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The Probationary Period: a Time of Increased Coaching, Not a “Get out of jail free card”

The end of a probationary period can be a make-or-break moment for your organizational culture. The first 90 days of employment gives you the chance to evaluate an employee's suitability for the job and determine whether to continue their employment. It’s also the chance for the new employee to assess if it’s a good fit. In this blog post, we'll explore the ins and outs of probationary periods and share tips on how to make the most of this critical time. We will help you navigate the end of your employee's probationary period and learn how to set your organization, and your employee’s, up for long-term success.

Probationary periods are common practices among employers and are generally considered to be part of the hiring process. While it is commonly thought that during the first 90 days of employment, employers have the ability to end employment without notice or pay, it is important to know that is not always the case. In every employment situation, employers must meet the minimum standards of the applicable Employment Standards legislation. They must also ensure that the terms of the probationary period are clearly outlined in the employee's employment contract. Employees cannot “contract out” of Employment Standards – which means that if your legislation calls for termination pay after 90 days, a probationary period longer than 3 months does not remove this requirement.

Think about the probationary period as a time of increased coaching and feedback, very clear short-term expectations, and higher scrutiny of task completion.

To make the most out of your probationary period:

1. Set clear expectations and outline the support available.

From the start, define the expectations for the probationary period—write it down. Ensure the employee knows what the expectations are, what they need to do to meet them by the given timeline, and where to go for help if they need it.

2. Evaluate the employee's performance BEFORE the 90 days is over.

No later than 6 weeks after starting, consider their work quality, productivity, reliability, and overall fit with the organization’s culture. Review any feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and clients. Take note of any areas where the employee needs improvement or additional training.