Most employers opt to hire new employees on a probation period, which typically lasts for 3 to 6 months after the new hire’s start date.
During this probation period, the new hire is required to prove beyond doubt their job competency. If they meet performance expectations during this probation period they are hired, if not, they face dismissal.
It is the last stage of the hiring process and the way that companies can ensure that only the best talent makes it into the organization.
However, probationary periods are often not used correctly. Busy managers get to the end of the probationary period, often having failed to set goals. This means that they don’t really have a genuine case to pass or fail the new hire, but being time-pressurized they are often compelled to blindly make permanent a potentially substandard employee.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Goal setting is simple and shouldn’t take more than an hour. Since employees can typically take up to 3 to 6 months to get up to speed, it can make sense to set learning goals, rather than out-right performance goals.
There is no room for vagueness; learning goals, like any other goals, should be specific and should be about being able to demonstrate competence in specific areas of the job.
For example, a good learning goal for an accounting clerk might be, ‘understands and accurately inputs administrative accounting data into accounting system without any support or verification from the manager or team mates.’
Between 3 and 6 learning goals should be set and recorded, ideally in an appraisal system which can prompt managers to not only record goals but to conduct interim and final reviews. This will not only streamline the probationary process but will help to ensure that it effectively performs its function as gate keeper into the organization.