June 25th, 2022

TJ Kastning

The beginning of any employment is inherently an evaluation period and some companies embrace this with a probationary time, trial period, or some such language. The intent is to communicate the extra scrutiny the employee will experience to establish trust, learn the company, and contribute acceptably. By making the period explicit it reinforces the need for the person to be on their best behavior which theoretically enhances retention.

There is no right or wrong on this issue, just skillful or clumsy implementation. Success depends on setting expectations properly.

A few principals…

  1. Employees should not feel that you are just trying them out. If they do not sense commitment from the firm to them then the point of the trial period has backfired. Set the expectation that the company is in their own trial period as well to prove themselves a worthy employer.
  2. Trial periods should not be used with candidates you are on the fence about hiring. Commit or don’t. Hire or don’t. Don’t ask people to take a risk you are not willing to commensurately commit to.
  3. Employees should receive encouragement and structured criticism during the trial period intended to make them successful. This is not pointing out their failures like a disappointed overbearing parent.
  4. Define what a successful trial or probationary period looks like. Give them a goal. Reinforce the goal. Coach to the goal.