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How to manage probation effectively - by Expert HR Solutions

Here at Expert HR Solutions, one of the commonest problems we see is businesses either not having a probation period - or having one but not making proper use of it. Below we try to explain simply how a probation period should be managed.

The reason to have a probation period is twofold; it allows a period of time for both the employer and employee to determine whether the individual is right for the role AND it focuses attention on ensuring the new employee has the training, support and guidance they need to perform in the role.

The first few months in a role are crucial to the long term performance of an individual. This is the time when the knowledge required to do the role needs to be attained and where bad habits can develop if proper guidance is not provided.


Probation forms part of the contract of employment and continuing employment should be subject to successful completion of probation. The contract should make this clear. It is therefore important that the process is properly managed and that having a probationary period is meaningful for both the organisation and the employee.

Organisations should determine how long the appropriate probationary period is for new starters and should apply this consistently to all staff. This can vary between three months and six months. The purpose of probation is to determine suitability for the role so you must ensure that a process is put in place which enables you to do this.


It is particularly important that regular one to one’s happen with new starters. The aim of the meetings at this stage is to discuss how the new starter feels things are going, ensure they are getting the support they need and to provide them with any feedback on how they are performing to date. Any concerns which come to light during this time should be raised with the employee immediately, not left for formal meetings.

A formal probation review meeting with the line manager should be arranged between halfway and two-thirds of the way through the probationary period. If things are not going as well as hoped at this point, the individual should be advised where they need to improve if their probation is to be signed off at the end of the probationary period. They should also be advised at this point that their probation could be extended or their contract ended.


Just before the end of the probationary period, a formal review meeting should be held. The outcome of the review meeting should be recorded and kept on file.

The possible outcomes of the review meeting are:

• confirmation that the probationary period has been successful

extension of the probationary period and provision of further support as necessary

• confirmation that the probationary period has been unsuccessful and that employment will be terminated.

Whatever the outcome, it should be confirmed in writing to the individual.

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