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10 Tips For Conducting A Probation Review Meeting

7 min read
manager having a 1-to-1 meeting with an employee

A survey by HR Magazine found that 18% of new employees fail their probationary period in the UK. The majority of those dismissals during probation were a result of poor performance (62%).

Rather than just using probation periods as a safety net, employers should aim to use these initial weeks and months to support their employees, optimise their performance and help them reach their potential. 

Reviewing an employee’s progress and performance during this time in a structured and proactive way can be the difference between them becoming a great employee and just calling it quits. This is why probationary reviews in any organisation are critical, both for employers and employees alike.


What is a Probation Period?

employee having a probation meeting with her line manager

The probation period, often called a trial period, is a designated timeframe for evaluating an employee’s performance and suitability for a particular role. It essentially serves as a trial phase before the employment becomes permanent. This period allows employers to assess an employee’s capabilities, work ethic, and compatibility with the organisation – ultimately, deciding whether the new starter is a good fit. 

The length of the probation period can vary depending on the company’s policies – there’s no right or wrong probation period duration. Saying that, they typically last between three to six months. On top of that, probation periods can be extended further than the initial timeframe if an employer isn’t fully satisfied with an individual’s performance.

The rights and entitlements of employees during the probation period are generally the same as those of permanent employees, including statutory benefits and protections. However, certain contractual terms or benefits may differ. For instance, some organisations may offer benefits such as enhanced sick pay, but only to individuals who have successfully passed their probationary period.

It’s essential for both employers and employees to understand the terms and conditions specific to their employment contracts and company policies.

Why is it Important to Hold Reviews During The Probationary Period?

manager holding a probationary review meeting with an employee

Organisational Perspective

From an organisational perspective, conducting regular reviews during the probation period holds several advantages. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Identifying Issues Early: Review meetings provide an opportunity to identify performance or conduct issues early. By addressing these concerns promptly, employers can take appropriate actions, such as providing additional training or support, to rectify the situation before it escalates.
  • Retaining Staff: Research by Jobvite found that a huge 33% of new starters leave their new jobs within the first 90 days. Engaging in review meetings demonstrates a commitment to employee development and shows that the organisation is invested in their success. This can contribute to higher employee satisfaction and engagement, reducing the likelihood of turnover during the probationary period.
  • Enhancing Productivity: Regular feedback during probation review meetings helps new employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement. This feedback loop facilitates their development, allowing them to address any performance gaps and enhance their productivity at a faster pace.
  • Aligning Expectations: Review meetings provide an opportunity to align expectations between the employer and the new employee. Clear communication about job responsibilities, performance standards, and organisational values ensures that both parties are on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and potential conflicts.
  • Ensuring Legal Compliance: It is essential to hold review meetings during the probationary period if stated in the employee’s contract or company policy. Following the company-specific process ensures compliance and mitigates legal risks.

Employee Perspective

But probation reviews don’t just support and protect the organisation. From an employee perspective, review meetings during the probationary period are also highly beneficial:

  • Building Rapport: Regular interactions with their line manager during review meetings help in establishing a rapport and building a positive working relationship. This helps to promote open communication and a supportive environment for the employee.
  • Reducing Isolation and Boosting Morale: Review meetings prevent the feeling of isolation that new employees may experience during the probationary period. It gives them a platform to voice their concerns, seek clarification, and receive guidance, boosting their morale and job satisfaction.
  • Receiving Recognition: Review meetings provide an opportunity for new employees to receive recognition and validation for their efforts and progress made during the probationary period. This validation can motivate them to continue performing at their best.
  • Reducing Uncertainty: Review meetings help alleviate any uncertainty and anxiety that new employees may feel about their probationary status. Clear communication about their progress, areas of improvement, and prospects for continued employment provides clarity and reduces uncertainty.
  • Receiving Necessary Support and Resources: Review meetings are a platform for employees to discuss any challenges they face and seek the necessary support and resources from their employer. This support can include additional training, guidance, or access to tools and resources to enhance their performance.

How Many Reviews Should There Be During The Probationary Period?

It is important to strike a balance when determining the number of reviews. Too few reviews may result in inadequate evaluation of the employee’s performance, while too many reviews may become overwhelming and hinder productivity.

Typically, organisations always hold one final probation review meeting to decide whether the individual is right for the role. The goal of additional reviews during the probationary period is to assess the employee’s performance on an ongoing basis. Regular and structured reviews will lead to a comprehensive evaluation process, enabling both the employer and the employee to make informed decisions about the future of the employment relationship.

As a result, whilst there is no universal rule, it is generally advisable to conduct multiple reviews to effectively evaluate the employee’s progress and address any concerns.

Here are some factors to consider when determining the number of reviews:

  • Probationary Period Length: The duration of the probation period itself plays a role in determining the number of reviews. If the probationary period is shorter, it may be appropriate to conduct more frequent reviews to gather sufficient data and make a well-informed decision regarding the employee’s performance and suitability for the role.
  • Complexity of the Role: The complexity and demands of the job can also influence the number of reviews required. More complex roles may require additional reviews to assess the employee’s ability to handle the responsibilities effectively.
  • Training and Development Needs: If the employee requires extensive training or development, it may be beneficial to schedule more frequent reviews to track their progress, provide feedback, and ensure they are receiving the necessary support to succeed in their role.
  • Regular Informal Check-ins: In addition to formal reviews, regular check-ins and informal discussions between the employee and their line manager can be valuable. These informal conversations provide an opportunity to address immediate concerns, provide guidance, and ensure ongoing communication throughout the probationary period.

Ten Tips For Conducting a Probationary Review

conducting a probationary review with a member of staff

So, you’ve considered how many times you’re going to meet with your employee during their probation period to review their progress, but how should you conduct the meeting itself?

Here are a few tips to help you conduct an effective probation period review:

  1. Don’t leave the preparation to the last minute: Adequate preparation is essential for a meaningful review. Collect and review relevant performance data, feedback, and any documented incidents throughout the probationary period. Be prepared to discuss specific examples during the review meeting.
  2. Hold the review in a safe space: Create a supportive and comfortable environment for the review meeting. Choose a private setting where the employee feels at ease to openly discuss their performance and address any concerns or challenges.
  3. Be welcoming: Don’t begin the conversation in an overly formal tone. Remember that the employee is also continually assessing whether the organisation is the right fit for them too. Make them feel welcomed into the organisation.
  4. Present feedback in a clear way: Provide feedback in a clear and concise manner, focusing on specific examples and outcomes. If the employee’s performance falls short in certain areas, clearly articulate the expectations and provide constructive suggestions for improvement.
  5. Ensure all feedback is objective: Maintain objectivity and fairness throughout the review process. Base feedback on measurable performance criteria and avoid personal biases. Consistency and fairness are crucial for an effective evaluation.
  6. Recognition is important: If the employee is performing well, acknowledge their achievements and efforts. Recognition is a powerful motivator that boosts engagement and encourages continued success.
  7. Address performance issues promptly: If the employee is not meeting the expected standards, it is important to communicate this early. Avoid surprising the employee with a dismissal at the end of the probationary period. Instead, provide constructive feedback and guidance throughout the probationary period, allowing them the opportunity to improve along the way.
  8. Set goals and regularly review them: Set clear goals and expectations for the employee’s performance during the probation period. Regularly review these goals to track progress and discuss any necessary adjustments or additional support required.
  9. Provide support and resources: Support the employee’s development by offering the necessary resources, training, and guidance. Use the review meeting as an opportunity to identify any specific support they require and ensure that it is provided consistently throughout the probationary period.
  10. Document every conversation: Document all probation review meetings, feedback, and performance-related discussions. Follow company policies and procedures in record-keeping and ensure that you consult with HR or relevant stakeholders to maintain compliance and protect the interests of both the employee and the organisation.

line manager conducting probationary reviews with her employees

Questions to Ask in Your Probationary Review Meeting

Using the right questions in a probation review meeting means that employers can gain valuable insights into the employee’s experiences, strengths, areas for improvement, and development needs. This information enables the organisation to provide targeted support and set realistic goals for the employee.

Here are some suggested questions to include in your review meeting:

Performance Assessment

  • How would you evaluate your overall performance during the probation period?
  • Can you provide specific examples of projects or tasks where you believe you excelled?
  • Are there any areas where you feel you could have performed better? If so, how do you plan to improve in those areas?

Skills and Development

  • Have you identified any specific skills or knowledge gaps that you would like to address?
  • What support or resources do you believe would help you enhance your performance and professional growth?
  • Are there any training opportunities you would like to explore to further develop your skills?

Integration and Collaboration

  • How well do you feel you have integrated into the team and company culture?
  • Have you faced any challenges in working with colleagues or collaborating on projects?
  • Can you provide examples of successful teamwork or contributions to the team’s goals?

Goal Setting

  • What goals did you set for yourself during the probation period? Have you made progress toward achieving them?
  • Are there any new goals or objectives you would like to discuss for the next phase of your employment?

Feedback and Communication

  • How have you found the feedback and guidance provided during the probation period? Do you have any suggestions for improvement in this area?
  • Is there anything you would like to discuss or seek clarification on regarding your role, expectations, or performance?

Career Aspirations

  • What are your long-term career goals, and how do you see yourself progressing within the organisation?
  • Are there any specific opportunities or roles you would be interested in exploring in the future?

Factorial’s user-friendly cloud-based software can provide a seamless transition from recruitment to onboarding, allowing your new starter to focus on their new job, rather than just admin.


Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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