Are probationary periods worth it?
I promised a couple of blogs ago to write a bit about the value of probationary periods. Some of my clients use them to great effect, some don't use them at all, some are considering it. HR colleagues might argue that actually they don't serve any purpose at all and that, since the right to claim unfair dismissal doesn't now apply until after two years of service, employees have a two year probationary period!
For many of us who have been employed with the same organisation for many years, we can forget how anxious you can feel on your first day/week/fortnight. Induction should be so much more than just showing someone where to make a cuppa and where the rest rooms are; it should be about support, buddying and helping that person step in to the role and perform as effectively as possible, as soon as possible. The probationary period merely formalises any other additional support needed.
From an employer's point of view, a formal probationary period should be an extension of the individual's induction and is an opportunity to take time out from the working day to review how the person is fitting in, review performance, and agree objectives. Even politicians have, in the past, declared a report card for doing well in their first 100 days in office – both David Cameron and President Obama used such methods. Statistics would tend to suggest however that if someone is going to leave their new job that they will do so after 90 days.
It is important to meet and record the discussions if only to ensure that the individual is receiving the support they actually need. A buddying system can also work really well as the person then gets support at their level as well as from their own manager.
Probationary periods are not just for the employer; they work both ways and can be very helpful for an individual to decide actually if the job is really for them. Sometimes, just through lack of induction, an individual can feel their role is unclear or perhaps they just don't like the team they are working with. People leave for any number of reasons.
In addition, I don't think it is fair to disadvantage someone in their probationary period – they should get the same rights on day 1 as they do after day 91.
At the end of the probationary period it is important to give the employee the good news that they have successfully completed their probation; particularly if they will then be included in the organisation's bonus scheme or other productivity bonus payment scheme. They should thereafter be included in the organisation's appraisal scheme and regular appraisals should continue to assist them in being a highly motivated and high performing employee.
I'd be interested to hear your views – good and bad – of probationary periods and how you use them or how you have been put off them.
Thanks for reading!