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Navigating The Pros & Cons of a 90 Day Probation Period for New Hires

Workplace Culture
Let's explore the benefits and challenges of implementing a 90-day probation period for new hires. Opportunity to access a template for free.

In a world where the right talent can make or break your business, the first 90 days with a new hire are crucial. It’s not just a test drive; it's a foundational period that shapes your future team dynamics and overall success. Companies often use this window to evaluate and integrate new employees, but what does that really mean for your organization?  This article delves into the pros and cons of a 90-day probation period, offering data-driven insights and practical advice to help HR professionals navigate this crucial aspect of talent management.

Pros and Cons of a 90-Day Probation Period


Cost-Effective Talent Evaluation

A 90-day probation period can be a smart strategy that allows you to vet new hires without the hefty financial commitment. During this period, employers can assess a candidate’s skills, cultural fit, and potential for long-term success within the organisation. This approach optimises resource allocation by minimizing the risk of expensive hiring blunders.

Performance-Driven Culture

From day one, the probation period sets a high-performance bar.  New hires are incentivized to demonstrate their value quickly, aligning their efforts with organisational goals. This approach can foster a culture of accountability and results, driving overall company performance.

Structured Feedback Mechanism

The probation period can also be thought of as a built-in feedback loop between managers and new employees. Regular check-ins and evaluations during these initial 90 days provide opportunities for timely coaching and development. This ensures that any performance issues are addressed early, aligning employee performance with organisational objectives.

Risk Mitigation

Ultimately, a probation period is your organisation’s safety net. Employing a probation period significantly minimises organisational risk by providing a trial phase for new hires which reduces the potential legal and financial liabilities that come  with long-term employment commitments if the new hire doesn’t work out. It also ensures compliance with labour laws by clearly defining the terms of probation.


Short-Term Focus

The push for immediate performance can lead to short-term thinking.  New hires might prioritise quick wins over long-term strategic goals, potentially neglecting deeper skill development and sustainable growth initiatives that are vital for future success.

Legal Compliance Challenges

Navigating the legal complexities of probation periods can also be challenging. Termination decisions during or at the end of the probation period must be legally defensible, requiring a thorough understanding of employment laws. Failure to comply can lead to legal disputes and financial penalties.

Morale Implications

The uncertainty associated with probation periods can impact employee morale. New hires might experience anxiety about job security, while existing employees might feel uncertain about the stability of their roles. This can affect overall engagement and organisational performance.

Implicit Bias Risk

The probation period poses a risk of implicit bias influencing evaluation criteria and decision-making. Without rigorous training and safeguards, subjective biases might skew the fairness and objectivity of assessments, leading to potentially discriminatory practices.

How Unusual is a 90-Day Probation Period?

The 90-day probation period is more widespread than you might think. According to a 2023 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), approximately 30% of companies implement a 90-day probation period for new hires. This survey highlights the commonality of this practice, although there are variations depending on industry standards and organisational practices. Factors influencing the choice of probation period duration include the nature of the job, industry norms, and organisational culture.

Comparatively, some industries prefer shorter probation periods, such as 30 or 60 days, while others might extend the probation to six months. Understanding these industry-specific trends helps HR managers benchmark their practices and align them with best practices in their sector.

How to Successfully Implement a 90-Day Probation Period

Clear Communication of Expectations and Evaluation Criteria

The foundation of a successful probation period is clear communication.HR managers should ensure that new hires understand their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations from day one. Detailed job descriptions, onboarding sessions, and regular meetings can help clarify these aspects.

Providing Adequate Support and Resources

Set your new hires up for success by providing the necessary resources. This includes providing access to training programs, mentorship opportunities, and relevant tools or software. Adequate support ensures that new employees can perform their duties effectively and meet the expected standards.

Regular Check-ins and Feedback Sessions

Regular check-ins and feedback sessions are vital components of a successful probation period. These interactions allow managers to monitor progress, address concerns, and provide constructive feedback. They also allow new hires an opportunity to voice any challenges they face, fostering a two-way communication channel.

Flexibility for Adjustments Based on Performance and Circumstances

While the probation period is structured, it also needs to be flexible. HR managers should be open to adjusting expectations or providing additional support based on individual performance and circumstances. This adaptive approach ensures fairness and maximises the potential for new hires to succeed.

Crafting a 90-Day Probation Period Template

Overview of Essential Components to include

A well-structured 90-day probation period template should include:

  • Introduction and Objectives: Clearly outline the purpose of the probation period and the objectives to be achieved.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Detail the specific duties and responsibilities of the new hire.
  • Performance Metrics: Define the criteria for evaluating performance, including key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Feedback Schedule: Establish a schedule for regular check-ins and feedback sessions.
  • Support Resources: List the resources available to the new hire, such as training programs and mentorship.
  • Evaluation Timeline: Provide a timeline for performance evaluations and decision points.

Sample Template with Customisable Sections

Here is a sample template for a 90-day probation period:

90-Day Probation Period Template


  • Welcome and introduction to the probation period
  • Overview of the probation period objectives

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Detailed job description
  • Specific duties and responsibilities

Performance Metrics

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Evaluation criteria

Feedback Schedule

  • Weekly check-ins with the manager
  • Monthly performance reviews

Support Resources

  • Training programs
  • Mentorship opportunities

Evaluation Timeline

  • 30-day review
  • 60-day review
  • Final 90-day review

Decision Point

  • Criteria for passing the probation period
  • Next steps based on performance evaluation

Tips for Tailoring the Template to Specific Organisational Needs and Cultures

To tailor the template to your organisation’s needs, consider the following tips:

  • Align with Organisational Goals: Ensure the probation objectives and performance metrics align with broader organisational goals.
  • Customise Feedback Mechanisms: Adapt the feedback schedule to match your company’s management style and employee needs.
  • Incorporate Company Values: Reflect your company’s values and culture in the roles, responsibilities, and support resources sections.

Case Studies and Examples

Success Stories of Companies Effectively Utilising 90-Day Probation Periods

When done right, the 90-day probation period can be a game-changers. It has been reported that companies that have successfully implemented 90-day probation periods, leads to improved employee performance and retention. Take the example of a mid-sized tech company that saw a 20% boost in new hire productivity after rolling out a structured 90-day probation program. Their secret? Clear communication, regular feedback, and robust support systems. This isn't just about trying out new hires; it's about setting them up for success from day one.

Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned from Implementing Probation Periods

But it's not always smooth sailing. A retail company encountered implicit bias issues during their probation evaluations. Their solution? Bias training for managers and standardized evaluation criteria. This experience underscores the need for continuous improvement and adaptation in probation practices. Learning from these challenges is key to refining your approach.

The 90-day probation period offers a strategic approach to evaluating and integrating new hires. While it has numerous benefits, such as cost-effective talent evaluation and fostering a performance-driven culture, it also presents challenges like short-term focus and legal compliance issues. Thoughtful implementation, clear communication, and ongoing evaluation are key to maximising the benefits and mitigating the drawbacks of this practice.

Striking the right balance between accountability and support during the probation period is crucial. By following the best practices outlined in this blog, HR managers can effectively navigate the complexities of a 90-day probation period, ultimately contributing to the organisation's long-term success.

For more information on how a 90-day probation period can enhance employee wellbeing, visit our consultancy services page.

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