Most businesses hire a new employee under a probation period to start with. The logic is that it gives both the business and employee 3 to 6 months to figure out whether the job and company are right for the individual and vice versa. If at some point in those first few months something is not working as it should, either party can walk away with minimal risk. When the probation period comes to an end, a decision is made, and if both parties feel that things are going great, they are both locked into a permanent agreement that requires a long notice period to get out of. However, in practice the probation period is often misused, the employee has not been set any goals and whatever decision is made, seems very random and unclear. The employee just hopes that the company likes them and is unsure what is required to either pass or fail the probationary period.
Set Clear Goals
For any decision to be made, first it must be clear what the decision is based on. This means that there needs to be clear and transparent criteria that the new hire will be assessed on. Does the company have a mandatory training programme? If so, have they completed this in the required timeline? Have they completed all their introductory stakeholder meetings? Have they set up all their IT and registered for all required systems? Has their attendance been good? Have they participated in a team event? Have they joined a company social club? Have they delivered the required project work?
Every business will have its own unique culture and priorities as to what is expected of an employee. If you want to ensure high performance, this set of criteria should go beyond just have they performed the tasks given adequately, as a successful team and business aligns to the culture of the organisation.
Get 360 Feedback
Next it is incredibly important to ensure the organisation has a full picture of the new employee. Just because the manager set some tasks and the employee completed them in the required time, does not mean they are performing well. They may have completed these tasks and in between they could have maybe extremely discriminatory remarks to a colleague or turned up to the office drunk. The organisation should aim to build as holistic a picture of the new employee as possible. Do they say good morning to the receptionist every day? Were they rude to the cleaner? Maybe they stayed late every day one week to help mentor a junior person who was having a problem? Have they started a new team social activity and integrated into the team?
It’s important to get a clear picture of who the employee is, what has gone well, and what they need to improve on. This should be aligned to the goals and expectations set at the very beginning. If your organisation doesn’t put treating people with respect as an important characteristic, you may not care if they say hello to the receptionist. But if you value a collaborative work environment, you may consider it important.
Set out a development plan
Let us be clear on something, everybody has something they need to get better at. I do not care if you are the intern or the CEO, there will be areas that you need to improve upon to perform even better. The probation period is a great place to set the tone that ongoing development is expected of all employees. This is a great way to improve employee engagement as most employees want to grow and develop, while helping to filter out those with fixed mindsets who are looking for a job and not a career.
So, as the organisation continue to gather feedback on the new employee during the probationary period, they should be feeding this back to them in real time. There will be things they do well, that should be praised. There will be things that raise some eyebrows that may need to be addressed. At the end of the probationary period, the organisation should sit down with the new hire and map out what the next 3 years look like. What can the new hire achieve during that time, and what do they need to develop to get there. If both parties are aligned, then the employee should be confirmed as a permanent employee and if there is misalignment now is the time to part ways.
Know when to say goodbye
Finally, it is incredibly important to know when to part ways. An organisation needs to be clear, not just on what they consider red flags and differences that cannot be reconciled, but also what type of organisation they are trying to create. This may be something as small as timekeeping, if you are an old-fashioned organisation that believes time spent at a desk, and not the value of the work done is still important. Or this may be something as large as unprofessional conduct, such as workplace harassment, but the organisation needs to have a clear idea as to what is and is not expected of employees. One the reasons company culture differs from the values it claims to have on its website is because they do not hold their employees to those standards and instead just focus on the duties performed. If you want to build a culture, you need to hold adherence to those cultural values, just as importantly as you do to perform the duties of the role.
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