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The idea of a probation period seems cruel to some people. In their eyes, it’s another way for The Man to exploit workers and fire them as and when they please. However, it’s far from an exploitative measure. Probation periods are essential when it comes to new hires and recruits and here are the reasons why.


What Is It?

Firstly, it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. In simple terms, it’s a period an employee has to see out before they are offered the job on a full-time basis. During their probation, they are not subject to the same rules and regulations as regular workers. For example, employers don’t need to give a notice period before they are dismissed. Also, some perks, such as the business’s pension scheme, might not be applicable.


On the other hand, an employee can decide to leave the company without any further notice if they feel if the partnership isn’t right.


Are There Legal Ramifications?

The short answer is yes. While employees don’t get a notice period during their probation, they are still protected by several laws. It’s illegal to subject any worker to harassment or dismissal on the grounds of race, religion or sexuality regardless of their contract. In some cases, there can be consequences regarding unfair dismissal too. If an employer can’t prove whether their actions were fair, the worker can take the matter to court. 


Why Is It Important?

There are many reasons a probation period makes sense to an employer, so let’s take a look at a couple of them.


Failure Rates

A stat that might shock a lot of people is the fact that 18% of employees fail their probation period. To put the percentage into perspective, that means almost one-fifth of new hires don’t pass the standards set by the employer. Without delving into the figure too much, this alone should put an element of doubt into your mind. If this amount of people fail to hit the mark, what does this mean for the company? How will it be impacted if a fifth of the people you hire are not up to your standards? The obvious answer is that it will start to lose money and that’s a nail in the coffin for lots of SMEs. Imagine if you had no recourse for action without a probationary period; you wouldn’t be in a strong position.


Imperfect Recruitment

As you can tell from the above, the recruitment process is by no means perfect. While an interview and an individual assessment might be decent indicators, they don’t get under the skin of the person. They are cosmetic indicators and leave a lot to be desired. A probation period is different as it allows you to see how the individual gets by in the office. And, if you want, you can still test them at the end of their probation with the help of end point assessment organisations. That way, you’ll understand their academic achievements as well as their personality which will enable you to make a better decision. Essentially, it’s a recruitment tactic that lets you decide whether you’ve made a mistake because hindsight is always 20/20.


Office Atmosphere

Plenty of things make a business great, but the ability to provide a positive work environment is always high up on the list. When employees feel empowered and trusted, they go the extra mile because they love their job and the feeling of doing something right. However, the opposite occurs when there is a toxic feel to the workplace. Standards drop, productivity decreases, and teamwork takes a hit due to the mistrust and office politics. Certain things ruin an atmosphere but people are usually the number one suspects. So, if someone comes in with a bad attitude or one that isn’t in line with the company, it’s best to get rid of them before they cause any damage. Remember that the longer they are there, the deeper the rifts will become as they become irreparable after a certain point. Without a period of probation, it’s almost impossible to fire someone even if they are disruptive.



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Employee Investment

A probation period is a perfect opportunity for the employee and employer to get on the same page. By telling them what you expect during their initial three months, you hand them the tools to be successful. The candidates that are switched on will ensure they learn new skills and adapt as best as possible to secure a long-term contract. As a result, the final product will be a person who is ready to slot seamlessly into the team after they pass out. And, if they don’t, you know they are not a suitable hire. Of course, there is a grey area too as you can address the issues with them before the period ends to help them grow. In the long-term, you will find that an atmosphere of improvement develops within the workplace and that can only be a good thing.


Trend Setting

As a rule, probation periods encourage businesses to nurture young talent. After all, it’s not as if they are stuck with them if the trial doesn’t go to plan. Those that succeed get to gain the experience they need while the company gets the latest info on trends. Also, there’s the boost to creativity that comes with a new, fresh demographic in the office.


What’s The Ideal Length?

Don’t assume that bigger is better in this scenario. Employees hate the uncertainty that comes with long probation periods as it leaves them in an unpredictable spot. Therefore, it’s best to go for the middle option so that you can spot their strengths and weaknesses without them getting disillusioned. Three months or 90-days should be enough to get a sense of how they will fit into the office without causing them stress.


How do you feel about probation periods? Do they think they are essential?


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Hrvoje Horvat

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