Probation Review Meeting: 10 Questions Worth Asking

employees holding a probation review meeting

Is a probation review a matter of course or a hidden opportunity for HR teams? The end of a probationary period for employees can be a great chance to build out a future-focused plan – but, you need to make the meeting count.

In this article, we’re covering all things probation review, why probation review meetings matter and the top probation review questions your managers need to ask today.

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What Is a Probation Review?

probation review is a formalised process for assessing an employee’s performance during their probation period. It normally takes the form of a face-to-face probation review meeting.

There is no specific or mandatory format for a probation review meeting. But, it usually involves a manager speaking to an employee about their present performance, their goals and next steps. An employee is also given the opportunity to ask questions.

A probation review meeting may also have a disciplinary dimension to it. During this meeting, employees may find out, whether at the beginning or end, whether they have ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ their probation period.

Probation Periods in Employment Contracts

Let’s take a quick step back and talk about probation periods. If you choose to include a probationary period in your employment contracts, make sure you cover the basics, including;

  • How long it will last

  • If it can be extended (and, if so, under what circumstances)

  • Whether an employee can appeal if their period is not completed or if a decision is made not to continue their employment

The contract should also state when interim reviews, if any, will take place (e.g. weekly meetings) and how they will be informed of the next steps, once their probation is over.

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Are Probation Reviews Legally Required in the UK?

As far as employment law is concerned, no. Probation reviews are not legally required in the UK. But as far as contract law is concerned, they’re a good idea.

The Citizens Advice Bureau says that “legally, there’s no such thing as a probationary period. Once you’ve started work, the number of weeks you’ve worked begins on the day you’ve started, not from the time when your probationary period ended.” According to them, an employee’s contractual rights begin when an employee first starts working for you.

But what does the employee contract say?

Contracts can stipulate that certain requirements be met during this period. In this case, probation reviews may be essential to formalise the employment contract and show the employee has met expectations.

What Happens During a Probation Review?

From an HR perspective, managers need to be coached on answering one essential question during a probation review meeting: Is this employee a good fit for your business?

That said, what happens at the end of a probation period should hopefully not be a surprise. By this time (usually three months into a job or six months in, for more senior roles), there should be enough evidence of what an employee has or hasn’t done so the meeting is a mere formality.

But, during a probation review meeting, managers need to discuss an employee’s progress to date and get the employee’s perspective on how well they’ve done.

The review should refer to the job advert, any measurements or targets set, their skills, capabilities and contributions. In this meeting, the manager and employee discuss the employee’s performance to determine whether they will continue to work with the company or not.

But, what should a manager ask? Let us help by offering some inspiration…

10 Probation Review Questions Managers Should Ask

While probation review questions should be open-ended (i.e. not just answerable with a yes or a no), it’s really helpful to ask questions that allow both parties to reflect on the current relationships. Keep them informal, be honest and make sure there’s room for constructive feedback on both sides.

Here are a ten probation review example questions worth asking:

  • Are you enjoying the job?

  • How do you think you’re doing?

  • What do you feel like you’ve accomplished during your time here?

  • Do you understand the job requirements and expectations?

  • Is this what you thought you’d be doing?

  • Where do you think you could have done things better?

  • Has anything made it hard for you to do your job well?

  • What help do you need to keep doing this job, or doing it better?

  • Do you need any specific training or support?

  • What would you like to achieve in the next few months? (Your goals)

Once the manager has asked the questions, the next steps are to give the employee constructive feedback and create an action plan. Both parties should agree on a date for the next meeting, if one is required, and set goals to achieve by then.

What Happens After a Probation Review Meeting?

A probation review meeting can conclude in three ways:

  • The employee passes their probation and becomes a full member of the team.

  • The employee meets some, but not all, of their expectations and their probation period is extended – allowing them an opportunity to improve.

  • The employer and employee agree to terminate the relationship.

If they’re staying, feel free to celebrate! You’ve hired a great employee and they’re a good fit for your corporate culture.

If they’re staying, but need to put in a bit more effort, be clear but firm about how they can improve their performance. Perhaps with a performance improvement plan (PIP).

If they did not pass their performance, go through the employee termination procedures (such as removing them from email, database and workflow systems, etc).

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Performance & Probation Go Hand in Hand

Done right, an end of probation meeting is a chance for employees to support the right employees to improve their performance and set them up for greater things in future.

But, it’s difficult for managers to focus on performance when they have a mountain of paperwork or a cumbersome process standing in their way.

Performance & Development with Personio unlocks automated performance cycles (including probation reviews), while safely storing employee performance, feedback, training and goals.

Book a demo today to speak with an expert about how it works. That way, your next probation review meeting is up to your, and your organisation’s, standards.

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