How can you manage employee probation periods?

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When you take on a new staff member, the hope is that they’ll fit in right away and become a permanent part of your team. However, there’s always a chance that they may not be the right person for the role or they may not behave as you expected.

A probation period allows you to monitor the performance of your employee and make sure they’re working to a level you’re happy with before they join your business.

It’s a good idea to carry out 3 probation reviews at different stages – perhaps by staggering them at 30 days, 60 days and the final one at 90 days after your employee has started work.

When you meet with your employee to review how they’re getting on, you should use a probation review form to document your discussion and note down any feedback you’ve given them. You should also record how your new employee feels they’re progressing in their role and if they feel they need any additional training to address areas of current weakness.

As a manager, it’s your duty to be honest with the employee and specifically to bring up areas where they’re not meeting the standard  you expect. This can be difficult to do, but it’s necessary to help the employee know where they’re going wrong.  Equally, though, these meetings provide a good opportunity to discuss where you feel the employee has excelled and pass on praise you’ve received about their work from other members of the team.

Before the probation review meeting finishes, make sure you’ve set realistic, clear objectives and your employee understands what they must do before the next meeting.

If, once the 90 days is up, you’re still not happy with the progress your employee has made, their contract of employment may allow you to extend their probation period if you feel this would be worthwhile. It may be that the employee has had a bad run of sickness, or there are still areas of weakness which you feel need to be addressed before they can pass their probation.

You should only extend the probation period if you truly feel as though the employee is very close to meeting the standards you expect and is otherwise performing well in the team. If this isn’t the case, it can be better to bite the bullet and let them go now rather than extending their probation period and causing unnecessary stress to both you and them.

Top tips for managing probation periods

  • Use a probation review form
  • Be honest when giving feedback
  • Review the employee’s performance at 30,60 and 90 days
  • Document all of your discussion during your catch-ups
  • Let your employee know if their performance is unsatisfactory before the 90 day mark
  • Check employment contracts to see whether probation periods are included and if they can be extended

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