the probation period. Be honest and direct, communicating what you have observed without sounding accusatory. Adjourn the meeting to allow yourself time to make a considered decision. You may decide to do one of the following: Confirm the employee on successful probation; extend the probation period, allowing the employee extra time to prove themselves or; terminate the employee’s contract.

If you decide to extend a probation period, this must be communicated in writing before the end of the probation period. Clearly document the expectations required of the employee, making sure they understand what they must achieve or demonstrate over the coming weeks. As before, keep monitoring their performance and providing appropriate support to ensure they have the best chance of success. It is not unusual to suddenly see performance improve significantly following a formal review as the employee grasps the seriousness of the situation, so it can be worth providing this final opportunity for them to prove themselves.

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The rule of the game is that you must always confirm the outcome of the meeting in writing to the employee whether they are successful or unsuccessful and whether you are extending the probation or are terminating their employment, and keep a copy as well as a written record of the discussion during the meeting.

The author is a Human Resources Practitioner and he writes on Labour Relations issues.

Feedback: kennethbeni35@ gmail.com

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