The probation period is a time in the employment relationship where employees can gauge if the role is for them and employers can verify the skills and cultural fit required to be successful in the role are present with the employee.

During the probation period it is possible to end the employment relationship in a “no fault”  way.  If, after observing the employee in the workplace, feels that there is just not the right cultural or interpersonal fit, then the relationship can be terminated by giving appropriate notice.  This does not mean that the employee has done anything wrong, just that the employer feels the fit is not right and may lead to problems later on.

Many employees find that the role is not quite right for them in the probation period and decide to leave by giving notice.  This mutual ‘feeling out’ before launching into a long term employment relationship is what the probation period is all about.

Many businesses fail to utilise the probation period to observe and review new staff, and more still fail to formally confirm the transition from probationary employee.

All businesses should ensure that they are monitoring the fit and performance of new staff, and engaging staff in what they find, all throughout the probationary period, and beyond.

Like all performance management, if it is left to once a year it can become a scary, defensive and unproductive exercise.  However, if it is part of the everyday work culture, to talk about what was done well, what needs more focus, what is concerning and what is important, then performance management can result in faster and smoother onboarding and more productive and engaged staff.

The time to start this continual performance management is day 1 on the job and regularly throughout the probation period.

Providing for continual performance management can be as simple as adding feedback into all checklists, toolbox talks and team meetings.  Allowing for the continual and informal discussion of performance.

There is still a place for the formal performance meeting, such as in response to an incident or as the probation period comes to a close.  The Probation Performance Review meeting needs to meet all of the procedural requirements of any other performance management meeting including;

  • Provision of notice of the meeting
  • Provision for a Support Person if desired
  • Outline of issues and feedback
  • Provision for employee comments and responses

Good Probation Performance Review Meetings should focus on congratulating the staff for the areas they excel in, and highlighting the expectations of the business in other areas, so there is no confusion of the expectations or the outcomes for deviation from expected behaviours.

The probation period is the first chapter in the employment relationship, simple steps like providing continual feedback and formal review, help ensure that both the employer and employee know what to expect and can work well together to achieve work goals.

Here to Help

ACAPMAs Employment Department Professionals are available to assist members by calling 1300 160 270 or via employment@acapma.com.au.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $770 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts. Click here to learn more about ACAPMA Membership.