When the honeymoon is over…


As handy as it would be, unfortunately most of us don’t have a crystal ball to help us accurately predict the future; so while there are lots of things we can do to minimise the risk of making the wrong hiring decisions, at the end of the day there are no guarantees.

Together with the inherently flawed nature of a recruitment process the reality is, in striving to secure a new job not everyone tells the truth and nothing but the truth.  Some people are inclined to exaggerate their capabilities and experience; others are willing to say they are motivated to do the job when really they only see it as a stepping-stone to something else.  Some people describe the culture they are looking for as being aligned with the company’s values, but then fail to ‘play nicely’ when they get there.

The probationary period therefore is a critically important time to assess whether or not you have made the right hiring decision.  Equally it’s an important opportunity for the employee to decide if they have made the right decision in accepting the job.   While it may feel counter intuitive to want to lose someone during their probationary period, if either they or you realise the job or company isn’t right for them – that is exactly what you want to have happen.

Here are the seven most important things you need to do to ensure you fully leverage the opportunity a probationary period provides:

1. Be prepared

Successful probation management starts long before the first day of employment.  From day one you need to be ready to start proactively and positively influencing success (see steps 2 – 7 below).  I’m often amazed by the extent to which leaders are not ready for someone to start.  I’ve observed some extreme examples including my own personal experience of arriving to find not only did I not have a desk or computer, but that my boss was away on leave for two weeks; not exactly the ideal start!

2. Set clear and measurable expectations

Make sure people understand what they need to achieve as well as how they are expected to go about it.  Both performance and behavioural expectations help people to understand what is important and ultimately how their success will be measured.  New staff need and deserve this information as soon as possible.  Ideally it begins through the recruitment process with deeper insight including a performance plan provided as soon as they start.

3. Provide a well thought through and structured induction program

The program should be aimed at supporting your new team member to quickly integrate into the organisation and get up to speed with their role.  The longer you take to give people the information, guidance and resources they need to succeed, the less time either you or they have to fairly and accurately assess their suitability.

4. Facilitate relationship building

Strong working relationships play an important role in helping people to succeed.  Take the time to connect your new team member with the people they are required to collaborate, engage and cooperate with.  While it’s important that people take responsibility for building respect and rapport in their relationships, there is a lot that you and others can do to encourage and aid the process.

5. Provide feedback and engage in regular discussion

It’s critical that you regularly interact with your new team member.  Spending time with them will help you to understand how they are going and determine whether or not there is anything else you need to be doing to support them to succeed. Without working closely it can be difficult if not impossible to form an accurate view of their performance and ultimately suitability.  Equally it is only fair and reasonable that you provide them the time and feedback they need to succeed.

6. Monitor and appraise progress

While it can be challenging, it is important that you form a view as early as possible.  Too often I observe leaders failing to make a call before the end of the probationary period only to initiate performance-counselling processes a few months later. Along with your own observations your appraisal should be supported by feedback from other people in a position to observe both their capabilities, as well as whether or not they are aligned with the culture of your business.

7. Think beyond the here and now

It’s important that you not only consider whether or not they will successfully meet the immediate to short term expectations of the role, but also how they are likely to grow with the role and business.   It’s important to use the probationary period to assess the employee’s long-term suitability.


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