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What is probation and why is it important?

Probation provides new staff with a period of development to enable them to gain appropriate experience, with advice, guidance and support from managers, to achieve the agreed standards and objectives of their role. Regular review of performance and progress towards stated objectives is carried out and recorded.

Probation is a process whereby new employees and line managers engage in a dialogue about performance through objective setting and agreeing development opportunities and the support required in their new role.

  • Setting objectives and direction

    In order to support successful achievement of objectives they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound). There should be clear mechanisms in place for feedback and support, both positive and constructive. Objectives and expectations in roles link to our University strategy, our Faculty/School/Directorate /Area priorities and team targets and indicate clear measures of success. As a manager, you should write your objectives first and share them, so that your team members can link their objectives to yours or the team's targets. Alternatively, you may need to share the wider area objectives with your team so that they can better understand how their own objectives link to the wider strategy.

    Objectives are simply statements of what you want to achieve; because objectives should outline what each individual needs to prioritise and deliver over the next 12 months, they also strengthen accountability. When you support your team to set their objectives, focus on identifying an appropriate challenge that is also supported by their development plan: between four and eight objectives is a good range, but this will depend on the nature of the role.

  • Guidance on setting objectives and direction
  • Setting expectations

    In addition to objectives, it is important to set expectations of the level of performance required by employees in their day-to-day role. Have a discussion with members of your team to ensure everyone understands their role, with input from their job description, progression frameworks, key responsibilities, quality expectations and any other aspects of the day-to-day role that are important.

    How to do a great 1-2-1 meeting. You should regularly discuss performance against the role description and clarify in 1-2-1s and document any changes to the role.