Probation Period Purgatory
The probation period is not a very welcoming gesture. It is like saying, "We are happy to have you, but we will keep an eye on you just in case we need to fire you in the next 3-6 months." Thank you, I am happy to be here.....:-(
The definition of probation is "the release of an offender from detention, subject to a period of good behaviour under supervision." Or "a process of testing or observing the character or abilities of a person new to a role or job." It is like a bad fraternity test to check whether you belong.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with validating the hiring decision with observable performance, but do we need a probation period to do this? At the end of the day, we can all be fired at any point for poor performance, right? Is it just another routine organisation caught up in and never considered its relevance?
Netflix did, and what they found helped them to decide to ditch it. Their internal data showed them that out of 10.000 employees, only two a year did not pass probation. Imagine the amount of admin work that went into the other 9998 employees' HR records just to weed out those two. This makes no sense.
We spend so much money on selecting and recruiting, yet, we don't trust our systems and capabilities enough not to put people through this purgatory period where they are in but not quite part of our organisation. I am actually not even sure whom we trust less in this process. The new hire, the recruiting team or the manager in charge of the person's performance. hmmmm... Because let's be honest here, one's performance at work hugely depends on the direct line manager. Do we look into this within the context of the probation period?
Instead, we should welcome them wholeheartedly and design their onboarding experience to reduce the risk of low performance to the minimum. It means structured, high-quality, consistent training delivered by a dedicated person that enables the individual to perform. It means weekly casual check-in conversations with the line manager around the new hire experiences related to training, tools, team atmosphere, relationship with the manager and team members etc.
If we did that, we would not only reduce the risk of low performance we would pick up on it too very early on. This would allow us to adjust, and if things don't change, start recording conversations and performance-related issues. This way, we would turn the informal way of managing performance into a formal one when needed.
Some of you might say, "Yes, but the law says..... different benefits etc." My answer is that you can always do better than the law. Be better than others. What is wrong with that?
We can build a better new hire experience, we are creative enough. Let's do it together!