Next in the firing line: the probation period

Marcus Beaver at Alight Solutions argues that the pandemic has left the employee with more power and this means that employers need to be more flexible about probation periods

The move to a new job is seldom as simple as it seems. The excitement is palpable but the inner demon in the back of the mind often cries: ‘what if it doesn’t work out?’

It’s often why people stay put – especially since the onset of the pandemic, which was marked by redundancies and remaining employees seeking job security above all else. Given those who are newest on the job are normally let go first, it’s no surprise employees chose to stay where they were.

The impacts from the pandemic have created a slow-moving job market, creating challenges for many employers who are looking to secure the top talent.

But things are changing.

We’re all familiar with the probationary period: the time when an employer can test the waters with new employees to see if they are right for the role. These periods usually last for around 3 months, and it means both parties can terminate the contract without notice.

But with the pandemic having ushered a wave of uncertainty across the globe for over a year, potential recruits need job security to tempt them across to the other side. The probation period doesn’t provide that.

Traditionally, the probation period has been seen as essential for both employer and employee. The employer needs to know they’ve hired the right person and if not, they are able to terminate the contract swiftly. New recruits can also decide to leave and not be tied down by long notice periods if the job wasn’t what they expected, clashes in personalities occur or they want to try a different career path.

It’s not uncommon for employees and employers to terminate contracts before the probation period ends and it can facilitate both parties’ needs.

But sometimes the probation period not needed, and the risk of not being kept on is a barrier for employees looking to switch roles. We are seeing more employees successfully negotiate their probationary period down to a smaller timeframe, or even getting rid of it altogether. It allows employees to feel safe moving to a new job knowing they can’t be let go at the drop of a hat and employers have been able to attract new talent to the business.

The professional world isn’t the same as it once was. Three-quarters (74%) of Fortune 500 CEOs expect to reduce office space this year as remote and hybrid working models accelerate. Our own research shows that three-fifths (60%) of employees would not consider a job that provided less flexibility than they have today.

Where and how we work has changed. We aren’t fixed to our desks every day, and job security is more important than ever. That’s why employees now have the chance to take control of their careers. Demands that were seemingly ‘no go’ subjects can now be made and a lot of the time, they will be met.

We are seeing more of this. Employees are standing up to their employers, in ways we would not have seen just ten years ago. New recruits want to know their employer trusts them to do the job at hand, and to fully commit to them from the beginning.

As we begin to look away from the pandemic, new ways of working will emerge. Recruiting and staffing will be revolutionised and what we once perceived as ‘normal’ will turn on its head: we are entering into a new world of work.

The pandemic has left employees with the power. Employers that want to attract and retain top talent have to understand, hire and fire has got a lot more complicated.


Marcus Beaver is UKI Country Leader at Alight Solutions

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

© Business Reporter 2021

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