A view of a senior engineer training a newly hired employee.

When you take on a new member of staff there is always a worry that they might not be the right person for the job. That’s why I recommend having a probationary period clause in your employment contract. The purpose of a probationary period is to monitor the performance of the employee and to give them feedback on how they are doing. This means you need to carry out performance reviews during that time.

So the end of the probation period arrives and you decide you don’t want to confirm the employment. Do you have a good reason?

Have you met regularly with the employee and given clear instructions as to what is expected of them? If the answer is no then I would question whether you have been fair to the new employee. Without clear objectives no one knows what is expected of them.

I recommend carrying out three formal probation reviews during the probation period one at 30 days another at 60 days and the final review at 90 days. At 90 days confirm employment or dismiss. It’s very important to make sure you document these probation reviews so that you have some ‘evidence’ in case you need it at a later stage. I get managers to complete a probation review form.

Probation reviews are a two way process with the employee contributing and being asked how they feel things are progressing. Ask the employee if they need additional training or support to achieve their objectives.

Set clear realistic objectives at each review and make sure the employee understands what they are expected to achieve.

Give honest constructive feedback to the employee on how they are progressing in the role. Don’t hide anything. Some managers find this very difficult to do. Make sure you have specific examples to demonstrate where the employee is not reaching the targets or standard expected.

Be clear in the reviews if you are unhappy. Often I look at the 30 and 60 day reviews which state the manager is really happy with the performance, no issues are recorded. When the employee reaches the 90 day review the manager decides they are not very good and they don’t want to confirm their employment. If the employee is unaware that their performance is unsatisfactory during the probationary period then it is unfair.

Some employment contracts allow you to extend the probation period. This can be for various reasons. Maybe the employee needs more training on a specific area. If the employee has had time off sick, is late to arrive at work or has a bad attitude then in my experience extending the probation period will not improve these issues, say goodbye now!

If you intend to extend the probationary period make sure that you have a clause in your employment contract that allows you to do this, but don’t extend it for too long. If it’s not working out its better to say goodbye now otherwise you just give yourself more problems and stress in the future.

So what do you need to do? I recommend:

  • Training managers on how to carry out probationary reviews.
  • Have a set procedure that managers must follow.
  • Have a standard probation form to be completed.
  • Check your contracts to make sure you have probation periods included and that you can extend probation if necessary.

To get your own copy of the probation form that I use then just click here to download a copy.