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How to Ensure a Successful Probationary Period


How to Ensure a Successful Probationary PeriodRecruiting new employees is never an easy task. From initial screening, through interviews and contract negotiation, the process can be time consuming and taxing and it’s only upon hire that the real fun begins! Building a successful team is an ongoing task, and it is important for all members to contribute to the department’s ongoing success. Building in a probationary period for new employees will help you manage the onboarding process and should benefit both the new employee and the company. So how does one ensure a successful probationary period? The following seven steps will help you get started.

Start off on the right foot. Before even an offer of employment is extended, it is essential for hiring managers to have done their homework. Has a 360 degree reference check been conducted with the candidate’s former supervisor, co-workers and subordinates? For external-facing jobs, how about former clients, suppliers or business partners? It is also important that technical skills are assessed, so depending on the role, consider testing software, typing or data entry proficiency. Finally, have multiple individuals from the department meet the future hire during the final stage of interviews to ensure there is good chemistry amongst team members.

Get it in writing. Formal probationary periods are only valid if they are written into the employee contract upon hire. You will not be able to go back and issue a probationary period in a couple months’ time should the employee not be working out. At that point, they would have the same rights as permanent employees, including multiple warnings and work plans created prior to dismissal. Most probationary periods are either three or six months long with regular progress reviews at intervals throughout the duration. As the employer you will be able to ensure that that what was promised during the interview is delivered and likewise, the employee can assess if the organization is a fit.

Set clear goals and expectations. Provide new employees with measurable goals  and expectations for the first few weeks and months of employment. By monitoring and reviewing progress on a regular basis, you will be better informed of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses and able to provide relevant training and mentorship. Providing praise and constructive feedback will also help motivate the employee and will allow both parties to get the most out of the arrangement.

Document. Document. Document. During your review meetings, it is important that you maintain thorough employee progress reports for your records, as well as for the employee’s personal files. Compile notes from each session including what was discussed, action items and any areas for improvement. This is especially important should you later dismiss the employee as it provides a paper trail for any potential future recourse.

Assign a mentor. Providing an individual with whom a new employee can share experiences, ask questions and bounce ideas off of can benefit both their professional development, as well as that of the mentor. Some workers fear reprisal if they ask questions of their manager, so having an individual in a different department or branch location with whom they can speak candidly may help their integration within the organization.

Offer training. Supporting an employee’s professional development may result in both an improvement in their work as well as a greater affiliation with the company. An educational program can be determined upon the commencement of employment or during subsequent progress meetings. Offering tuition reimbursement and time off for courses or seminars will further demonstrate your commitment to helping the employee succeed.

Make a decision early or extend. If you realize prior to the end of the probationary period that the employee is not going to work out, it is wise to terminate the employment right away. This is professional and fair as there is generally an expectation that an employee will automatically become permanent at the end of the period. If you are still not confident in their abilities at that time, you can further extend the probation, although it is wise to do so on a monthly basis. On the flip side, if you are confident that an employee will work out, you are able to change their probationary status to permanent at any time.

While it can be challenging for managers to balance their own workloads while also supporting their employees, having a tried and tested probation program will help ensure that they develop their team to their full potential. It can be challenging in the short term, however, honing these skills will certainly help long term prospects.

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