This week’s article from Elaine Ryan focuses on mastering the art of probation and performance reviews.

In the previous discussion, we explored the intricacies of the onboarding process. However, completing onboarding does not mark the end of our responsibilities. Once we have successfully recruited new talent, our focus now shifts to setting them up for success and to ensure that it is an ongoing process. This is where probation reviews and performance reviews play a crucial role.

As businesses navigate the dynamic landscape of talent management, the significance of probation and performance reviews cannot be overstated. Beyond mere administrative tasks, these processes serve as pillars supporting employee development, organisational effectiveness, and legal compliance. In this article, we delve into the essence of probation and performance reviews, exploring their necessity, legal implications, and best practices.

Understanding the Essence of Probation Reviews:

Probation reviews are pivotal in setting employees up for success, aligning organisational expectations, and nurturing talent. By providing structured feedback during the probationary period, employers can identify strengths to leverage and areas for improvement and growth. This proactive approach fosters a culture of continuous growth and ensures that employees receive the guidance they need to thrive in their roles. No one can improve or change a behaviour if reflective feedback is not provided.

From a legal standpoint, probation reviews serve as documented evidence of feedback provided to employees and opportunities for improvement extended to them. In the event of internal or external disputes, such as termination of employment or denial of promotion or bonuses, these records play a crucial role in substantiating the employer’s actions and mitigating legal risks.

At ERA Ltd, we recognise the importance of structured probation reviews and offer customisable templates for 4-week, 3-month, 5-month, and final reviews. Our focus is on providing constructive feedback, clarifying expectations, and removing barriers to performance, thus maximising the potential of every employee. We want to set the employee, and subsequently the employer, up for success.

Navigating the Legal Landscape:

Employers must ensure that probationary periods adhere to current legislation, with a maximum duration of six months as per recent updates. For fixed-term contracts, the probation period should not exceed one-third of the contract’s length, unless in  exceptional circumstances. It is essential to include clauses in employment contracts and staff handbooks outlining probation review policies and suspension provisions for prolonged absences. Make sure the policy includes a clause on suspending the probation period due to any long-term absence (e.g., illness, lay-off, etc.).

Extended probation periods, up to a total of 12 months, may be warranted in cases where documented performance issues require further evaluation. It is key that it is not a surprise to the employee that their probation is being extended or that they are being let go due to issues. Proactive communication is key.

Employers retain the flexibility to apply probation periods to new functions or promotions, ensuring alignment with organisational goals and individual development needs.

Remember it is key to prepare for reviews. The meeting should be a comfortable one for all involved, providing a safe psychological space to be heard. It is a great opportunity to elicit your team members’ experience, to obtain their feedback and reality of the role. Feedback works both ways. You want your team member to feel valued and heard.

Legal Risks:

While probationary periods mitigate the risk of unfair dismissal claims, employers must tread cautiously to avoid potential pitfalls. Clear communication, fair procedures, and documentation are imperative throughout the probationary review process. ERA Ltd provides guidance on conducting review meetings, delivering constructive feedback, and navigating termination procedures, minimising legal exposure, and safeguarding organisational interests. Many of our clients appreciate that we facilitate these meetings, thus ensuring they are carried out correctly which also provides an opportunity to cross train our clients. Equally we receive great feedback from employees that they welcome and value our presence in the meetings.

Elevating Performance Reviews:

Keep in mind that overseeing performance extends beyond the probation review session. Ongoing monitoring and collaboration with employees regarding their task performance and their sentiments towards their role and the company remain integral to fostering employee development.

Transitioning from probation to performance reviews marks a shift from assessment to ongoing development. Utilising agreed-upon matrices, such as those provided by ERA Ltd, allows for comprehensive evaluations covering areas of Work Performance, Versatility, Conduct, and Quality of Work. Our approach emphasises collaboration, goal-setting, and personalised development plans tailored to each employee’s aspirations and organisational requirements. In our reviews we focus on what is working and areas for improvement. We establish long term and short term goals and put these into a plan. As we are NLP Coaches, we utilise various models such as the G.R.O.W and S.M.A.R.T model to ensure a roadmap is in place for all stakeholders.

In addition to structured reviews, informal check-ins play a pivotal role in maintaining open communication and addressing emerging challenges promptly. These regular interactions foster trust, empower employees to voice concerns, and reinforce the organisation’s commitment to their growth and success. We would always advise not to wait for a review to address immediate issues and employee concerns.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, mastering the art of probation and performance reviews requires a blend of legal compliance, effective communication, and commitment to employee development. By leveraging structured feedback, embracing continuous improvement, and fostering a culture of transparency, organisations can unlock the full potential of their talent pool while mitigating legal risks and promoting organisational resilience in the ever-evolving business landscape. To reiterate, remember preparing for reviews is key. Provide a safe psychological space to be heard so that everyone involved feels comfortable. Understand that it is a great opportunity for you to not only elicit your team members’ experiences, but to obtain their feedback and realities of the role. As feedback works both ways, you also want your team member to feel valued and heard. Feeling overwhelmed or unsure on how to proceed? Fret not. Reach out to us at ERA Ltd., and we’ll lead the way.elaine@eraltd.ie.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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