Managing Probation And Employee Performance

Managing people is not a science, it’s an art. It requires creativity, flexibility, and a lot of patience.” – Unknown

Today we are looking at two important components of people management. First, we are going to look at the importance of the probation process. Then we are going to consider staff performance management more broadly.

Having a probation period for new staff is a really important component of an effective HR framework. Probation is a bit like an engagement prior to marriage. It is a time for both the employer and the employee to get to know each other better before putting the relationship on a more permanent footing.

Here are three reasons why probation is important and what both the employer and employee should be doing during the probation period.

First, probation is an opportunity for both the employer and employee to assess the job fit. During the probationary period, both the employer and the employee can assess whether the employee is a good fit for the role and the organisation. For the employer, this includes evaluating the employee’s skills, experience, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. For the employee, this includes deciding if this role is really suitable for them and if this is an organisation in which they wish to work.

Second, probation is an important time for setting clear expectations. For the employer, this means providing clear expectations around the employee’s performance, behaviour, and job duties. It is important during this time to communicate these expectations clearly and provide the employee with the necessary resources and support to meet them. For the employee, this is an opportunity to clarify what the job is all about and find out how they will be supported in performing the role.

Third, the probation period provides the opportunity to identify areas for growth and improvement. By monitoring the employee’s performance during the probationary period, employers can identify areas where the employee may need additional training or support. This can help the employee improve their performance and contribute more effectively to the organisation. For the employee, probation is an opportunity for them to assess themselves and have input into decisions about future professional development.

Once an employee has completed the probation period and has been confirmed in their role, the focus pivots to performance management. Let’s think about some of the key components in the performance management cycle.

Managing employee performance management involves several components to ensure the process is fair, objective, and effective. Here are some tips for doing performance management well for employees:

  • Define clear expectations: Define clear expectations for the employee at the outset of the performance review cycle. Ensure that the employee understands what is expected of them in terms of job duties, performance goals, and deadlines. These expectations should be documented to make sure that all parties are – literally – on the same page.
  • Have regular check-ins: Regularly check-in with the employee to provide feedback on their performance and progress towards goals. Use these check-ins to discuss any concerns, areas for improvement, and opportunities for growth.
  • Provide constructive feedback throughout the performance cycle: Don’t wait for formal reviews to provide feedback. Feedback can be provided at any time and, if done in the right way, it can really foster positive employee engagement and performance. When providing feedback, be specific and constructive. Focus on the employee’s behaviour or performance, rather than personal traits. Be clear about what needs to be improved and provide guidance on how to improve.
  • Set realistic goals: Set realistic and achievable goals for the employee, taking into account their skills, experience, and the demands of the job. Make sure the goals are measurable, and progress can be tracked and evaluated throughout the performance cycle.
  • Document everything: Document all discussions, feedback, and performance issues during the performance review cycle. This documentation can be used to support performance ratings, decisions about retention or termination, or to provide evidence in the case of disputes.
  • Involve the employee in all aspects of the process: Involve the employee in the performance management process. Ask for their input on their job duties, goals, and performance. Encourage them to share their perspective and provide feedback on the process.
  • Be fair and consistent: Ensure that the performance management process is fair and consistent for all employees. Avoid showing favouritism or bias towards certain employees. Make sure you follow established organisation policies and procedures and apply them consistently to all employees.

By adopting these tips, you can effectively manage performance for employees, supporting them in optimising their performance in their role, building their job satisfaction, and achieving their personal goals while also ensuring that your organisation benefits from a productive workforce.

This article was written by Zane Edwards, Global Director of GRC at LighthouseGRC. Zane is a chartered accountant and has 20 years experience in Government and Private sector GRC management. Not only is he passionate about the digital transformation of governance, but he is also a skilled and influential communicator with extensive national and international experience in a variety of channels, including conferences, radio, television, and video.