It's a given that new employees require more attention and guidance when they first start out in their new role. Yet, regardless of how effective a hiring process you run or the cautious measures you take to make sure you hire the right people, there will be cases when the enthusiasm dissipates, and you realize during the trial period that it's just not working out. Unfortunately, you hired the wrong person. But that's the beauty of the probation period.
The Trial Period - What Is it?
Defined as a "period of time for testing or assessment", this initial phase of the employment cycle is important for both employer and employee. During this period, the employer can assess whether the new employee is a good fit for your company and whether the expected and promised results are delivered on time. Likewise, for employees, it's a testing ground to see if they enjoy working in the position and the workplace culture.
Among the benefits of the trial period is the reduced notice period. For example, should the decision be made to part ways with an employee/employer, in Germany the notice period during the trial period is usually 14 days, compared to the regular minimum of at least 30 days. To avoid inefficiencies and unnecessary costs, in the long run, you should strive to make the most out of the trial period and weed out any potential mis-hires as fast as possible.
Setting up the ideal trial period
In order to make the most out of the trial period, there are a few things you should consider doing:
● Set clear and defined goals and milestones. This way you can track whether the new employee delivers on these goals accurately and promptly.
● Align and openly discuss your expectations and goals with the employee so that both sides know what to look out for.
● Check for non-quantifiable aspects such as grit, hustle, and ambition - how hard is the employee pushing to achieve their goals?
● Consider the culture fit: create points of interactions where you can see first-hand and evaluate how the employee behaves in a social team setting with other team members.
● Collect and gather feedback from other team members about the quality of work, and also about the culture fit
● Set a transparent environment where the new employee feels free to express their thoughts and address any problems
Red Flags to look out for
During the trial period, there are some red flags that you should look out for.
● Quality of work: Is the new employee able to deliver the work as promised during the interview? Does the new employee have the skills that got them hired? If not, it is possible that the candidate exaggerated or oversold themselves during the interview?
● Dedication and reliability: Is your new employee punctual, or arriving late for work, or exhibiting a pattern of missing days?
● Motivation: Is the employee motivated and willing to go the extra mile? If this drive isn't something you see during the most important phase of settling into a new job, the chances are that this will never be the case.
● Fit with company culture: It’s also possible that the new hire simply doesn’t fit into the company culture and existing structures. Assimilating into the company culture is key for team productivity and employee satisfaction. So if it becomes evident that the employee is having a hard time fitting in, this might affect the overall productivity and efficiency of the entire team.
Shortly before the trial period comes to an end, you should make a decision if the new employee will remain in the team or not. When trying to reach a final decision, gather feedback from your colleagues and benchmark the goals you have set initially against their actual performance.
That said, it is important to take into account that some people need a bit more time to get accustomed to a new job and environment. However, through the various test conditions you set up during the trial period, you should be able to suss out their level of dedication, reliability, motivation, and culture fit pretty quickly.
By setting up a transparent process and looking for red flags during this delicate test period, you can avoid wasting time and energy on an employee who might hinder the team instead of propelling them forward in the long term.