There are some things which I hear all the time when talking to my clients about HR issues. These include:
1. Recruiting people is hard
2. Firing people is hard
3. A probation clause in an employment contract is a waste of time
I tend to disagree with all of these statements and here’s why.
Recruiting people is easy. Recruiting the right people is hard. And, recruitment is one of the most important things you can do as a manager or business owner. I’ve heard it said that we hire people for their skills and then fire them for their behaviours and I would agree with that. So often managers focus solely on the technical aspects during the recruitment process that they disregard or under value the role of cultural fit in the employment relationship. This is sometimes because they lack a solid understanding of the culture of their business. Ask yourself: “What behaviours do we value and how does the work get done around here?”. My best advice when recruiting is to gather as much information as possible about how the person will do the job. Do psychometric assessments, use panel interviews and check references. If some undesirable patterns emerge during this process, take heed. Leopards rarely change their spots.
Ok, so the second point is sort of true. Firing someone has an indelible impact on their career and so its appropriate that this action is not taken lightly. However, if you recruit with care and consider the technical and behavioural aspects of the role in your search for the right candidate, the need to fire should arise less often.
Lastly, the issue of probation is dealt with in schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act and this is the appropriate way to “try out” a new employee rather than using a fixed term contract. An employee on probation is newly employed on a conditional employment contract during which the employee’s work performance should be evaluated to ascertain if he/she is able to perform the work at the required standard, before confirming the appointment.
Probation also does however not mean that the company can fire the probationer “at will” if it is not satisfied with the employee’s performance. There is a process to follow and legal requirements to be met. The dismissal must still be substantively and procedurally fair. A decision at the end of the probationary period not to appoint an employee, amounts to a dismissal. You therefore need to be able to prove that all of the requirements in schedule 8 have been met in order to succeed against a challenge of unfair dismissal relating to probation. The decision to dismiss an employee for unsuccessful probation must be supported by records so that you are able to justify your decision. You should also consider other ways, short of dismissal, to remedy the situation.
And now I’ll let you get back to your interviews 🙂