Legislation around trial periods is changing for both small and large businesses. It will come into force after August 2018 but businesses are being advised that best practice is to make changes to our processes now.
So what’s happening?
If you have nineteen or less full time employees working for you, you will still be able to use ninety day trial periods. You don’t have to give a reason for dismissal during the trial period unless asked to do so by your new employee. However, it is good practice to tell your employee why they are being dismissed. Provide performance feedback to your new employees throughout this time and if things don’t work out, you will be able to explain why if asked.
Companies with over 19 employees will no longer be able to implement any trial period for new recruits. If things are not working out, then the usual performance management processes will need to be worked through. This takes time, particularly as the objective is always to help improve performance and to coach the employee into being a productive team member. Remember that when you hire anyone, they should be treated exactly the same as any other longer-term employee.
The terms of probationary periods, unlike trial periods, are unlikely to change. This process has never been available to implement with new recruits, it is typically used when you are transitioning people into new roles within the company and want to assess their suitability or give them the opportunity to try a job out for size. If you are considering using probationary periods, your employment agreements need to be refreshed to contain a probationary period clause.
We have seen some great starts turn into horrible processes for both employers and employees alike. So now the responsibility of hiring managers is to be even more thorough during the recruitment and induction process for the sake of every stakeholder.
It is also the responsibility of job applicants to ensure you fully understand the role requirements, have been honest about and discussed upskilling in areas where you are lacking experience. We suggest you see the working environment for yourself to check your assumptions and assess your fit into your new company’s culture.
It’s quite common now for a shortlisted applicant to spend a day with their future colleague to have a first hand look at the role dynamics. It’s embarrassing to admit that in your eagerness you took a role that just isn’t going to work out.
There are however some potential red flags that are hard to spot. I once recommended someone who was an “ex-alcoholic”, recently reformed and in need of a new start. Days 3, 4 and 5 on the job he was spotted at the golf club around 2pm celebrating his success and assuring his friends he was now a solid and responsible employee. Ouch! My lesson from that one – do not take risks.
Another example was seeing a role offered to a young person who was later found to have had several personal relationships in their former work environments, which meant other companies were not prepared to work with this person on a professional level. Double ouch! My lesson – ask your candidate if you can speak to the referees you feel are most appropriate and most likely to be honest, rather than accept the ones offered.
My advice to myself is to always follow the process that I know works and never miss any steps. To others I suggest that it’s useful to implement a “two up” or “colleague assisted” hiring strategy. That means having someone else critically assess your top candidates. Ask your colleague to imagine you working together with them and to provide feedback on what they think about each candidate by value contribution and team fit, especially in your relationship as their line manager.
Induction is equally important. We suggest you provide an experienced buddy to mentor your new recruit. Also, implement a planned programme for learning the company’s systems and processes. Have the line manager and employee meet regularly to set and measure initial and ongoing objectives. Two-way feedback is vital yet often overlooked, especially when people appear to be performing to standard.
It’s great to meet new people and learn about their strengths and value contributions. Once you have either your robust recruitment and induction process or your job selection criteria in place, enjoy the journey.