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New Managers and the probationary period

December 14, 2020

The probationary period on a job can be a stressful and overwhelming time, but there are some ways that managers can help employees be more successful. 

What is a probationary period?

Many employers have a probation period with new hires. It can last anywhere from one to six months. The goal is to give the employee and employer time to see if they are a good fit for the long run. During this time, both the employer and employee can end their contract without a lot of notice or fuss. But, it is vital to seek an HR specialist’s advice before firing an employee to be sure the decision does not violate any rights of the worker. 

It is important to note that while probationary periods are usually for new hires, managers can put any employee on probation if they feel their performance has been falling.

Probationary period statistics

One study found that about 46 percent of new hires don’t make it through the probationary period. One of the top reasons for this, according to researchers, is poor interpersonal skills. Moreover, 89 percent of managers can tell if the employee will fail before the probationary period ends. 

Some of the attitude problems noted in the study include employees’ resistance to being coached, their lack of motivation, and low emotional intelligence. 

Tips for managing employees during probationary periods

There are some ways that managers can help employees be more successful during their probationary time. These include:

Regular meetings. Conduct regular employee reviews throughout the probationary period. These meetings are crucial to catching problems early and helping the employee navigate a solution. During the sessions, review past performance and development. Then create a strategy or some goals for moving forward. 

Track employee performance. To be best prepared for these types of meetings, managers should be tracking employee performance throughout the probationary period. Consider the areas where they have been making good progress and the tasks they are struggling to complete. Talk to co-workers to see how they feel the probationary employee is working out. 

Offer constructive feedback. Managers should aim to offer feedback and input that the employee can use to do better on the job. In other words, managers should be as specific and detailed as possible about the areas that need improvement. Perhaps, offering some ways or advice for the employee to consider will help them improve their performance for next time. Clear feedback can also prevent employees from developing bad habits, which will be harder to break in the long run. 

Develop an action plan. Employee review meetings should also be a time when probationary workers can offer their feedback. Together a manager and the employee can review any problems or challenges and develop an action plan to overcome them. 

Be supportive. Probationary employees are more likely to be successful if they have the support and encouragement of their manager. Ask employees what they feel they need to tackle challenges or difficult tasks. Then give it to them. Keep in mind that employees, particularly new hires, won’t get everything correct from the start. 

Keep a record. It is essential to record any meetings and actions taken during the probationary period for each employee. Having a written document not only helps the manager see how the employee is progressing, but they can also share it with the employee to be reminded of what they need to work on for the future. 

Mentoring employees on probation

One of the best ways that managers can help new hires or employees on probation is to set them up with a mentor in the workplace. Mentorships have several benefits for participants and for the organization, including:

  • Skill develop
  • Goal attainment
  • Adapt to company culture
  • Pass down company values
  • Have a positive impact on the office atmosphere

Most specifically, employees that might not have otherwise made it through their probationary period could be successful with the right mentor match. 

Mentoring employees who are new to the company and on probation can help them become more engaged with their work and employer. Through a mentorship, employees can learn more about the company and its values. Understanding more about the company engages employees, particularly if their values match the business values. Ethical behavior is also taught through mentorship. A mentee will come to better understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the company. Knowing this can reduce the number of disciplinary actions that will need to be taken in the future. 

Mentorship can also help employees develop interpersonal skills, which can improve their performance during and after their probationary period. Skills like listening, empathy, motivation, goal-setting, and more can be further developed in a mentoring program. 

Getting the probationary employee started in a workplace mentoring program early can improve the likelihood they will be successful and stay with the company for longer. Employee turnover is costly, no matter how long they have been with the company. Organizations invest a lot in attracting, recruiting, and training new hires. Connecting probationary employees with mentors can significantly reduce turnover rates and the cost involved with them. 

While probationary periods can seem stressful and challenging for employees and employers, they are essential for the long-term success of the company and all the employees. During a probationary period, both the employer and employee are better able to see if they are a good long-term fit. Either party is able to end the contract with little notice. Mixing mentorship into the probationary period can lead to a higher level of success for the employee. It can also help them develop vital skills and abilities that can benefit them in the company, as well as in their personal life. 


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