And why probationary periods are Ok
So you’ve created a winning resume, negotiated any number of telephone screenings, sailed through all the face to face interviews, maybe even aced the behavioral tests. Finally you are opening that coveted offer letter. Your heart races as you realise you’ve landed a great job, maybe a salary increase and fantastic future career opportunities.
But one phrase stands out, casting a dark shadow over a great moment ” subject to the satisfactory completion of a x month probationary period”
What does this mean?
This pretty much means what it says. Before your contract will be definitively confirmed, you need to successfully complete a x month trial period. Does this mean that you will be giving up a job for a position that isn’t necessarily secure? Well, yes actually it does.
But before you get into a flat spin let’s take a closer look. Hiring companies invest thousands of dollars/euros/pounds in a selection process. There will also be an impact on revenue during the period the position is open and in any subsequent onboarding process which can take up to a year. The company want you to hit peak efficiency as early as possible and should be doing everything they can to make sure that happens.
According to research by the Wynhurst Group , new employees who go through a structured on-boarding programme are 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years and the cost of losing an employee in the first year is estimated to be at least three times their salary.
Worst case scenario
So no one wants you to leave! You will also have left a job and probably don’t fancy the idea of unemployment appearing in your short-term future. So both parties are heavily invested in making sure that the appointment and transition period are successful.
What is being catered for is a worst case scenario which allows all involved an easier exit strategy with a specified notice period. It is usually more about cultural and team fit than core competencies, those indefinable and intangible things that come about when people interact with each other in any relationship or organisation. It’s a bit like dating – without being dumped overnight.
What is onboarding ?
Wally Bock suggests somewhat cynically that the term onboarding has been made up by people ” ..who revel in jargon…. it means many different things to different people …who have different ideas about where it starts and ends and what is and isn’t included ..”
That’s certainly true. Essentially it is the process that will accelerate the new employee’s learning curve and increase the chances of early effectiveness and productivity for the new hire and also reduce the possibility of early attrition ( biz speak for you resigning). Where it starts and finishes will vary from one organisation to another and for some companies includes the interviewing and hiring process. On arrival the new appointee should be given detailed information not only about the location of the coffee machine, stationery cabinet and the position they’ve just accepted, but also key company information, as well as insights into corporate culture, ethics and vision.
Jane Perdue, CEO of the Braithwaite Group told me that in her corporate HR days, programmes could last 1 week or 6 months depending on the level of the position “ the perspective was to teach culture, process, procedure and not let the water cooler conversations be the only introduction that new folks receive.”
In an ideal world employers will have covered many of the issues that could result in early attrition in the pre-offer stage, through clear and open communication to avoid any surprises, or worse still, shocks. At the point of making an offer , the hiring management team should have examined the fit of the new appointee, not just with the profile, but with the new boss and the existing team. Plans should have been made to fill any anticipated skill set gaps.
The existing team
The arrival of a new team member or even boss, also causes the existing team members to be in transition, so any impact on that dynamic should also be appraised. Any anticipated repercussions both positive and negative have to be factored in. This is a bit like bringing a new baby home! Some ” family ” members will adapt quickly, others may take longer and sometimes some members may not like the fact that the “baby” is there at all and react badly. Ideally contingency plans will be in place and the situation reviewed regularly, so that early steps can be taken to resolve any issues.
So what should be clear to both parties?
- A job description should exist with defined, achievable goals.
- The review method should be stated and transparent with regular review periods and clear feedback.
- Reporting lines should be outlined and all parties involved in the review process will be clear.
- Methods of preferred communication should be made clear. If there is a flat, open door, informal culture then new hires need to know that. If the line mangers prefer written reports and formally scheduled interviews that needs to be clear too.
- A mentoring structure should exist either internally or through the provision of an external coach.
- Provision should be made to cover any periods of sickness.
Wally adds sagely ” We know that their first impressions of our shop are going to be important and lasting. So we want to make the process of getting hired, joining the company, and becoming a productive member of it as effective and seamless as possible. I just don’t know what parts of that constitute “onboarding”
Possibly all of it! A successful onboarding process should provide an opportunity to align the expectations of all the players for the best possible outcome for all concerned.
Everyone should be happy! Right?