Probationary review meeting

Probationary review meeting

A probationary review meeting can be a source of anxiety to both the employee on probation and the manager overseeing the process, but there is much that can be done to make it a positive experience for all concerned. This blog will explain the purpose of a probationary review meeting, and what a manager and the employee on probation should do to help things run smoothly.

What is the purpose of a probationary review meeting?

It is common for employers to require a probationary period. This may relate to someone who was entirely new to the organisation, but a probationary period could equally be used when an employee takes up a new position such as a promotion.

Most people would say that the purpose of a probationary review meeting is to establish whether or not the person has made the grade, but that is only half right. A probationary review meeting is not just to reach that final decision, its purpose is to set out expectations or targets and to provide support so that the employee has every chance of meeting the standard that is required.

Probationary review meeting – tips for an employee on probation

1. Understand the targets and how to meet them


It is common for employees to focus on what they did well and seek to gloss over everything else. The instinct to highlight accomplishments is understandable, as the job literally depends on a positive outcome. However, what if the elements that are not mentioned by the person on probation are the most important parts of the role? A more effective approach would be to take some time to fully understand all that is required and work to achieve that. Obviously, it would be a big mistake to focus on doing one or two things brilliantly when the requirement was to be able to achieve 5 tasks reasonably well.

2. Stay calm


An element of a probationary review meeting is to go through where things have gone well and not so well. When faced with criticism it is common for people to go into fight or flight mode. The flight instinct typically manifests itself in the person saying very little and seeking to end the meeting as soon as possible. On the other hand, a fight mindset would be revealed by signs of anger or confrontation. Both approaches would be wrong. Such a meeting should not be an ordeal to escape from as soon as possible, nor should it be treated as a war. The answer is to stay calm and realise that everyone is on the same side.


3. Ask questions


An effective way to get to grips with what is needed is to ask questions. This shows that the person is engaging with the process and wants to learn and understand.


4. Communicate outside of the probationary reviews


The employee on probation may well not want to discuss progress until the next review, due to a belief that this will provide longer to get down the to do list and show things are going well. They are likely to feel a need to be self-sufficient and not admit that help is needed. A better idea is to be open about issues so that they can be nipped in the bud and not be left to multiply. This approach will increase the likelihood of progress being made and the organisation being able to help.


5. Engage in support that is offered


Support can take many forms. Perhaps it is a conversation with a line manager that helps to get things back on track, shadowing a colleague to better understand how things should be done, or a training course to strengthen skills in a particular area. Sometimes employees on probation see this as yet more work to be done. This may be so in the short term, but it is still well worth doing.


Probationary review meeting – tips for a manager

1. Adopt a supportive mindset


As said earlier, the purpose of a probationary review meeting ‘is to set out expectations or targets and to provide support so that the employee has every chance of meeting the standard that is required’. Everyone should want the employee on probation to achieve the required standard. Managers should consider what can be done to help the person to achieve their potential rather than simply highlighting where things are lacking.


2. Think of the probationary review meeting as a process not an event


A probationary period may last for several months. It would be unwise to take the view that the probationary period is essentially one event: the decision. It is important to monitor what happens throughout that time to see what is happening. Perhaps things started well and there has been a decline, or the start was weak but there has been improvement since. Managers should monitor developments so that the right action is taken to keep things on track. It should be seen as a process with a probationary review meeting only being an element of it.

3. Avoid surprises


It is important that targets, or a manager’s view of performance, do not come as a surprise to the employee on probation. Everything should be as clear as possible. For example, were the targets discussed and agreed? Did probationary review meetings take place to monitor progress? Was the employee on probation given notice of the meetings in order to prepare?


4. Consider training for managers


Handling performance over a probationary period can be tricky. For example, how should performance be assessed? How often should meetings be? When should support be offered? How much support should be provided?  How should it be pointed out that improvement needs to be made? Training can provide answers to these questions and many others. Plotkin & Chandler offers HR consultancy and training on performance management and specifically how to tackle probationary review meetings.


5. Take notes


Having a written record of what was said during probationary review meetings, and what the next steps are, provides clarity for all concerned as it reduces potential confusion and uncertainty.

If you are an organisation Plotkin & Chandler offers HR consultancy and training tailored to your needs. Whether you would like tasks done on behalf of your organisation, or you would like training to understand the topic of performance management and probationary reviews, we can help.

If you are an individual and you are struggling at work, or you have been dismissed and feel the decision was unfair, contact us to see how we can help. If you have been dismissed within 2 years, you may find our blog dismissing staff within 2 years helpful.

To discuss your circumstances, and the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com




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