The 3 Month Probation Period: Is It To The Business Advantage?

Hiring and HR practices are evolving; we explore how the three-month probation period impacts the business and its employees.

The 3 Month Probation Period: Is It To The Business Advantage?

Once considered a mandatory practice for any new hire, HR professionals now often question the efficacy of a three-month probation period. As hiring and HR practices evolve with a greater focus on the employee experience, does this try-out run still serve the business' (and employee's) best interests?

What Purpose Does A Three-Month Probation Period Serve?

Probation is a period of time that a company takes to assess and evaluate whether a new employee is the right fit. The Labour Relations Act of South Africa states that a new hire may be placed on probation for a time that reflects the nature of the job.

It also states that the probation period should reflect the time it takes to determine the new hires suitability for ongoing employment. This usually amounts to 90 days or three months.

Employers usually use this period to reduce any risks, financial and otherwise, of permanently hiring an employee who is not the right fit.

Why Do Employers Stand To Gain From It?

Employers implement a probationary period for several reasons, a few of which we have listed below.

To Determine Employee Fit

This is the primary reason why businesses usually put a three-month probation period into place. A person can look good on paper and ace their interview, but they may not turn out to be the right fit for the company once they are in the trenches.

The term gives the employer time to monitor and observe new employees and how well they perform in the role before committing to them full-time.

Good Hiring Fit

Respond To Mediocre Performance

There are times when employees do not meet the standards of performance. A probationary period can act as a warning to the person that they need to step up their game or risk dismissal.

To Ensure A Smooth Transition During An Internal Promotion

This comes into play when an employer promotes a current employee to a new position. In this case, the employer might want some time to monitor how well the existing employee performs in the new role before finalising the promotion.

A Way To Save Money

Having a probation period can help the company save money. New hires tend to get less pay, work fewer hours, and receive fewer benefits until they complete the probation period.

If the company follows suit with this practice, it stands to save money in wages and benefits for that time. Ultimately, this can be a safeguard to ensure that not too much money is invested in the new employee before the fit is determined.

Advantages For Employees

The above is geared towards why a three-month probation is good for an employer. But are there any advantages for the people applying for a position?

Would this be an aspect of the employment contract that attracts them to a business?

The answer is yes.

In the same way that employers use this period to determine if their new hire is a good fit, so do employees for the company they join. The working relationship is two-sided, and the person who enters a new working space is equally entitled to use this time to work out if it is a space where they can flourish and grow.

Pros and Cons Of Probation Period

Potential Downfalls Of A Probationary Period

This test period doesn’t come without a potential catch, of course. So, what are the disadvantages for both employers and employees?

Decreased Employee Morale

For new employees, knowing that they have a probation period can lower their morale.

They may feel less trusted, undervalued, and that their jobs are potentially at stake. In turn, this can result in decreased work performance and quality, as employees feel less confident and secure in their position.

Lowered Brand Perception

For employers, having a three-month probation period in the hiring process can negatively affect the company’s reputation at times.

Some highly skilled and qualified individuals might be deterred from applying to the company when they get wind of how long the probationary period is. They might feel that the probationary period indicates that the company does not have confidence in its hiring choices.

Another major deterrent for prospective applicants and new hires could be that this period may imply little job security for them.

What Are The Alternatives?

So, what is the answer to this conundrum? Every business wants their new hire to reach maximum productivity as soon as possible while feeling engaged and happy in their job.

Ace Employee Onboarding

An alternative would be for employers to focus on their onboarding processes and provide their new hires with the best tools to ensure their success from the very get-go.

This will also help ensure retention and longevity, in the long run, thereby decreasing employee turnover. Productivity will shoot up as the new hire is equipped with the knowledge they need and believes the company is confident in their skills and wants them to succeed.

Employee Probation

Conduct Regular Performance Reviews

Without implementing a three month probation period, it is still possible to closely monitor and align employee performance through regular review meetings.

By setting frequent catch-up sessions, you can take a supportive stance towards employee improvement and development. Instead of making the new recruit feel pressured and under the spotlight, turn the conversation to focus on goal setting and the path to success.

Regular check-ins will keep you up to speed on how the relationship is going without springing any nasty surprises on anyone at the end of 90-days.

Final Thoughts

Having a probation policy does present many advantages for the company and even your candidates at times. However, on the other side of the coin, it can impact employees and your reputation as a great place to work.

There are workarounds that many HR professionals are opting to try out. Ultimately, you need to weigh up how to put the best people in place without putting your business at risk.