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Latest Blogpost - New Job: Surviving the probationary period
If you’re working as an interim manager or simply moving to a new employer, you’ll know that it is important to get to grips with the culture of the organisation as soon as possible to get through that all-important probationary period.

Getting through the first few months

If you have moved roles you’ll be concerned about the first few months of a new job and passing the probationary period hurdle. Different employers tend to have different periods of scrutiny – usually three or six months during which they review the new employee’s progress closely. There should be regular review meetings, but some employers are not as well organised and only tend to make notes and give you feedback at the end of the period – by which time it may be too late to correct any shortcomings.

Ask for feedback

When you start a new role, make sure that you ask what the arrangements are for feedback discussions. Initially you might want them weekly, but they should be monthly at least to ensure that you get an idea of how things are going from the employer’s perspective. But it also gives you a chance to ask questions that have arisen in the meantime. Make sure that the discussions are documented – it doesn’t need to be a verbatim record; a list of bullet points and actions would be fine. This will then give you something to work to and review at the next meeting. If your manager doesn’t make notes, then it is a good idea to send an email summarising your understanding of the situation so that if there are any misunderstandings, they can be corrected quickly.

Options

It will depend on the way your contract is worded, but usually the options are for either party to terminate the contract quite quickly during or at the end of the probationary period if the job is not working out for you or the employer. Check your contract to make sure you understand the notice periods during this time as they are likely to be shorter than the normal contractual notice periods.

Extensions – what does this mean?

Sometimes an employer might decide to extend the probationary period. This can happen for a variety of reasons including sickness absence. If a probationary employee is off a lot during the initial period of employment (for whatever reason) they may not have had time to demonstrate their capabilities adequately to an employer. I’m come across several of these situations for example, an employee who broke both legs in a car accident just a few weeks into her new job, and another who needed time off to look after her husband who had just been diagnosed with cancer. Both of these are valid reasons to extend the probationary period.

Performance and meeting targets

I frequently see clients who have taken on employees who are struggling to cope with the role they’ve been given. Often this is because they have recruited someone who is not the right match for the role – and however much you extend a probationary period, it is not going to work. In other cases, I find that there are some initial targets to be met. If this happens, it is important to work out if there are any extenuating circumstances that would suggest an extension would allow the targets to be met – but if you have a situation where 6 people have been taken on who are all doing well, but one is not even getting close to his/her peers, then it is probably best for both parties to part company. Prolonging the inevitable can be stressful for all concerned. So make sure that you apply for jobs that are the right fit for your skills and experience and you should pass your probation with flying colours!

This article was originally written for, and published by the ICAEW in March 2017.
© Helen Astill, Cherington HR Ltd.
Posted on 22 Mar 2017


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