Let’s look at Probationary in the Work Place.

Thanks to those of you who subscribed to my first newsletter! I enjoyed writing it and sharing my thoughts, some
professional knowledge together with myths and challenging them!

This month I feel driven to put Probationary in the Spotlight.

For those of you working in HR internally and outsourced. I welcome your thoughts.

Let me tell you a story.

A young adult, in his 30s, professional, university education, committed family man. So family committed that he relocated himself and his young family from South Africa to England for a better, freer, more secure life, leaving behind his elderly parents and siblings.

Knowing no one and starting with a position in a similar business he had left in what was his homeland. Alone whilst awaiting the extended date of arrival, due to the long drawn out visa and immigration system and counting the days to be reunited with his young family.

Let me now jump to the present. What happened to this conscientious, reliable, knowledgeable young man and his family?

He is now back searching for what will be his fourth position in 3 years.

What happened? The Companies he worked for either made him redundant or gave him short-term contracts for several months, trained him in roles and then recruited an external employee to fill it, thus not extending his contract or making him permanent. In the last position, termination took place following the Probationary Period of six months.

What does this mean contractually? The company is legally entitled to give a probationer one week’s notice.

The probationer has no legal safety, or security unless there is evidence of automatic unfair dismissal or unlawful discrimination.

man made redundantWhat is Best Practice?

1.     Clarify and Identify the Reason for the Probationary Period

2.     Give Targets and Goals

3.     Monitor and Manage

4.     Training

5.     Regular Reviews

6.     Overall ensure the Probationer understands if unsuccessful the contract will not be confirmed.


This young man in my story is now one of my clients. I am guiding him in the art of sourcing a new role and highlighting his interview process. What questions he needs to ask to clarify the values and ethics of the business and educating him on the legality and twists and turns of the UK Employment Law.

Let me complete the story or should I say end the latest Chapter of this courageous, still positive young man who has been thrown back again into the pit of Job Searchers.

Despite a successful mid-term review and continual positive feedback from colleagues, the day before the final meeting he was told his performance was not good enough.

Within this time, he had travelled an extensive way to work by car and also worked from home. He had extolled the virtues of the Company, how kind, engaging and welcoming the business was. How there was an understanding and acceptance of mental health issues. How they were given free lunch on some days and of course the obligatory Company Mug.

He thought he was doing OK. He was commended on his work and he was committed to doing a good job. He saw a long future ahead of him with this Company and had discussed moving closer to the workplace sometime in the future.

Just prior to the meeting he got an indication all was not well. Confusion.

The outcome was the company was looking for employees who were 100% for the business and not, as in this young man’s case appeared to be more committed to his family following a request for 2 weeks holiday to spend with family he had not seen for over three years. To reunite with the mother and grandmother of their child who had recently recovered from cancer treatment.

One week’s notice. One week to find another job.

Searching, advertising, interviews. 4 weeks later the search continues. An abundance of jobs but the process is slow and methodical.

I am confident this young man will find the right role in a business where his values and ethics are aligned.

However, currently, there is debt, there is anxiety, there is lack of self-confidence, there is self-doubt, there is emotional fatigue and more to contend with whilst the search continues.

How different this story could have been.

Where was the Best Practice?

There is a cost in recruitment and also the time to consider. It begs the question that if the recruitment process was thorough and there was clarity, of not only the skills but the type of person required for the vacant role, the probationary would be a dream and more of an extended induction and training process into the systems within the business.

We do however still have the Probationary Period as a backup in case perhaps we have missed something, perhaps the candidate was excellent at being interviewed and just said yes to various questions that he/she intuitively needed that answer to go for Gold! Perhaps the candidate would suddenly realise it was not for him/her and went off to a better more aligned offer.

Remember it can work both ways and at times does happen.

In my experience, I found employers were at times unclear as to the power of a probationary tool. Lacked the understanding of the importance of those first few weeks/months. Lacked the application and the structure and dare I say understanding of the consequences of actions or lack of them.

On occasions when joining a Company, I would find new recruits had their probationary period extended. Why? Because the manager was unsure on the completion of the six months, or whatever period the contractual agreement was.

What does this tell you? Lack of reviews, communication and/or adequate training.

I set up mid-term reviews as mandatory together with ad hoc meetings during the period of time the candidate was being assessed.

The candidate needs to be aware if they are not fulfilling that which is required. In doing this they will at least have a fighting chance either to improve and achieve the standard, and ability required or to be aware they are likely to need to look for another position and therefore hit the ground running.

Communication is so important and I look forward to hearing your comments.

As a Transformational Coach, with my past HR experience, I support professionals as well as people at various stages of their lives to traverse the ups and downs of life.

We may not get it right all of the time however there are many HR Professionals out there who joined the profession to support not only the Company but also the Employees.

There are and will be times when there is conflict in who to serve and this has to be managed diplomatically and at times there needs to be a parting of ways. Alignment of values and ethics are of great importance and not to be undervalued.

Probationary Period

What do you do as HR Providers and what do you recommend to your employer and actively practice when recruiting?

Love to hear your stories.

Experiencing similar challenging issues as a representative of a business or as a candidate?

Book a free 30-minute Discovery Call and let’s discuss how my Bust Through Sessions can support you or your candidates.



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