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Why are probation reviews so important for all your new-starters?

Probationary periods are a key part of the recruitment process. We've all probably encountered them in our working lives at one time or another. So, are they just a pointless formality, or are the benefits of probation reviews an untapped goldmine?

Probation reviews are an opportunity for employers to ascertain whether a new employee is the right fit for the organisation. But their importance goes beyond just ticking a few boxes. These reviews give managers a better understanding of where their employees are at in the learning process.

The benefits of probation reviews as part of onboarding

An organisation's onboarding process plays a major role in how well new employees settle into the workplace and engage with their roles. Good onboarding ensures that new hires have access to the proper guidance. New employees need support, and learning resources to thrive in their role.

There's often an expensive loss of productivity associated with turnover, even with a new staff member in place. So doing this in a timely manner can help you mitigate the performance dip. This is great for you as an employer. But timely onboarding also enables new employees to work unimpeded during as much of their probationary period as possible. This is vital, because it gives them more time to effectively prove themselves. 

A probationary review meeting is a good opportunity to get insight on the potential shortcomings of your onboarding process. Even promising candidates can struggle. They might find it hard to grips with their workplace responsibilities.

Or it could be some other aspect of the workplace during probation. The insight from a probation review can shed some light on any issues with the support they're getting.

So one of the main benefits of probation reviews is that they can expose issues with your business's management. A study from West Monroe Partners found that a significant number of US bosses don't have any formal training. 59% of managers overseeing between one and two employees were untrained. And the same could be said for 41% of those managing teams of three to five.

Even among managers with over ten years of experience, almost half had received only around nine hours of training. A similar proportion of managers overall (44%) reported often feeling overwhelmed at work.

A probationary review meeting provides insight into your new employee's experiences

Getting feedback about the quality of your onboarding is just one way you can benefit from learning about the employee's experiences during a probationary review meeting. Employee experience encompasses everything, from their engagement to their wellbeing.

Probationary periods may be your time for determining candidate suitability. But they're also time for new employees to ascertain how they feel about your organisation. After some time, they might decide that they don't gel with the workplace culture.

Or perhaps they realise the commute is too much. So it's true that probation is the time when an organisation can end an employee's contract without much fuss. But don't it's also a grace period for the employee to be able to quit without worrying about notice periods.

Maybe they'd love to keep working for your organisation, but feel they can't. Probationary time can help them reconsider how they approach their working life. Let's stick with the example of a surprisingly difficult commute. An employee might seek to resolve this by working remotely some of the time. Or they could even incorporate some other form of job flexibility into their employment.

Annual remote work studies from Buffer have consistently found that the vast majority of practicing remote staff love it. And a similar series of reports by Owl Labs supports these findings. In Buffer's 2020 survey, 98% want to continue working remotely, and 97% would recommend it to a colleague.

Owl Labs found that 77% report that still being able to work from home after COVID-19 would make them happier. So if your probationary employees are interested in flexibility, you can bet your existing staff are too.

A probationary review meeting can lay the groundwork for personal development

Another of the benefits of probation reviews is that you can establish whether the candidate is suitable for their position. But it should by no means end there. People who make the cut and get fully welcomed onboard can still improve.

Probationary periods can give you a good understanding of a new employee's strengths and weaknesses. The review meeting at the end is a great chance to discuss what your employee's aims are. And from there, you can establish what skills they need to learn or improve in.

Encouraging continued education and personal development in the workplace helps you to engage with your employees and build up loyalty. So during probationary reviews, you should be looking to set achievable, mutually understood goals for your new employee's personal development. And speaking of mutually understood goals.

A probationary review meeting lets you set shared expectations

At Weekly10, we often talk about setting expectations as part of onboarding or recruitment processes. You'll likely have discussed these expectations with the employee at some point before. However, it's worth returning to them during the probationary review meeting.

At this point, the employee will have some first-hand experience working for your organisation. And again, you'll have a much better understanding of their individual strengths and weaknesses.

This means you'll be in a much better position to set realistic goals. In turn, employees will have a much better understanding of the demands of their role. Together, you'll be able to reflect on their probationary period and what needs to happen going forward.

The importance of communicating over the probationary period

This article is mainly about the end-of-probation review. But effective two-way communication and its importance can't be ignored. It's to be expected that a new employee in a new environment will make a few mistakes. After all, they are adapting to a whole new work culture and set of rules. But that person could lose their job if those mistakes don't get corrected. By extension, it'll cost you a good staff member who just needed some support.

Be sure to check in regularly with your probationary staff. The sooner you correct any mistakes or bad habits, the more time they'll have to take it onboard. After all, they're racing against time to prove that they're taking feedback into account and developing accordingly.

For example, using our service, managers would be able to create custom check-ins for their probationary staff members. This means that, week on week, managers can monitor productivity and objective progress. Do this by asking personalised questions that address that specific employee's experiences.

The average probationary period lasting three to six months. This means new staff members could have plenty of weekly check-ins to raise issues and seek feedback. These check-ins increase the likelihood that they'll be able to meet their manager's expectations. That also means that your employee should have a much clearer idea of their standing going into the review meeting.

Put your probationary staff at ease in this meeting if you can. You'll find it much easier to get open and coherent sentiments from them if they aren't panicking.

Enjoyed this? Why not check out our A-Z guide to performance management for progressive managers.