What is a Probationary Period and Why It Matters to Your Business

Posted on February 26, 2024 | Updated on June 11, 2024

What is a probationary period? It’s a standard business process that may be puzzling initially but boils down to the employer-employee relationship. Here’s what business owners and job candidates need to know about this business practice.

What Does a Probationary Period Mean for Employers and Employees?

A probationary period is when companies determine whether a new hire fits a specific position. Employers gauge the candidate’s performance, skill, ability and professional work behavior. Companies use the probationary period to see if the employee meets their expectations and the demands of the role.

Probationary periods can be considered a trial period for both employer and employee. Companies may continue a new hire’s employment if they pass the probationary period. On the other hand, organizations may terminate the contract without the typical notice period if the employee fails to meet the job responsibilities and expectations.

It’s common for companies to put employees on a trial period, which can last from three to six months or even a year, depending on the position. Employers often assess new hires within a three-month probationary period, while assessing newly promoted employees can take up to 12 months.

Similarly, employees can use the probationary period to assess if their role and company suit their career progression. New hires can talk to their manager or the company’s human resources (HR) to ask questions about their employment, contract and other details about the position.

What Are the Benefits of a Probationary Period?

The probationary period is an excellent opportunity for employers to get to know their new hires on a deeper level. 

For Employers

Businesses can experience the following benefits by placing new employees on probationary periods.

  • Determine the candidate’s suitability: Some candidates may oversell themselves during the application process but underdeliver when faced with tasks. Probationary periods can help HR sift through new hires and verify which candidates are capable. 
  • Avoid financial losses: According to a survey, companies can spend up to $17,000 due to one bad hiring decision. The cost rises when workers make mistakes in critical work processes. Diligent businesses can avoid losses by making the right hiring decisions based on data and actual performance at work.
  • Identify potential high performers and leaders: Managers and supervisors can work closely with new hires to gauge their skills and performance. Excellent work ethics, time management, knowledge of business operations and other factors can help companies identify good talents among their new hires
  • Address issues before contract signing: Some workers may need time to familiarize themselves with their new roles. Hiring managers and supervisors can address new hires’ issues before making permanent hiring decisions.
  • Supplement hiring processes: Businesses can go to great lengths to vet and screen applicants but still get bad hires or mismatches. The probationary period can confirm the effectiveness of existing practices and help HR make adjustments in future hiring tasks.

For Employees

New hires can also make use of the probationary period to do the following:

  • Check-in with HR about the role: It’s entirely normal for new hires to have questions about their position in the company. The probationary period allows new employees to ask HR about the company’s culture, expectations, work arrangements and other details.
  • Receive training and feedback from team leaders: Growth-oriented workers are eager to learn about how they are performing and what they can do to improve. New hires often receive regular feedback and coaching sessions from their managers and supervisors that will help them better understand their role in the company.
  • Assess the career progression within the company: New hires serious about their career can use the probationary period to assess if there is career development in the company. According to a study, 76% of employees value career opportunities, while 74% say they are willing to learn new skills. New hires can verify if their new employer can give them what they need to grow their careers.

Tips to Ensure a Successful Probationary Period for Employers

Managing new hires can be challenging, but it’s doable with the correct approach. Here are some tips for employers who wish to sift through applicants and find their perfect candidates.

  1. Constantly check in with new hires and monitor their progress. Employees feel more valued as a team member when managers invest time and energy into checking up on them.
  2. Always entertain employees’ questions and concerns. Employees feel heard and understood when their supervisors try to answer their questions about work and other related matters.
  3. Provide new hires with the tools they need to succeed in their probationary period. These tools include workplace equipment, company software, access controls fit for their status, appropriate training and resources.
  4. Create clear plans and set realistic goals with new team members. Employees are likelier to get the job done if they clearly understand their responsibilities and what they must do to fulfill them.
  5. Give constructive feedback and set expectations during onboarding. Employers can address issues by giving new hires helpful feedback. Candidates can also grasp what they must do if they understand the company’s expectations of them.

Probation Strategies for New Employees

The probationary period can be equally challenging for new hires. Candidates may feel extra pressure to pass with flying colors. Here are some tips to help new employees navigate the probation process.

  1. Take the probationary period seriously. New hires should invest in the tasks if they’re genuinely interested in the role. Having skin in the game can be a great motivator to work hard and meet all expectations.
  2. Be open to feedback. Feedback is invaluable to new employees if they wish to meet the role’s demands. Candidates should consider feedback an opportunity to learn and grow to become a permanent part of any organization.
  3. Make an effort to stand out. Look for opportunities to showcase skills and talents to help management make a more informed decision. Hiring managers love to see highly motivated candidates willing to go the extra mile to wow clients with their best work.
  4. Track progress and milestones. Keep tabs on significant accomplishments and record progress to ensure adherence to schedules and plans. Achieving goals can be an excellent way to stay motivated during probation.
  5. Connect with team members and colleagues. Managers make hiring decisions based on candidates’ alignment with company culture and team dynamics. Establish a network and maintain good relationships with team members to show willingness to work with others.

Use the Probationary Period to Your Advantage

Employers and employees have a lot to learn during the probationary period. It can tell both parties much about each other, especially regarding aligned values, work capabilities and career growth. Both parties should leverage this trial period to see if they’ve made the right decision.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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