It’s Time to Throw Out Employee Probation

Have you ever seen a Company policy that doesn’t benefit anyone and yet still persists as a standard policy?

I’m sure you have. So have I.

One of the worst offenders is the employee probation. It serves no real purpose, provides no real benefit, and yet is put into place in virtually every organization.

It’s time for probation to go.

Instead let’s spend more time building relationships that equip and empower employees for performance.

Probation Means Employment at Will

If you have ever worked for anyone else – big company, small company – you were probably hired under “probation”. In most cases this probation is around three months but sometimes even goes as high as six months.

Probation Next Exit Road SignThe idea is that the company has a chance to see how you work out before fully committing themselves to permanent employment for you. In theory within the probationary period they can let you go just because you wore a brown suit instead of a blue suit one day.

Legitimate Reasons for Employee Probation Termination

Usually the reasons aren’t so petty. In fact, according to one study by Spring Personnel here are the most common reasons for dismissal during probation.

  1. Poor Performance.
  2. Absence.
  3. Lateness.
  4. Gross Misconduct.
  5. Sickness.

Which sounds a lot like the reasons for firing people when they aren’t on probation.

Even then, only about 13% of the companies surveyed actually reported an employee not surviving the probation.

Now, a qualifier: those statistics are from the United Kingdom where the rules are different than they are in the United States.

How Employee Probation Works in the United States

In the U.S., rules vary from state to state and, in fact, there are very few rules about probationary periods at all. Many states, such as Florida where I live, use the standard of “employment at will“. Without getting too legal, it basically means that your entire employment is based upon the whims of your employer unless you have a specific employment contract in place. So even after your probation is over, an employer can terminate your employment without real cause. It’s almost like your probationary period goes on forever.

So if you are an employee, probationary periods certainly offer no benefit to you.

Probation Offers No Real Benefit to Anyone

It appears that if you are an employer a probationary period may not offer too many advantages either.

In the article Beware of the Initial Employment Probationary Period, HR Consultant Amara Marcoccia says that probationary employees pretty much have the same rights by law as non-probationary employees.

That means they can file lawsuits and administrative complaints against you whether on probation or not.

No Real System in Place

Even more interesting, Amara interviewed companies about why they had a probationary period.

They didn’t know.

When asked what was different after the probationary period was over,

they didn’t know.

So part of the problem is that there is no real formalized process in place to move an employee from “probation” to regular employment. Even if there was, there is still no real guarantees either way.

So why do we have employment probation?

The policy was initially implemented with organizations that had to work with labor unions. Since there is a level of skill involved in most union-related trades, competence is a factor. Unions don’t want skilled members being subjected to the whimsy of the company and the employer doesn’t want to be stuck with someone who doesn’t have the skill set.

So a collective bargaining agreement removes the privileges of the union’s grievance process for a probationary employee terminated within the probationary period. In other words, until they complete probation it is employment at will. It only applies to trades covered by the union.

So that’s the big issue. Without a union and/or collective bargaining agreement, depending on which state you live in, there is no protection for either employee or employer in an employment probation policy.

Benefits of Probation Without the Hassle

Mentoring New EmployeesSo what if we invest in hiring slow and firing fast. What if we focus on aptitude and attitude instead of solid resumes?

Maybe instead of worrying about probation, we worry about employee productivity?

What would change if we put ourselves on probation?

Employer Probation

Imagine that upon hiring a new employee, instead of giving them a probation we make an investment in productivity.

1. Assign an experienced competent employee with an excellent attitude to be their mentor.

Lockheed Martin does on-boarding fairly well and this is one of the things they do. It helped me a lot to have someone who knew the ropes helping to hit the ground running. When I arrived at my workplace, the mentor had everything in place that I needed. Later, I got to pay it forward with a new employee.

2. Block out time on our calendar for regular meetings with the mentor to track progress.

You can’t be there every moment. It helps to be able to depend on the insight of someone who is having close daily contact with the new hire.  Doing this also means you can more quickly respond to signs of problems.

3. Schedule time to meet and talk with the new employee over coffee or lunch to get to know them and build connection.

The more you get to know them you get to know what they like. You get to know what drives them. Then the easier it is to provide circumstances that motivate them and provide work that inspires them.

4. Invest time and money into equipping them to do the work we hired them for.

Just because they had a good resume does not mean they have everything they need to do what we want them to do. It’s important to remember the old adage here: the only thing worse than training them and they leave, is not training them and they stay.

5. Implement a 360 assessment at the end of 90 days to find out where both employee and employer are in terms of gelling together.

You want to be assured that they get along with others, they fit with the team, and they add value. They want to feel comfortable, welcome, and a part of things. If either of you feels queasy about things, this is the time to discuss it.

6. Set goals for how to move forward.

If employment continues at this point, you know want to set the bar higher. Mutually agree on productivity and development goals that gets the most out of the employee and provides the greatest benefit for everyone.

Is it possible that from that we would end up with someone better prepared to significantly raise their productivity? How do you think they would feel about about you, about their co-workers, and about the organization as a whole? How would that affect their attitude?

What do you think? Is it time to terminate probation? Share your thoughts here or write me at

If you want to talk about how I might be able to help your organization move to Boldly Lead your teams, schedule an appointment with me right away.

Inspired Leaders Have GRIT

On October 10, 2014 I was blessed to be a host for L2:Learn-Lead, the new annual leadership simulcast produced by the John Maxwell Company.  In the last post, I shared the opening keynote by John C. Maxwell to initiate this series.  Today, I want to share some of the thoughts from Linda Kaplan Thaler.

About Linda

Linda Kaplan ThalerLinda is the co-founder and head of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, a marketing and advertising firm.  She is definitely a leader within her industry; creative and innovative.  She knows how to get things done.  Among the many claims to fame she has is the creation of the Kodak Moment, the AFLAC Duck, and the Toys R Us Kid jingle.  She is also co-author of a few books, including The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.

GRIT Creates Extraordinary

Linda spoke on GRIT: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary.  GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Industriousness, and Tenacity.  Here are some of Linda’s thoughts from her talk:
  • 98% of highly successful people were considered average.
    • Walt Disney was fired from his first job for being “uncreative”
    • General Colin Powell was a C- student
    • Michael Jordan wasn’t good enough to make his high school varsity basketball team
    • What makes the difference is their GRIT.
[snaptweet]Anyone with perseverance and pluck can go from ordinary to extraordinary. -Linda Kaplan Thaler[/snaptweet]
  • If you are brave enough, stop dreaming and start doing!
[snaptweet]I never spent one minute dreaming about success. I worked for it. -Estee Lauder[/snaptweet]
  • Overprepare and outwork everyone else
  • We get easily distracted and need to refocus on where we are going.

Four Keys to Help Stay on Track

  1. SOLVE SMALL PROBLEMS – when you resolve the small problems that pop up regularly, it prepares you to solve the big problems.
  2. MAKE YOUR BED – Military recruits are taught early on how to make their bed first thing every morning and to make it neat and precise.  Part of the reason is discipline but a good deal of it is that you accomplished something immediately.  If you accomplish nothing else that day, you made your bed.
  3. FINISH WHAT YOU START – With busy schedules and competing priorities, it’s easy to jump from one thing to another and not really finish anything.  Successful people finish.
  4. FORGET WILLPOWER – No one has enough willpower to stay the course consistently simply based on their will.  Develop habits and create situations that take willpower out of the equation.
Next post will cover Tim Sanders thoughts from L2:Learn-Lead.

Action Items:

  1. How will you apply this to your life?
  2. What do you need to change?
  3. What should you share or teach to others?

Labor Day Means No Work?

This week we celebrated Labor Day!  Our family went out in the boat and went to a little island on the Indian River for swimming and a picnic. (NOTE TO SELF:  When you put on the sunscreen, don’t forget your face!).  Overall, a great time!
I did a little research to see about the purpose of Labor Day. According to the Department of Labor, the purpose of Labor Day is a yearly national tribute to the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. In other words, it’s a chance for those who work hard throughout the year to sit back a little bit and celebrate the importance of the contribution they have made to making this country what it is today.

Work That Deserves It

There are some though that don’t put forth that effort all the time. They sit back and wait for things to come to them and wonder why they don’t get the success they want. I keep a poster up on my wall in my office to remind me of this. It’s a quote by Maya Angelou that simply says,

Nothing works unless you do
So if you want that success, you have to put forth that effort first.
Here’s some key things to remember to work towards achieving your success that are going to help you throughout the rest of the year.
  • BE IN THE MOMENT. When you are at work, be at work. When you are home, be at home. Focus on giving your best to the moment and you will be more productive and more effective in every situation.
  • REFUSE TO ASSIGN BLAME. Many people want to contribute their lack of success to the economy, the administration, any number of things. But ultimately you have to take responsibility for your own success. If you do that, you can overcome any obstacles in your way.
  • growth by 1% a dayWORK YOUR 1%. We have talked before being a one-percenter; you have grow yourself by 1% a day to be the person you want to be and achieving the success you want to achieve.
  • SETTLE FOR NOTHING LESS THAN YOUR BESTHow you do anything is how you do everything! When you put forth your best effort in every situation, success is naturally going to follow.

What ways do you make sure your work is successful?  Comment below.


New World Order

There’s no doubt about it, we live in a complex world.  And in this global economy it is important to be flexible; to be able to quickly respond to the changing demands of our society and our economy.  Adapt to change or else.  It’s the reality of the new economy – grow or die.
There is nothing in between.

The Learning Organization

learning and leading togetherThe best way we grow is through continual learning Peter Senge, in his book The Fifth Discipline, advanced the principal of the Learning Organization.  Basically, a learning organization is one that engages all the members of the organization in continual learning. They recognize that as everyone learns, the opportunities grow through greater knowledge and capability.   These companies invest in their people to move them and the organization forward.

Benefits of the Learning Organization

The result is a more empowered organization, one that is flexible enough to adapt, developing a mindset of creative solutions; it’s been proven that the more we learn the more creative we become. Employees collaborate more, there is improved employee morale, they are more productive, and you create an ongoing legacy, so that when the inevitable happens and someone moves on to another role, there is someone ready to step up into that role.
[snaptweet]Sustained success and profitability come from intentional continual learning.  There is no substitute or shortcut.[/snaptweet]

How do we get started on becoming the learning organization we desire to be?

Just think DIME:
DAILY – Growth has to occur on a daily basis.  I often talk about being a 1%er and this is what it is all about, growing yourself by just 1% a day.  That doesn’t sound like much, but over time it compounds and at the end of a year you have grown yourself over 365%.  As the saying goes,  by the mile its a trial but by the inch its a cinch.  This does not necessarily have to be formal learning every time.  It could be something as simple as having the team reflect back on the day and talk about lessons learned.
INTENTIONAL – Too many times we chase the next SHINY OBJECT; the seminar announced in a mailing, a book or video someone recommended we get, without really knowing whether it meets our needs or the needs of the organization.  Chasing the shiny object is not a growth plan, its a random series of events.  We have to be more intentional about choosing the growth path that best meets our immediate needs.
MISTAKES – Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Give your employees permission to go out and make mistakes without fear of punishment.  It is from our mistakes where we are going to learn some of our best lessons about how to move forward.
ENGAGED – Get engaged with this learning process.  Encourage your employees to engage with one another so that not only do they learn from their mistakes but also from the mistakes of others.  This can significantly shorten the learning curve and allows us to move forward at a much quicker pace to become the dynamic learning organization that is prepared for the future.

How are you learning?  How often?  How do you determine what you have learned?  Share your comments below.

Hitting the Wall

Do you find yourself, or someone you work with, becoming a clock watcher?  You know, waiting for the hands of the clock to point to quitting time so you can hurry out the door and do something exciting.

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Dog SingingIt’s been said in various forms that runners run, writers write, teachers teach, and speakers speak.  And they do it because they have a passion for doing it.  They can’t imagine doing anything else.  They can’t imagine not having that as a part of their lives.
You may remember the scene from the movie, Sister Act 2, starring Whoopie Goldberg.  She is dressed as a nun and talking to Rita, a girl who is the best singer in the choir.  Rita has quit, pretending like she didn’t care, even though it is quite obvious she loves to sing.  Whoopie tells her  “If you wake up in the morning, and you can’t think of anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl!

It’s passion.

Passion provides clarity, it helps us discern direction, and it fuels our actions.  When we are passionate about something, we feel compelled to act towards it.  The more that passion builds, the more we feel compelled to take action.
The opposite effect is, one that I have seen too many times in too many organizations, is people becoming passion-less. They have absolutely no passion for what they are doing and they become like the walking dead.  In fact, John Maxwell said that passionless people ARE dead, they just haven’t made it official yet.
So remember this:
[snaptweet]No matter what your formula for success is, if it doesn’t factor in passion, it just doesn’t add up.[/snaptweet]

So how you discover or re-awaken that passion?

  • WHAT MAKES YOU SING, WHAT MAKES YOU CRY – Look at your daily or weekly activities.  You will find your passion in either the things that make you shout for joy when you do them or the things the tug at your heart so much that you feel compelled to action.  You will discover the little nuggets of passion inside these things.
  • WHAT’S THE END RESULT YOU DESIRE – What do you want to accomplish?  In a business environment, that doesn’t mean job description or corporate objectives. It means what is the end result, what do you really want to see happen here?
    For example, for me what I want to see happen is that I manage to inspire people and businesses to engage in continual, daily growth so that they become the best that they can be; they can realize their potential and become more effective and more profitable at what they do.  And that drives me to do what I do.
  • WHAT CAN YOU LET GO OF TO DO MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO – While it’s true that passion fuels action, it’s also true that action fuels passion.  The more you do those things you enjoy doing or feel compelled to do, the more your passion builds for them and the more effective you are going to become.

What about you?  Share here how you feel about what you do and how you build your passion.