“Doing great work in a great place to work“
Probation is the formal arrangement at the start of a person’s employment which enables the new member of staff to have the opportunity to confirm their suitability for the role in a set timescale. As part of their induction, new staff should have their duties and responsibilities, along with how their performance will be assessed, made clear to them. The probation period plays an important role in ensuring all staff members are able to reach their full potential in their roles.
How long is the probation period?
The length of the probation period will vary depending on the category and sometimes grade of the employee, and the length of appointment if fixed-term. The probation period should provide sufficient time for the staff member to become accustomed to their new working environment, and for the manager to assess their suitability for the role. Enough time should also be allowed for the individual to make improvements if problems are identified with their performance.
It may sometimes be appropriate for the probation period to be extended, to allow the individual a further period of time to demonstrate their ability to meet requirements of the role.
Start of probation
At the start of the probation period, the manager should draw the new staff member’s attention to:
- The applicable probationary arrangements.
- The key duties of the role (refer to the role profile).
- The standards of work required.
- Goals to be achieved within specified deadlines.
- Particular areas of work to be given priority.
- The expectation to promote the University’s value of mutual respect.
- Standards expected around time-keeping, attendance, communication, relationship building, strategic focus, people development, innovation and change and negotiating and influencing, as relevant to the role.
- Any areas where particular care or sensitivity is required.
The line manager or supervisor of the new member of staff is responsible for managing the probation period, and for reviewing their performance. Progress reviews should take place frequently during the first month, and monthly thereafter if progress is satisfactory. Time will need to be dedicated to these probation review meetings, at a time that is convenient for both parties and where the meeting can be carried out without disruptions. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent working arrangements, it may be necessary for the review meetings to take place remotely, e.g. via Teams or Zoom.
When conducting probation review meetings, it is important that both the manager and the employee are provided with an opportunity to raise anything they wish to discuss. The manager will need to assess whether the individual is meeting expectations (and if not, provide specific, evidence-based examples with targets for moving forwards). The meetings are also an opportunity for the new staff member to put forward their comments or raise any concerns. The employee may for example want to discuss a particular training course they would find helpful to attend.
Probation progress reviews should also be used as an opportunity for the manager to set new objectives for the employee, and review existing objectives. When setting objectives it is often helpful to use the ‘SMART’ technique, i.e. targets should be:
- Achievable (yet stretching)
- Relevant (in the context of the role, the team and the wider Department)
- Time-bound (with specific deadlines in place)
Keeping records and forms
A written record of feedback and any steps required should be kept, by completing the relevant forms after every meeting. A copy of the form should be sent to the new employee and signed by both the manager and employee. Visit the Clinical Staff Probation webpages for forms and information for Clinical Staff.
COVID-19 Voluntary Impact Assessment
The University recognises that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the HEI sector and many staff will have faced difficulties in carrying out their usual duties, preventing them from progressing as usual during probation. Should an employee wish to submit a voluntary statement detailing the impact of COVID-19 during their probation, please refer to the COVID-19 Voluntary Impact Assessment Form which can be accessed here.
End of probation
Probation reports are sent to Head of Institutions, Business and Operations Managers and Departmental HR teams as a prompt, highlighting those who are coming up to the end of their probation. When the probation period has been completed successfully, the line manager should send the relevant form (see quick links at the bottom of the page) to their Business and Operations Manager or Departmental HR Team, and the employee’s staff record will be updated to reflect this.
Should a manager have any concerns around an employee’s performance, or feel that it may not be appropriate for the appointment to be confirmed, please speak to your Business and Operations Manager or Departmental HR Team in the first instance, at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Further guidance and training
For managers seeking advice on managing a probation period, or any performance concerns which arise, please contact your Business and Operations Manager, Departmental HR Team, or your HR Adviser in the Clinical School HR Team.
Should a staff member feel that formal and final assessments are not being conducted in a fair or timely manner, or that sufficient support has not been provided during their probation period, they should raise this with their line manager; their Business and Operations Manager or Departmental HR Team; or the relevant contact in the Clinical School HR Team.
The Clinical School HR Team regularly deliver Management Essentials training sessions, which includes the topic ‘Managing Probation’. To view relevant training sessions and to sign up, visit the Management Essentials webpages.
For further guidance on the probation process, please refer to the Probation Guidance central University webpages.