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Are we using probationary periods as a compensation scheme for bad recruitment? 


I often ask my clients to consider: how long is too long for a probationary period and should you ever extend a probationary period?


A probationary period is a trial period of employment during which someone is employed, only subject to satisfactorily completing this period of time. They vary in length but typically last 3 months. The probationary period is almost a tradition, something we’ve always done when hiring people. However, just because we have always done something a certain way does not necessarily mean that we have to continue doing so. I believe in a 3 day probation period. I think a long probationary period can breed a lack of certainty, a lack of productivity and is not healthy for your business. It is not an effective way of recruiting. 


The way we hire staff has changed in the last 30 years. Then, employee turnover was much higher. After getting hired in the 80’s, a 3 month probationary period was common, then you were either hired or let go. Interviewing wasn’t seen as a skill. If a new hire didn’t work out there was always someone to step into the role, there were more people in the job market. The cost of hiring people was far less expensive than it is today. The training needed to get staff up and running and able to do their job was minimal and there were no tech costs. Now it is not a viable option to adopt this kind of high turnover recruitment process. It is costly and detrimental to your business to constantly employ new people.


As business leaders and CEO’s we have a greater understanding of the psychology of people. We invest more in finding ways of ensuring individuals needs are met and in line with our business aims. Core values are a big part of an organization’s identity. Making sure that the whole workforce or team are aware and believe in a set of clearly defined core values within the organisation, sets a business apart from its competitors. Going one step further is ensuring you hire with these core values in mind. Core values should never be a tick box exercise. They must be lived by every member of the team. Do not hide them away in the drawer. Ensure they are used within your recruitment process. Hiring staff is no longer just a case of ascertaining the individual’s aptitude or skill set. Think about their attitude. Do they fit in with your organization’s culture – is there a chemistry between the two? Many businesses use the probationary period as the time to assess if the attitude of the employee and the culture of the company fits. In today’s business landscape this is not a cost effective method of hiring. The fit of the potential employee should be determined before the probationary period. The length of probation is essentially irrelevant. 


When an individual starts a job they will show their best side within the first three weeks. If this doesn’t happen, consider if you have hired the right person. Sometimes examples of not attending work fully in the first few weeks can signal a person is not engaged. In this case some businesses may look to extend a probationary period. In reality, extending a probationary period often signals that you are unsure of your decision in the first place. Always think outside of the box. Bring any behaviours of staff in the probationary period back to your core values and assess if they are demonstrating them. That will help the success of your recruitment process. If you interview with core values in mind there is no reason to have a long probationary period. A 3 day probationary period should be sufficient. If they can demonstrate the core values of your organisation and give examples of how they do so during the recruitment process then the chances are you have hired the right person.

If you want more information on setting out the core values for your business, or you want to look at making your recruitment process more effective get in touch with me at Boolkah.com.

Remember, failing to learn is learning to fail.

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