Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Should You Have a Probationary Period?

The hiring process is a complicated and somewhat tedious task sometimes. It takes an awful lot to find the right person for the job that fits in perfectly with not only the position but the company culture as well. It’s much easier when you use video technology like the kind Spark Hire uses, but it still takes a lot of effort. On top of that, if the hire doesn’t work out you have to go back and do it all over again. In order to avoid making a huge hiring mistake, plenty of companies all over employ a probationary period for their new hires.

What started off as a way for unionized jobs to test out new hires has quickly become a way for companies all over the country to test out new hires of their own- regardless of whether the job is union or not. The outcome is a somewhat confusing period for both new hires and employees that may make the lines of employment slightly fuzzy. Is a probationary period really necessary when bringing on new employees?

As stated earlier, the probationary period started out as a way for union employers to test out new hires before they were brought on as full employees. For a union job, employers must have a just cause or reason to fire an employee, so the probationary period offered employers a chance to test out their new hires to ensure they would work for the position. If they were lazy, consistently late or not producing the desired results then after the probationary period- or even during- the employer could let the new hire go without concern. Naturally, you can see how this is beneficial for the employer. They have 90 days (or however long the period is set for) to make sure that this is their new employee. They can see how they mesh with the company and how they perform their duties. If it didn’t work then there were no hard feelings- and no lawsuits. However, most companies today are not unionized and are, in fact, at-will employers.

This means that an employer can let their employees go at anytime for any reason. In fact, with at-will employment both the employee and employer can terminate their employment without any advance warning. That is, of course, if there was no contract made stating that if the employee quits they must give notice or reason, and vice versa. With companies like this a probationary period in the beginning of employment can make it slightly confusing for employees- making them think that if they make it through the probationary period they shouldn’t fear for losing their job ever. You can see how this probationary period can make things sticky for employers then. That is why you should take a careful look at your company and the position you are filling before setting up a probationary period for new hires.

At the same time though, probationary periods can be a great policy for companies and their new hires. Through a probationary period employers get to “test out” a new hire to see if they are a good fit for the position. Through the period an employer can observe a new hire’s work ethic, work habits and work performance. They can also take some more time to see if the hire is a good company culture fit. This is especially important since employers cannot teach company culture fit, but can always teach new skills. A new hire that doesn’t mesh well with the company culture will likely not stick around too long- leaving you with an open position to fill once again.

In the end, employing a probationary period for a new hire is strictly up to your company and its needs. If you are a company with an employment contract then perhaps the probationary period is a great tool for you. You can check out a new hire before actually committing to having them as part of your team. On the other hand, if you are an at-will employee it can make the employment lines slightly fuzzy. If you do decide to employ a probationary period for your new hires, you need to be sure everything is laid out clearly for your probation participants. Let them know right from the start that the probationary period will last X days and that they will be evaluated during and after the period. You also need to make it known that if they get through the probationary period it does not mean they are guaranteed a job forever. If their work slips, they need to know they may lose their job regardless of whether or not they made the probationary period or not.

What do you think? Is a probationary period a good thing for companies? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

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