Bringing new employees on board carries risks in any company. Business owners and managers do not truly get to experience the skills, personality and work ethic of job applicants until the applicants are hired and working, at which point it can be difficult to dismiss someone in favour of a different applicant. Employee probation periods serve to protect companies from making poor hiring decisions. Probation periods specify that new hires are only being given jobs tentatively, and that they have to earn the right to truly become a part of the company.
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Probation periods for new hires can protect companies from legal trouble if they need to fire a new employee. A number of factors can come up in the early stages of employment that necessitate firing, whether it be interpersonal issues, tardiness or a lack of progress toward learning and productivity goals. Probationary agreements signed by employees can be used to thwart allegations of mistreatment or workplace discrimination if new hires don't perform up to par.
Probation periods for existing employees, in addition to new hires, also have distinct advantages. Existing employees placed into probationary agreements are given a formal chance to change their performance and succeed in the organisation. This can help to garner employee loyalty in addition to increasing productivity.
Probationary periods can involve a good deal of personal perspective, especially when a single manager is tasked with evaluating an employee's probationary progress. In smaller organisations, in particular, personal and political influences can affect the outcome of probationary periods. For example, a manager may be lenient on an underperforming employee with a charismatic personality and may be strict on a high-performing recruit with social anxiety, simply because of the personal factors involved.
Probationary periods may also cause new employees to put on a "front" for an extended period of time. An employee with habitual tardiness issues, for example, may be on time for work every day during the probationary period, slipping back into his bad habits after the period expires.
Employers look for specific issues during probationary periods. Specific job-related skills, such as competencies on productive machinery, mastery of production techniques and technical understanding of equipment, are all monitored during probationary periods. Personality traits such as conflict management skills, punctuality, reliability, ability to comprehend and interpret instructions and work ethic are vital concerns as well. Generally speaking, any facet of employee performance that is important to an employer can be monitored and evaluated during probationary periods.
Time Frames and Completion
Probationary periods are often set tentatively at three to six months, but employers generally reserve the right to extend probationary periods beyond the original limit or end the period early. A number of benefits can accrue to employees after completing probationary periods, including an increase in hours, official status as an employee, placement in a previously agreed-upon leadership position, and, most importantly, elimination of the threat of being fired without going through a remedial process.
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