HR templates

Transform your hiring with Charlie Recruit!

Say hello to better, faster, fairer hiring with our new recruitment software add-on. Find out more.

Free probation review template and probation best practice tips

Free probation review template and probation best practice tips

It’s not always easy to be a good person, especially in the world of business.

When I hire someone at CharlieHR and oversee their employee onboarding for their first three months on the job, I go in expecting and hoping for the best out of the new hire.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work like that. Small businesses especially can be prone to poor hiring decisions because they want to move fast and that occasionally leads them to hire the wrong candidate.

That’s why probation reviews are so important and why having a very easy-to-understand probation review template, along with resources is crucial.

I created this guide to draw on my experience working alongside hiring managers at CharlieHR, and offer guidance on how to conduct probation reviews and have a standardised template for probation reviews, so that your new hires may be set up for success and hopefully pass theirs.

Download-our-probation review-template.webp

What is a probation period?

A probation period (or probationary period) is the stretch of time immediately following a member of staff's first day in their new role – it's when you can determine whether or not they're the best fit for the role.

How long does a probation period have to be?

Probationary periods will last for different lengths of time depending on the company, but in general, they usually last for 1-6 months.

There is no law defining just how long or short a probation period can be. However, there is an expectation that the employer is reasonable. 

As a small business, we decided to settle on a three-month probation period. We thought a month probation period was too short to get a good idea of whether a team member is performing or not, but we found that more than that could be a little unfair for the new employee.

Understanding probation reviews

Probation reviews are the formal assessments that take place after a new hire’s probation period. These reviews assess their performance, behaviours, and attitudes to make sure they’re aligned with the values and goals of the organisation.

The probation review process serves two purposes:

  • to assess the new hire's ability to do well at their job
  • to evaluate whether the new hire's values and goals align with the company culture.

These probation reviews are a chance to assess whether the new hire is a good mutual fit - both for the employee and for the organisation.

Why probation reviews matter even more for small businesses

When it comes to probation reviews, small businesses are faced with challenges that larger companies don't have to worry about – and that actually goes for all the rest of their HR tasks:

  • They often have additional responsibilities on top of HR (Founder, CEO, Ops Manager, Customer Success Manager, etc.)
  • They don't have enough time or resources to have one person responsible dedicated to onboarding new hires and to follow through during probation.
  • They don't have clear procedures in place when it comes to passing probation. Instead of having criteria, it's often dealt with on a case-by-case basis and can be riddled with bias, overlooking performance for most.

We've faced this ourselves, and it's completely normal to be a bit scrappy when you don't have many employees, but it also leads to consequences that could impact growth in the long run:

  • Hiring someone who is not qualified enough or not the right fit for the job.
  • Making new hires reconsider their options because of a lack of support and structure.
  • Having quick employee turnaround, low retention rates, and wasting time re-hiring for the same roles.

At Charlie, it took some time before we sat down to find a solution to this, but it really kicked off when we understood the impact of having proper probation reviews.

The importance of having a probation review template

Consistency is key in the world of HR, and that's especially true of probation reviews. Without a standardised, repeatable process, probation reviews can easily become subjective, biased, and unfair.

A probation review template does several things:

  • keep probation objective, and based on the employee's performance.
  • ensures that all new hires are judged according to the same standards, regardless of who the hiring manager is.
  • gives a clear framework for the evaluation, outlining the key performance indicators and the criteria with which the new hire will be assessed.

All in all, having a template for your probation reviews ensures fairness, transparency, and clear expectations for the new hire.

This kind of structure helps all of your probation reviews be as constructive and mutually beneficial as possible. You can use the probation review template we provide as a starting point for your probation review process – it's just a copy of our own internal one at Charlie. This template is designed to make sure your probation reviews are objective, thorough, and constructive, both for you and your new hires.

Download-our-probation review-template.webp

Alternatively, you can also choose to automate your probation reviews – what does this mean exactly? It means that, as a small business, you may not have the time to either print this document, turn it into a Google form, send it to your managers, and check every time that it's been done correctly – on top of ensuring a probation review meeting is happening.

That's where HR software can be helpful if you'd like to transition from cumbersome paperwork to simple and efficient probations. With Charlie, the process allows you to:

  • Create a probation review cycle and assign it to the relevant manager
  • Select the template you'd like to use from our template library (in this case, probation review)
  • Decide if you want to include 360 feedback to have other team member's perspective on the new hire's performance
  • Set launch and end dates

Charlie will automatically send chasers to both parties, collect all the probation review feedback, and make it available to everyone involved. This process also includes a lot of customisation for questions and reminders sent to team members if you want to add a personal touch. Think about if you're looking to save time and effort whilst giving your business a professional look.

Click here to start a free trial

Top tips to conduct a probation review at your small business

At this point, I’d like to illustrate how your probation review process might go by using how we do probation reviews at CharlieHR as an example.

As a small business with around 40 employees, our step-by-step approach to probation reviews helps set clear expectations and reasonable standards from the get-go and keeps the line of communication open throughout the new hire’s probation period:

  1. Setting clear objectives: The probation review process starts with a meeting between the new hire and their hiring manager. During this meeting, they set clear objectives and performance targets for the new hire to shoot for, to provide a clear roadmap for their success – that can be KPIs, for example.
  2. Regular check-ins: Regular feedback is important at CharlieHR, which is why we require all hiring managers to have weekly meetings with new hires throughout their probationary period. That way, they can resolve any immediate issues, and offer support where needed. We recommend you have weekly check-ins during your probation review period to support your new hire accordingly.
  3. Monthly objective reviews: The hiring managers at CharlieHR have check-ins monthly as well as weekly so that any potential issues can be resolved early on before they spiral into bigger problems. They also allow the new hire to improve before the end of the probation period.
  4. Formal performance review meeting: At the end of the three or six-month probation period, the manager and the new hire sit down to review the new hire’s performance against the objectives set at the beginning of the probation period. That involves evaluating the expectations of their role, their behaviours in the office, and any specific KPIs or performance targets
  5. Post-review decision-making: At the end of the performance review, our hiring managers at CharlieHR decide whether the new hire has passed probation, needs a probation extension, or whether the working relationship won’t work out. The decision is made in the best interest of both the new hire, and our team at CharlieHR.

This is the approach we take at CharlieHR to make sure our probation reviews are fair, transparent, and effective when assessing the new hire’s fit.

Common questions to include in your probation review template

Your probation review template should involve a series of thoughtful questions that measure the new hire’s performance, their culture fit within the team, and their overall experience. Here are some probation review questions you might ask during the process:

1. "Have you met the objectives set at the beginning of your probation period?"

This question directly measures whether the new hire achieved the specific goals and KPIs set out for them. This gives a clear indicator of their performance and helps identify areas where they are struggling and may need support.

2. "Can you provide examples of any challenges you faced and how you overcame them?"

This question evaluates the new hire's problem-solving skills. It sheds light on obstacles they encountered and gives some insight into their adaptability and resourcefulness.

3. "How have you integrated with your team and the company culture?"

This question assesses the new hire’s fit within their team dynamics and the broader company culture. This can help identify any potential interpersonal issues or cultural mismatches, which are crucial for long-term job satisfaction and performance.

4. Do you feel like you have the support you need to succeed in your role?

The new hire's response to this question can help point out areas where the company needs to improve its onboarding and support processes.

5. What areas of your role do you feel like you’re especially good at? What areas do you feel you need improvement in?

The way the new hire answers this question can encourage self-reflection and their perception of their own strengths and weaknesses. It also starts a conversation about their personal development and future goals.

Download-our-probation review-template.webp

Pull off probation reviews in a pinch with CharlieHR

Conducting effective probation reviews is a complex process that requires careful planning, methodology, and execution. CharlieHR’s performance review software is designed to help you simplify and streamline your probation review process, from setting objectives to conducting the review itself.

The performance management feature allows you to set clear and actionable goals for your new hire, and run the probation review directly within the platform.

Choose from a range of review templates with CharlieHR

A standardised performance review process backed by thoughtful review questions helps both you and the new hire make the most out of the meeting, and help make sure the new employee has the best chance of success possible during the review.

Click here to start a free trial of Charlie

Additional questions for probation review

What happens if my new hire does not make the cut after probation?

It's always unfortunate to have to decide that a new hire is not up to the expectations you have, however, it's good to catch it on time so there's no more damage.

From this point on, you have two solutions:

  • Extend their probation period to see if they can rise and fulfil the objectives you gave to them
  • Terminate their probation period and look for another candidate to fill that role

Should you add probation periods to your employment contracts?

Again, this is not a mandatory clause to add your employment contracts, but it's better to think about doing it. If you do, you'll have to include some information such as:

  • lentgh of the probation period
  • notice period during the probation period
  • the potential extension of the probation period

For more details, simply download one of our employment contract template.

What are the new hire's rights during their probation period?

During their probation period, new hires have the. same employment rights as your team members:

  • holiday pay
  • minimum wage
  • payslip

Only benefits such as working from home budget, health insurance or any extras offered by the company can be conditional to the new hire passing probation.

How many weeks' notice do you need to give someone during their probation period?

UK employment law stipulates that if you want to end a new starter's contract of employment during their notice period, you must give them at least one week's notice.

Once they've passed their probation period, the amount of notice will increase in line with what you've set out in their contractual terms.

If it's the employee that wants to leave during their probationary period, they must also give at least the statutory one week's notice before they do so. However, the employer can define a longer notice period in the employment contract if they wish.

Read Next

Try Charlie for free

Take a week-long trial