Recruitment is a hard task. Even with the apparently infinite resources that big companies have at their disposal for occupational psychologists, assessments centres and banks of interviews, they still make recruitment mistakes.
And it’s because making the right hiring decision is so difficult that the probation period was created.
Yet again and again I hear from managers who hesitated over taking action with a new hire during the probation period and have now found themselves with a difficult employee and a sense of helplessness. Here is the step-by-step guide to successfully managing the probation process:
Plan the induction program for a new employee before their start date. Make sure they have a designated person to look after them, a desk, a security card and internet access along with a plan of activities and introductions for this crucial first week. Just like a first date, you will never again get an opportunity to make a strong first impression.
Meet with them on their first day. Welcome them and tell them how excited you are that they are joining you and the team. Schedule in a time to meet again at the end of the first week and take the opportunity to ask them how it has been. What have been their first impressions? What concerns and issues might they have? At this point you can start really clarifying the goals and targets you want them to hit. Include a few quick wins so they can see themselves as successful and you as an appreciative boss right from the start.
Meet again at the end of the second week (see a pattern emerging?) to review targets set at the last meeting, reinforce necessary messages and expectations, and correct any false assumptions. Set a formal review mid-way through the probation period to assess their progress again.
Continue to manage as appropriate but stay close and be sure to observe.
Conduct a mid-probation review. This is where you voice any doubts, niggles and concerns that you may have and request any changes you need to see in order for them to pass their probation. Do not miss out this step!
Again, continue to manage and feedback as appropriate. If they are clearly showing themselves to be failing and they are not demonstrating commitment to – or engagement in – a process of improvement, remember that you do not have to wait till the end of the probation period to let them go. You can cut your losses and have another stab at hiring a replacement immediately.
At the end of the probation period you have three choices: confirm they have passed probation; let them go having failed probation; or extend probation for another period of time. If they have failed their probation they should already have a good idea that this is a probable outcome having received clear messages about expectations in the mid-probation review.
Remember, during the probation period you are likely to see the best of the individual. Too often doubts felt during those first few months are confirmed once employment is assured. If you think you have a problem with a new hire, you have a problem. However, actively manage the probation period and you will have given your new hire the best opportunity to dispel your doubts and become the employee you want and need.