How Do You The Best Out Of Your Probationary Period?

I often get asked how long a probationary period should be. Recruiting the right candidate is usually a tricky task but employees do have tools to make sure you have made the right decision.

If you have a constant churn of employees then your business is not going to have any consistency. Remember, high staff turnover will also start to affect your bottom line as it takes approximately eight months to have a fully effective employee. That’s where a probationary period can help!

Truthfully, there is no set answer but I would recommend three months. Perhaps the more pertinent question should be: What you do with those all-important three months.

The first 120 days of any employee’s employment is a learning curve. Learning your processes, cultures and ways of doing business. A probationary period is only as good as the structures you have in place to ensure your new employee gets the best start possible.

Job Descriptions

The first element to look at is your job descriptions. These don’t have to be complicated but job descriptions need to specify what tasks you expect your employee to complete. This process should be reviewed before you start the recruitment process and a copy should be given to the employee once they start.

I do believe that sometimes a can-do attitude can trump over skills as long as the employee has the right attitude and is willing to learn.

Induction Plans

Using your newly-improved job description as a jumping-off point, you can then create an induction plan. Don’t wory; it’s not as hard as it sounds. Create a list of all the tasks the employee needs to understand, and create a sign-off sheet including training dates and the names of the trainer(s). Also, make sure you include when an employee can complete a task to a satisfactory level.

Regular Reviews

Taking on an employee is a huge cost, therefore, you need to spend a little time with them in their first three months ensuring they know what they are doing. Using the induction plan you can then structure reviews for the first day, week, month, two months (as an example) and sign off training that has been completed.

These reviews offer time for employees to ask if they are not understanding something and to review the training before the next review.

If using a 3-month probationary period, if someone has known 80% of their tasks in the first 3 months that would be satisfactory probationary period.

Any less than 80% this I would recommend to extend for a further period of time but be fair. I would recommend increasing by at least of a month. Increasing by a week not only causes extra administration for you but it doesn’t give an employee enough time to show that they understand.

What If They Don’t Make The Cut?

If at the end of the probationary period, an employee is not right for a position, you know you have given them the opportunity and it has been a fair process. As a small business, it might be evident in the first few weeks but again this will show if you are using a structured approach.

Although you have the right to end an employee’s contract before 24 months without having to follow the full disciplinary process – this should be used in a fair way. You don’t want to get a reputation of being an employer that uses this right for the wrong reasons. Speaking of which…

Probationary Period Reviews

Glassdoor.com have become the employer equivalent of TripAdvisor. s busineeses grow, they may start to get reviews on Glassdoor.. As part of your probabtionary and induction process, you might ask new employees to give you a review… but be very careful. As with Trip Advisor – sometimes you need to take comments with a pinch of salt!

If you have any questions about probationary periods, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via email.


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