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How do you make sure probation is effective?

For most organisations, if you have a vacancy to fill you are working against the clock. You get someone into the role, and feel you can relax and the work can now be done by the new incumbent. But when it's done well, a probationary period is an essential part of the recruitment process.

It's a two way street

The probationary period is an opportunity for both parties to make sure this relationship is going to work. Most recruitment processes don't really give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their effectiveness in the role and rarely show the candidate what it will be like to work for the organisation. As well as the usual on-boarding, orientation and induction, make sure there is time put aside to have an ongoing discussion about the role and the organisational fit.

Consider a strength-based approach

It can be very easy to think it's not working, if you have successfully recruited someone who is not like everyone else. But what value do they bring to the team? What is their potential if they were to flourish? If they are challenging and questioning it's easy to consider them a trouble-maker, but can their approach be of value to the organisation in some way? Could they help with a continuous improvement process?

Make the most of fresh eyes

The insight of a new employee can really help longer term staff look at things differently. I always enjoyed hearing new staff talk about why they had joined the organisation - it was refreshing and inspiring to be reminded how people outside the company wanted to be part of it and the great reputation it had. It is easy to become jaded. It is also helpful to capture the feedback and first impressions from new staff before they become part of the machine and forget their initial insights and observations.

Don't bombard them with paperwork for their first few days!

It is tempting to pass your new team member all the policies and procedures and get them to work through everything before they start, but what value does that really have to them or to the business. Take a bit of time to map out a plan for the first few weeks, incorporating some reading time in the mornings when they are freshest, and prioritising processes that they need to be across to get started. Ideally stagger the face-to-face introductions over a few days too, and find ways to make them meaningful, or provide a context to help your new team member remember who everyone is.

What if it's really not working?

I often hear "it is much easier to terminate someone in probation". Although this is technically true in a legal context under the Fair Work Act (because the employee doesn't have access to an unfair dismissal claim), there are other factors to consider, such as reputational damage, ethical considerations, and the person who left their last job to join your organisation and now finds themselves unemployed. Ideally an ending is a mutual agreement that it's not working, after several open, honest conversations where both parties are trying to make it work.

How effective is your probationary process? What needs to improve? How can your organisation ensure that new starters are performing at their best?

If you have an HR question or concern you'd like to chat about, please get in touch.

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