Proper Use of New Hire Probation

New Hire Probation: Our Six Step Process

Using a probationary period for new hires has its pluses and minuses in an Optometry practice. It’s not black and white. A recent article by Bruce Clarke, an HR specialist from Capital Associated Industries, discussed the topic of probationary periods for new hires. I will share some of his thoughts, and relate those to the way we train staff in our optometry practices.

Probation as a Defensive Tool

Most probationary terms run from 90 to 180 days, and allow the employer to terminate the employee without the usual warnings and procedures given to other employees. Is that a good thing or bad? Well, of course, like so many things: it depends!

Too often employers use probationary periods inappropriately, as a time in which they avoid managing the employee during their first months on the job. To waste time and money bringing on a new hire, only to ignore them in the critical early stage of their career, is foolish.  Employers may feel like probationary periods offer them protection from unlawful termination. In reality, in most states your employees are at-will anyway. If an employee is not meeting your expectations, you can fire them anyway, at any time, without the need to prove “just cause”.

Probation as a  Welcome Tool

Instead of wielding a probationary period like a sword over your employee’s head, why not view the first 90 days of employment as a welcome period? This “honeymoon” period is when the employee has high optimism and willingness to learn. They are least affected by complainers, and are unburdened by typical office political baggage.

A good employer realizes the probationary period is a two-way street. After spending a lot of time and effort to find the right person to hire, it’s now your job to fully engage the new employee and make them a productive part of your team. While large corporations have developed sophisticated training programs for new hires, most optometry practices’ training is either minimal or non-existent. In most cases it consists of “follow Mary around for a few weeks”.

Create a Six Step New Hire Program

The most successful practices we consult with develop specific programs that include some or all of the following:

  1. Provide office manuals and training materials for new employees.
  2. Match the new employee with the right trainer. Learn who does the best job of teaching and sharing the goals of the office, and make them responsible. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the office manager or practice owner.
  3. Let the new employee experience every aspect of the office. Many times, employees are stuck in one spot from day one, and have no clue as to what other team members do in their jobs. Let them rotate the first week or two and experience the entire office.
  4. Give constant feedback, and get their feedback on their training. Ask them what was good about their training, and what could be better.
  5. Provide training material. Online training is readily available from a variety of sources; new employees are hungry for industry knowledge.
  6. Make sure they know the office philosophy. If you’ve got a mission or vision statement, everything your staff does should be geared to meet those goals.

In summary, probationary periods are fine, but use them as a tool to maximize productivity, and increase enthusiasm for each new employee. If you want some help building your hiring program, please schedule a call.

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