The small charities and social enterprises for whom I provide HR support often have questions around managing new employees in their probationary period.
A probationary period is a trial period at the start of employment. The probationary period typically lasts for between three and six months and should be sufficient time to assess the individual’s suitability for the role. The probationary period provides flexibility so that any problems can be addressed before confirming the employee’s appointment.
My top tips for managing employees in probation are:
- Make it clear in the statement of terms and conditions of employment that there is a probationary period.
- Be clear about the length of the probationary period and when it will end.
- Explain the possibility of extension to the probationary period to allow time for any issues around performance and conduct to be managed appropriately.
- The key to a successful probationary period is good performance management from the start. It will take time for a new recruit to understand fully what is expected of them. Sit them down at the start and go through everything with them so they know what is expected of them during the probationary period and after.
- Enable the new employee to develop the knowledge and skills needed to be successful through training and support. Address any issues with their performance or conduct before the probationary period ends.
- Hold regular review meetings so they know how they are progressing and they have the opportunity to improve if they are falling short of what is required. It is important to monitor and review the progress of the new employee during the probationary period. You really want to avoid discovering problems a few days before the end of probation.
- Allow for a short notice period for terminating employment if either party wishes to take this course of action without recourse to your full disciplinary procedure.
- There are three options available to you when the employee’s probation period comes to an end:
- Confirm to the employee that they have successfully completed their probationary period and write to confirm this.
- Extend the probationary period to allow the employee more time to meet the required standard if there are still some concerns and you think there is a possibility that they will improve given a bit more time. Write to confirm that the probationary period is being extended and for how long, together with the reasons and what the employee needs to do to be successful at the end of the extended period.
- Dismiss the employee if their performance and/or conduct has not been satisfactory and of course write and confirm that.