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Is the probation period still a thing?

Recently, I came across an article where a UK company announced that they no longer include the probation period in any new permanent or fixed-term employment offers. 

What’s the reason behind such a change?

The company leaders decided that the probation period creates additional pressure on someone who they themselves chose to hire, and that’s not really a correct approach. 

Honestly, I think it’s fantastic. We all remember how much pressure we are under when starting a new job. Learning new responsibilities, navigating new social and business culture ground, putting our best foot forward – it all takes a lot of work and effort. So, not worrying about the additional pressure of the probation period can be liberating.

However, as much as I appreciate this new approach, I disagree with making it the ‘one-fits-all’ solution.

Roadside trees

It is obvious and indisputable that we must set our people up for success. But some businesses – especially smaller ones which cannot afford complex hiring processes – need the security of knowing that if the new hire isn’t a match for them, they can exit such a person.   

Such a case was with one of my clients.

They made every effort to hire a perfect match for the role and the company. A few months in, however, the new employee started to exhibit inappropriate team behaviour and failed to fulfil the role responsibilities.

The company contacted me about four months after the person was hired. What I encountered then was a disheartened team and a manager frustrated to the point they wanted to create a new role just to move the problem away instead of actually addressing it.

The Health Check

It is the first step I take when working with a new client to understand the situation.

In this case, I conducted numerous talks with people affected by the new hire’s behaviour and the new hire. It was paramount for me to get to know both sides’ perspectives before making any assessments and recommendations.

Analysis and Recommendation

Having gathered all the information, I carefully weighed up the pylons. After looking at the pros and cons, I recommended that the CEO terminate during probation. The most significant factor here was that the new hire’s behaviour negatively impacted the rest of the team.

The Result

Before the meeting where the new hire would find out about the termination, I provided the manager with in-depth know-how on conducting such a conversation. That included all the information I gathered during The Health Check, required documentation, and possible scenarios for the conversation.

Finally, we scheduled a meeting with the employee in question and they were exited.

Letting an employee go – no matter the reason – is always difficult. It is as difficult as having to communicate it to the respective person. It is why such a conversation has to be conducted delicately and with empathy. 

Here are the aspects I emphasise the most when I coach managers through exiting someone:

* Keep it short. Give your main reasons briefly, and keep your conversation concise. Be clear about what’s happening, and don’t leave your employee hanging on with hope. Clarity is kindness when the news is hard.

* Show compassion. Show empathy, composure and respect. Offer to help out if the person needs a reference from you. It can help foster a positive relationship.

* Be factual. Stick to the facts. It will help you avoid being pulled into an emotional conversation and possibly saying something you’ll regret.

* Don’t discuss others. Employees who are terminated often want to discuss their co-workers. Only discuss the employee you’re meeting about. It’s not appropriate to discuss others.

* Stick to your decision. The termination meeting is your chance to let the employee know they’re losing their job, communicate important information and answer any relevant questions. That’s it. Giving hope will only make it worse for the respective person as well as the company.

And at the end, let’s remember that exiting an employee takes its toll on the rest of the team. They may be shocked by the turn of events, confused and often feel insecure about their own employment. It is why we need to clearly communicate what has happened and why while ensuring the privacy of terminated employees. We also need to be specific and transparent about any shifts in responsibilities within the team caused by losing a team member.

If you’d like to know more about exiting employees, don’t hesitate to contact me. Together, we will lead this hard transition with heart.

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