Probation — Grounding the best

HARARE - Previously, we highlighted that employers face a number of challenges when hiring, which if not properly handled may result in wrong decisions.

However, there are times when employers make the right calls, but after a while the chosen candidates lose momentum and fizzle out to join the ranks of the so-called non-performers eventually becoming liabilities.

The zeal that the employees exhibited in the first months of their employment goes out and their performance plummets.

 The first three months of any employment relationship, popularly referred to as probation period, are the most critical as they set the tone of what to expect thereafter.

Employees are aware of this and therefore take the period of probation seriously.

This is the period when their status in the organisation is still unconfirmed as they have to pass the test first before being made permanent.

Management on the other hand assumes a casual approach during probation ‘‘wishing’’ that somehow things will fall in place on their own.

Sadly, things do not always work in their favour and may result in the company losing the potential in an employee that if nurtured would have pushed the agenda of the organisation.

The question then becomes, what initiatives can management put in place to ensure that new employees are drilled in a culture of performance which will remain in their bloodstreams long after the probation period?

ν Induction programmes — in many organisations management simply introduces the new employee to other staff members and claims to have done induction.

Introductions are just one aspect of the process. An induction programme is the window through which the new entrant sees the company.

It must be comprehensive such that after completing it the new employee has a clear picture of how things are done in the organisation.

Programmes must cover the company’s history, present and future, its management philosophy, mission and core values, aspirations and demonstrate clearly how the new employee fits in the scheme of things.

Information on conditions of service and code of conduct must be provided.

New employees must be inducted in management systems that are operational in the organisation.

They must also be informed about the company’s policies and procedures including the dos and don’ts.

For effectiveness more than one day must be allocated to the process of induction as there is a lot that a new entrant has to master.

- Performance expectations — managers must set clear targets and milestones for the new entrant to achieve.

They must clarify the performance that will get the new entrant to successfully complete the probation period and that which will enable them to move faster up the ladder after confirmation.

Not setting performance expectations is like shooting in the dark and sends a message to the new employee that whatever performance they deliver is acceptable to the organisation.

Targets keep an employee interested and ensure that appraising performance is hassle-free. It makes it easier for management to monitor performance and take corrective action.

- Job descriptions — managers must ensure that every position in the organisation has a description.

Clearly written job descriptions will guide the new entrant in the how to do their job.

This will enable them to find their way around easily.

When employees have sufficient information about their jobs it helps them to settle down quickly.

Job descriptions will assist employees with information as to where they can get help in order to better their performances.

- Availing resources — for employees to stay committed to their jobs, management must avail the necessary resources as most employees are motivated by results.

Resources could be financial, material, emotional or otherwise.

If resources are not availed performance will be affected.

The new employee will just go through the motions in order to successfully complete probation and once they are confirmed, they adopt a casual approach to their jobs.

Availing resources also communicates ton the new employee management’s commitment to performance.

- Training and development — as employees go about their jobs, managers must note if there is any need for training. In the first three months of an employee assuming a position, training must be more technical, that is oriented towards improving the skills that enable the employee to perform better.

Afterwards you can focus more on developing other competencies that will enable employee to be well-rounded. This will enable the employee to keep the momentum and maintain acceptable performance.

- Regular feedback — provision of feedback will force the employee to be on their toes all the time. When managers have their eyes on the ball, they will be better positioned to confirm whether or not an employee is performing to expectations.

Where performance is not satisfactory they will guide the employee until they attain the required standard.

Through regular feedback managers will engrain in the employee a culture of performance which will eventually assume the status of a habit.

- Coaching and mentorship — developing employees that stay committed to providing superior performance is not something that managers can leave to chance.

Managers must ensure that coaching is provided to employees so that they are modelled into people suitable for their positions in line with the department and organisation’s goals.
Where appropriate, mentors must be assigned to new employees so that they become drilled in performing to expectations.

- Appraise performance religiously — some managers display an attitude that they do not care about what score an employee records on the board.

When they appraise performance they do it as a formality.

Cognisant of the manager’s approach, employees end up not applying themselves fully resulting in their performance dropping. Managers must be committed themselves first and foremost if they want employees to adopt a performance attitude.

They should not leave any stone unturned when performing appraisals and this will encourage employees to perform.

- Establish career ladders — after completing probation employees find that there is no other goal that motivates them to continue performing at their peak.

As a result their commitment to their jobs sag.

Managers must ensure that employees know that there is still life after probation. Employees must know that if they continue performing there are chances of them securing promotions.
 
This will ensure their mindset is tuned towards performance.

Management must take it as one of their key deliverables to maintain peak performance from employees. They can do this by developing a keen interest in what employees do.

They must provide the necessary tools and support which will communicate their commitment to performance.
Once they lead from the front employees will follow suit.

Rather than leave things to chance they must be proactive and put together systems that will ensure their staff performs optimally all the time.

The ball is in their court.

*Atwell Mutsungi is a senior consultant at future Human capital an hr consulting firm. He can be contacted on emutsungi@gmail.com or on numbers 077379996, 0772269785 and (04) 852996 or at no. 4 Camerroon road, Borrowdale, Harare.

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