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How do I manage an employee’s probation period?

How do I manage an employee’s probation period?

How do I manage an employee’s probation period?

A probation period gives you some time to make sure that the selection you made for your vacancy was the right choice.

It's an opportunity to evaluate the new employee's performance, commitment and general suitability for the role, and to take the necessary action if they are failing to meet the requirements. They generally last for between one and six months, and both you and the employee have the opportunity to walk away from the agreement at any point during this period.

Setting the standards
To give your new recruit the best chance of passing their probation, there are a number of things you should do:

  • Provide the employee with a clear job description
  • Provide an overview of the general business practices and procedures
  • Schedule any necessary training that will help the employee reach requirements
  • Explain when the employee will be evaluated and what methods will be used

In order for you to assess your new employee, firstly you need to work out what you expect from them at the various stages throughout their probation. You can either do this from experience (ihow long did it take the last person who did the role to learn the ropes?) or by working out with people doing a similar role some suitable check points.

Make sure all these checks are clearly described, easily measurable and attainable.

Set up weekly or monthly 1-2-1 meetings where you can run through the progress reports and offer feedback on the various aspects of their role explaining both the areas where they are excelling, and areas where they need improvement.

Whenever someone starts a new job it's very difficult for them to know how they are getting on so try and offer guidance whenever possible. Always try to keep any criticism constructive and offer solutions to problems rather than just highlighting the fact they exist.

Getting feedback from the people they have been working closely with is another important stage of the probation period. Ask them to be frank and honest and then filter these findings back to the employee, anonymously of course. This could either bring them praise and build their confidence, or highlight areas in which they need to improve.

Don't be afraid to adjust the various requirements as you get to know your employee better. If someone is struggling, try giving them something more attainable, and if someone is completing all the tasks with ease, offer something a bit more challenging to see how they cope.

Putting things right
Unfortunately, not every hire you make will prove to be a success and it's important to spot when you have made a mistake and act on it.

Firstly you need to work out why things aren't going as expected. Have you set the expected requirements to high? Have there been any external factors that have affected the development of the employee (such as a delay in training)? What can you do to help things get back on track? Remember that everyone learns at different speeds and sometimes just a little patience is in order.

Sometimes when people are employed you get the right person, but put them in the wrong job. Before cutting your losses, look around your business to see if there is anywhere they would be more suitable.

If you have to let someone go, make sure you hold an exit interview where you can discuss exactly where things went wrong to help them improve their chances in their future career. If you're letting someone go for behavioural reasons, make sure you stick to the facts to avoid any legal backlash.

Their evaluation of you
As well as being a time for you to assess your new employee, they will also be making sure in their own mind that they have made the right decision. As soon as they finish the probation period they are commited to work there for at least the length of their notice period so they want to make sure it's a place they want to be.

If you want to ensure your new employees stay (saving you the pain and cost of going through the whole recruitment process again) then firstly you need to make them feel an important part of the team. Make sure they know where they fit inm how much there skills and experience is valued and make yourself available to listen to their questions and concerns.

Once it's over
The day you can finally let your new employee know they have passed their probation is a time to smile, breathe a sigh of relief and let everyone that your recruitment campaign was successful. As well as cost of hire and time to hire, one of the factors that recruitment professionals are judged on is the number of new employees who pass their probation.

By the end of this period your employee should have a good idea about what it is they have been employed to do and what they need to do to achieve it. However, that doesn't mean you can just leave them alone to get on with things. If you've built up a good working relationship it's important to keep your regular meeting slots so you can discuss how they are working towards their long terms goals.

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