So Your New Hire Failed Their Probation Period
The attrition of new hires remains a problem in many countries worldwide. In the UK, HR News reported companies lose 20% of their new hires within the first 45 days on the job — and 33% within the first six months.
The statistics are very similar in the U.S. Zippia reported 31% of employees quit within the first six months of starting a new job, and the number can go as high as 40% according to other sources.
Some of these departures are voluntary on the part of the employee, but some are due to performance issues. This is exactly why many companies have probation periods, to confirm whether or not a new hire is the right person for the job.
So, what happens when a remote employee fails a probation period? Is termination the only solution?
Why Do Employees Fail Their Probation?
Departures, whether voluntary or not, are common in the early stages of a job, and it shouldn't be surprising. After all, this is when the employer and employee formally test each other out.
Many companies have a written agreement outlining the conditions of the probation period. "Some employers do not impose a written contract for probation, [but] some may require the employee to sign a written probation agreement that outlines the expectations and consequences should the employee not meet the expectations," said Rahul Vij, CEO of digital marketing firm WebSpero.
Parts of the agreement might include elements such as:
- What is expected from the employee during their employment
- How feedback will be provided to the employee
- The length of any probation period
- Requirements for successful completion of probation period
There might also be restrictions on second jobs, limits on vacation times and other requirements the company needs.
It may be tempting for employers to also include what happens should an employee not meet the requirements of the probation period, but doing so may backfire — especially if the only consequence is termination. An O.C. Tanner report found that more than half of employees fail in their roles because they’re too scared to make a mistake.
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Termination Is Not the Only Option
It may sound logical to terminate employees who underperform during the probation period, but Marliis Reinkort, CEO and Founder of e-learning provider Code Galaxy, said this can be a mistake.
“I was quick to let go of such employees during the initial stages of my business,” she said. But she found that these new employees, though they were not meeting all expectations, had now invested significant time learning everything there is to know about the company. And starting the process all over again can be costly.
So, instead, Reinkort found it more efficient to invest in helping those who had failed their probation improve. Two such options include:
Mentorship and Upskilling
The buddy system, where an employee partners with a senior, high-performing colleague, can be a great way to get the new hire up to speed on not only what to do but also what's expected.
If lack of resources is a concern, the vast technological options available today put resources in the hands of employers. Leaders can get almost anyone, from anywhere, to help remotely mentor workers.
Reinkort said this strategy is a lot less stressful and much more effective than recruiting and onboarding new employees.
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Eva Tian, leader of the growth strategy at real estate investing firm Mynd, said she, too, has found that helping those who fail their probation period with additional training or mentorship is a great solution. Though she notes that while some companies might consider supervisors an excellent option for mentoring new hires, peers are often better.
Transition Into Another Position
Internal mobility is a cost-efficient and highly engaging way to fill open roles and find the ideal candidate for the job. Nearly everyone has skills and interests that they do not use in their current role. Some employees may be looking for an opportunity to use them; others may have interest in a completely different function though they may not have all the right tools yet.
By tapping into a workforce's skills sets and providing training as needed, employers can put each employee into the role they were meant to have. In return, those employees are more likely to become more engaged and driven to succeed.
The same is true of employees who fail a probation period. They were initially hired for a set of competencies, so why not try them at a different task? They might be a better fit in a different department, for instance from sales to customer service, or with a different team. A simple change could make all the difference for the employee and the company.
Related Article: Mapping Out Your Company's Skills Set
Training and Coaching
Another critical factor for any new employee is reasonable expectations for performance. Tian said by setting realistic expectations and communicating clear timelines, employees know what they need to do and how long they have to achieve their goals.
But beyond that, a new hire shouldn't be brought onboard and left to their own devices. They need guidance and support to get up to speed on processes and systems.
In a remote workplace, this type of support can be provided through video chats, email or other collaboration software, but it shouldn't be random. New hires need to feel part of the team more so than any other employee at the company. They should know that there is someone who can help whenever they have a question.
Learning is a vital part of the onboarding process, and mistakes among new hires should be expected and used as teachable moments for both the employee, learning a new role, and the employer, understanding where the process is most challenging.
In all, employees who fail their probation period due to subpar performance may be an indication that the person would be better in a different function or that the process isn't optimal. Either way, there are cost-efficient ways to resolve these issues, without relying on termination and starting the hiring process all over again.
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