Early intervention - managing problems through probation

HR Team

March 8 2021
Support staff have been subject to probation periods for many years now and it is also becoming increasingly common for teaching staff at academy trusts to be subject to probation periods, in addition to the statutory induction arrangements. In the current circumstances, probation periods will be even more important in ensuring you have made successful appointments, as you may have needed to undertake some of the recruitment processes virtually.

Employees in their probation period should have regular review meetings carried out in accordance with the adopted probation policy or procedure. These review meetings are key to ensuring the probation period is managed effectively. They should focus on reviewing performance and development in the preceding period and set objectives to be worked on prior to the next review meeting. Line managers should ensure they prepare for probationary meetings by reviewing the employee’s work prior to the meeting, identifying any areas of strength and areas which may require development. You should ensure that you create a record of the meetings using a probationary review form and that you provide a copy to the employee after each meeting.

Probationary meetings should be used as a time to provide feedback to the employee and to discuss specific examples of where the employee needs to develop so that they can be clear on expectations. Line managers should not wait for a probationary meeting to address any problems though and should pick these up with the employee as soon as they come to light.

It is important for probationary meetings to be a two-way dialogue - allowing the line manager and employee to discuss any problems which have arisen in terms of performance and conduct. The focus should be on how these issues can be addressed moving forward and supporting the employee to be able to meet the expectations of the role. This will enable discussion on any other underlying issues which may be impacting the employee’s performance or conduct.

Determining when an employee can’t or won’t carry out a task is also challenging to manage and address. However, it is key to identify these situations and understand why they might be occurring. Remember, training will not always provide a solution to the problem, it could in fact be due to a lack of engagement and motivation.

The example scenarios within our 'Understanding the Difference Between Can't & Won't do in Schools' article will help you to identify where an employee ‘can’t do’ or ‘won’t do’, along with the appropriate and effective responses.


If you’re looking for advice on appraisal, capability and managing employees, or would like to learn more about our policies, letters and training, please talk to us.

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