No matter how rigorous the interview process, employers have been known to make the wrong decision. Probation performance reviews give them a clear framework for assessing your capabilities, reliability and suitability for your new role. These things will be measured against both your formal job description and person specification, as well as in the context of any Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
The most important thing to know is what's expected of you. Ask your boss for a clear indication of this, in written form. Without this, you're going to be guessing as to what will make your probationary period successful, leaving you with no way of systematically tracking your own progress.
- How long does a probationary period last? - This varies from employer to employer, but could typically be anything from three months to a year. If you are on a short-term contract or working part-time, the period could be much shorter.
- How often are the reviews leading up to the final probation review? - This varies as well, but is typically monthly. Again, you need to establish this information at the outset to avoid any nasty surprises.
- Who will conduct the review? - This is usually your line manager for the interim reviews and possibly a representative from the HR team for the final meeting. These are the person you need to impress, especially as you set about making your mark in the early weeks and months. No one loves a creep, but do your best to ensure your reviewers notice your good work. It's possible that your reviewer will act as your mentor as you work through your probation. If so, don't waste the opportunity to learn and produce results that exceed their expectations. Bear in mind that recruitment is an expensive and time-consuming process, so your reviewer will want you to pass. They're not out to trip you up.
- What happens if things get bumpy? - If you feel you are struggling to meet your KPIs or are veering off track, get on the case straight away. Don't wait until it's too late. Make it clear to your boss that you are concerned about failure and ask how to correct the situation. It may be a simple breakdown in communication, or another project may have come up that pulls you away from one or more of your goals.
Of course, there is always a possibility that you find you don't want the job any more. If that happens, study the terms of your contract to see what action to take and what implications early resignation might have for you. These things happen and, as a rule, your employer won't make leaving harder for you than it needs to be. After all, no one wants a team member around whose heart is no longer in it.
Probation performance reviews can seem intimidating and even unnecessary, but they are a vital part of many businesses. They give a structured and unambiguous framework for your new employer to assess your work, character and potential. As long as you are clear about what is expected of you and how to deliver, there is nothing to be worried about.