How employers can optimise probation periods

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A number of assumptions continue to exist about probation periods and the ways in which new starters are expected to behave. While the legislation behind a probation period protects you as an employer from certain obligations if things don’t work out, the same is true of your new starter employee. If your new starter feels you’re not meeting/exceeding their expectations, you may well be at risk of losing out on the candidate you took six months to find and spent endless hours of resources training up – not to mention all the associated recruitment costs.

The reality is that unless you want to lose out (and re-start the recruitment process), you should consider stretching above and beyond your standard obligations and onboarding process. Here’s a few tips on how:

Start early

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that it all starts on day one. Start the onboarding process early to engage with your new starter as soon as possible. For some of the larger firms this might involve sophisticated portals that allow new hires to view internal videos, upload documentation and review internal communications messages, but it doesn’t need to be so comprehensive.

If you’ve recruited a PA for example, invite them into the office to meet the team in an informal setting, or simply have a coffee to catch up on what you’re both likely to expect in the first couple of months.

Regular catch ups

The abolishing of annual appraisals by some of the big firms have made headlines and for good reason. The provision of feedback in general shouldn’t be limited to infrequent tick-boxing sessions, and the probation period is no exception. Keep the communication lines open and the catch ups regular. Encourage your new hire to speak openly and you’ll be amazed by the results. Listening to an outsider’s perspective who can compare previous experience against yours offers a rare and unique benchmarking opportunity. Take it.

Culture – it’s down to you

It’s no secret that a positive culture breeds productivity and happier workers, and that this comes from the top. We’ve written a number of blogs on the reasons why it’s important and the ways in which you might be able to proactively improve the culture at work. Granted, being well-connected to staff isn’t a task easily accomplished when there’s an ever-growing to-do list. However by spending more time with staff and taking an interest in their motivations, you’ll not only see a difference in staff morale, you’ll also reduce your long-term recruitment costs.


All too many businesses foster a culture of fear and harness that to enforce performance measures and targets. The reality is that this type of culture only serves to de-motivate and will in turn see staff associating negative feelings with the workplace. Effective leadership extends far beyond the title of ‘manager’. Engage regularly and often. In doing so you’ll understand your new hires’ motivations and can initiate the steps to activate them. An opportunity to show off your brand Many businesses will use the probation period as a test of their new hire rather than optimise the opportunity to show off their brand and business. Use this time wisely to encourage your new starter to engage and emotionally invest. Imagine all the family and friends that are likely to contact them in the first few months and ask them what it’s like to work for your business! This is a huge opportunity for you to impress with your brand messaging and encourage future referrals.

Looking to hire someone new or find out more? Get in touch.

Author David Morel Tiger Recruitment Team

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