Employee turnover during the first year of employment is notoriously high, and employees often cite a lack of feedback and recognition as the main reasons for leaving their employer. This is why sitting down with an employee and telling them how well they’re doing is a key stage in building that new working relationship.

Conversely, hiring processes are rarely perfect and even the most thorough recruitment process can end up with an employee who underperforms or just doesn’t fit the organisation.

As Vivienne Tolley, Director of HR Services here at Smith Cooper explains “We miss the opportunity to manage new employees’ probationary period at our peril.”

Whilst on probation, employees don’t have sufficient service to qualify for unfair dismissal protection (two years). However, they are still protected against harassment and dismissal for ‘protected reasons’ such as gender, age, ethnicity, disability, religion and cultural background.

Often, contractually, an employee’s notice period is shorter during the probationary period, allowing both the employer and the employee to sever the relationship more flexibly.

All the more reason to ensure that a robust probationary review process is followed – one that allows managers to feedback how the employee is doing at regular periods in the first three/six months or indeed, ultimately dismiss, if the structured feedback fails to improve matters.

If you still are uncertain about your new employee, an alternative to consider is to extend their probation period, spelling out how you will measure their performance and giving them the opportunity to improve is vital.

Our top tips for managing probationary periods are:

  • Explain to employees what is expected from them from day one and on an ongoing basis during the probation period and after
  • Celebrate success and feedback when new employees perform well and settle in quickly
  • Support employees in developing the knowledge and skills needed to fulfil their new role
  • Don’t leave probationary conversations until the last minute
  • Address problems with performance before the probation period is over
  • Ensure that managers wishing to end an employee’s employment can demonstrate they’ve done all they can do to support that individual to succeed

It’s important to remember that although probation allows you to terminate new recruits more easily, the real aim of probation is to bring an effective employee on board.

Here at Smith Cooper, we work alongside both large and small businesses, providing expert HR consultancy and solutions – to hear more about how we can help, please get in touch today.

Alternatively, to read our most recent HR case study “Attracting and retaining talented staff” please click here.