A probationary period is not meant to be a responsibility-free escape hatch, if your new recruit doesn’t turn out as you anticipated.

Probation period is not set and forget

Most people will agree that it takes someone a good three months or so to get settled into a role – regardless of the level of seniority – to learn the hierarchies and quirks of a workplace, and to feel comfortable in contributing as a fully functioning member of the team.

Your role, as the employer, is to ensure that your new hire is given every opportunity to succeed.

This is meant to be a period of time where you and your team help your new employee to integrate into your company, and to come to grips with the position. You want the outcome to be successful both for the stability and future of your team, but also to avoid having to go through the recruiting process again.

Assign someone to thoroughly induct your new team member into your business, including showing them what their role entails and providing all the necessary support, tools and documentation they need.

You (or the recruit’s manager) should have regular review meetings to identify any problems they are having – whether it’s understanding the role, grappling with a specific part of it or if there’s a training gap.

Ensure that you approach these meetings with an open mind.  You may be getting reports from others on the team that the new hire just isn’t cutting it.  Treat this with a little scepticism.  Your team members may well have lost a colleague who had been in the role for a long while, understood it, understood the team dynamics and had developed shortcuts.  They may well be frustrated with having to work with someone who is, in their minds, not up to scratch and making their jobs more difficult.

Your regular meetings should give your new team member a good idea of how they are travelling with fair and constructive feedback (both good and bad).  Tell them your expectations and the impact their role and actions have on the rest of the team and if change is needed, agree on a plan to solve the problem. If, at the end of the probation period, you decided to move them on – then it shouldn’t be a surprise to them.

Whether you are subject to an unfair dismissal claim will depend on the size of your business, but no one wants that distraction or tension.

If you treat the probation period as an opportunity to embed your new hire into your team correctly, ensure that they have any additional training or mentoring they need and then there is every chance they will grow into a successful, contributing member of your team.

Tip:  A defined time for the probation period must be written into the employment contract.  If you wish to extend the period of probation because you are unsure, your employment contract must allow for it and both parties need to agree.