Job Probation: Article 2

Another article on probation, which compliments issues identified in yesterday’s article. By Grace Lewis (People Management Magazine): Does Probation Pass the Test?:

Critics question usefulness of settling-in periods for new staff

A period of probation for new employees is a long-established tool for organisations to gauge their performance and cultural fit. But a survey from Spring Personnel, which reveals that almost one in five probationers fails or has the period extended, has prompted fresh scrutiny of the idea.

Although not governed by law, employers typically spend anything from three months to a year assessing the suitability of a new hire, while the employee is given time to adjust to working conditions.

But with 22 per cent of staff admitting to making more of an effort during this time than they would otherwise, is the probation period an accurate predictor of future performance?

According to Matthew Huddleson, head of employment and pensions at law firm Foot Anstey, it’s a reflection of “how someone can be”. “If an employee’s performance drops after the given period, then you know what their level of potential is, so you can bring that up with them immediately,” he says.

The original aim of the probation period has been “swamped” by legislation in recent years, argues Mohammed Pelwan Aslam, HR and employee relations consultant, including the increase of the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one year to two.

“We should be saying to employees at interview stage that you have two years to settle in and in that time you will undergo quarterly performance reviews,” he says. “Regular conversations can show an employer’s commitment to a staff member long after their initial three months with the company.”

Practical scenarios and role-play questions at the interview stage could be a faster way to determine a candidate’s fit in the organisation, but should be complementary to, rather than a replacement for, a period of probation, says Huddleson. “One of the key benefits for employers is the ability to implement different contractual terms during the probation period. Having flexibility around notice periods and an employee’s access to certain benefits allows organisations to release an employee with less pain and administration,” he says.

US chain Whole Foods Market may have the best approach to onboarding, transferring the decision-making process from HR and senior leaders to the employee’s future team members. The candidate is offered a permanent job after four weeks, but only if at least two-thirds of the team vote to hire them.

Reference

Lewis, G. (2014) Does Probation Pass the Test? People Management. June 2014, pp.12. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2014/05/25/does-probation-pass-the-test.aspx. [Accessed: 05 June, 2014].

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