Probationary Periods – What’s the point?

Probationary periods are not automatic.  Your company will only have one if you say so in your contract. So why do so many companies use them?


Why have probationary periods

Just as we give learner drivers more time and space on the roads, we accept new employees make mistakes and need help.  In turn, they accept they are being assessed.  You have a golden opportunity to provide regular feedback. You can assure them they are doing well or address any issues early on.

Done correctly, the end of a probationary period is like a pause button.  It makes you stop and think.  It makes you tackle issues now, not store them up for later.

Tip: One extension of up to 3 months should be enough to tell if a person is right for your business. What’s likely to change if you extend it further? 


What do I need to think about before the probationary meeting?

Think of this as a mini-appraisal. It’s a great chance to find out more about how they are fitting in and to talk about their future career with you.

  • Before you go into the meeting, do your research. Look at their work, talk to their supervisor and find out what training they have had.
  •  Look at what they are doing well.  How you can best use their skills?
  • Look at what they need to improve upon.  Plan how you are going to tackle this.
  • Think about any targets you would like to set them.  What further training they would benefit from?
  • Did you promise them anything extra on successful completion of the probation?
  • If their probationary period has not been successful, consider why.  What lessons you should learn for the future?

Tip: The outcome of a probationary meeting should never be a surprise. Give regular feedback throughout to stop problems developing in the first place. 


What else do I need to do?

  • Write to confirm the outcome of their probationary meeting. If you are extending it, say what improvements you expect to see and how you will support them.
  •  Put in place any training, salary increases or additional benefits you have promised.
  • Make sure you follow up on any targets you have set with them.
  • If their probationary period has been extended, make sure they get the help and support you promised.  Be ready to review their performance once again.

Tip: Keep your promises. Failing to do so is a sure way to lose great staff.


Probationary periods are there to find out whether your employee and your business are right for each other. Good support and training can pay dividends for many years to come.


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