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  • Writer's pictureShona

Performance in Probation

Updated: May 7, 2022

The first six months of an employee's employment are a bit like the first 6 months of dating. It's the time where you're having those deep conversations to get to know one another and set boundaries and expectations.

What happens in the first six months of the relationship sets the tone for your future together. I'm off the dating metaphor now 😂

So what do you so when your shiny new employee just isn't cutting the mustard?

1. Tell them!

I cannot stress this to you enough. It's not enough for you to ring your HR support to moan about the employee not doing their job properly because guess what?

Nothing will change if you don't tell the employee!!

I know the conversation will be awkward and make you feel uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is part of being a manager so you're gonna have to get used to that! But that's what HR is here for! We will help you to structure the conversation so that you get to the point and help your newbie move forward successfully. The key is to focus on solutions rather than the problem.

You can do this either through an informal 121 or you can hold a formal probation review meeting which brings me nicely onto my next tip...

2. Make them aware of how serious it is.

It's really important that you let your employee know how serious their performance issues are. Some things are not serious and super easy to resolve with someone, such as how many sugars they should be putting in your tea ☕ But other things have more of a detrimental impact on the business and/or your customers.

So if it's serious, make this clear to the employee by using the formal procedure.

They need to know that you're not messing about and that failure to improve could ultimately lead to their dismissal. However if it's not so serious, a 121 will do the job.

3. Give them the opportunity to improve.

This means that after you have had the #awks conversation, you should set a reasonable timeframe to review the employee's progress. The employee needs to have time to implement the solutions you have discussed and show you how they can improve before you jump back on the phone to me again telling me they're no good!

Make sure you hold up your end of the bargain though and provide the support and training you promised in the meeting.

4. Actually do the reviews.

I know it takes up your valuable time to sit and do 121s with your team. But that's only if we think about things in the short term. If you think long term, that hour that you spend with your employee could be the difference between them becoming a successful and valuable member of your team.

So book it in, prioritise it and hold up your end of the deal in terms of support for the employee.

5. Follow through.

If, after following all the above steps in line with your performance procedure, there is no improvement, you will need to take more serious steps. Arrange a formal probation review giving the employee the right to be accompanied, get HR involved and have a meeting to see whether there is anything more you can do before you consider dismissal.


Remember at all stages in ANY people procedure, to consider any underlying causes for poor performance or conduct and ensure that you follow your procedure to the letter.


Ps. If you have a young, lively business looking for a taste of classic HR support straight from the barrel, you NEED to register for a complimentary Taster Session with me on 22 November.

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