Why probationary clause is hopelessly outdated

Are you looking carefully at your offer letter? Behind the welcome note, there may be a story that may not be very welcoming.

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Every offer letter tells a story and that forms the first impression in the minds of potential employees, which stays forever. In the letter of appointment, beyond the designation and salary break-up, there also exists the probationary period clause.

New companies often follow on the footsteps of legendary companies because the promoters have spent a chunk of their lives there. Thus, when they start off on their own or become leaders, they carry with them the same culture.

Adil Malia

“This is an old-world practice started during the industrial revolution. Through this clause, you can actually tell a person to leave without any notice period, which is very unfair. It is literally putting the person on fear of God”

This is precisely why age-old practices get carried forward, raising a concern about the traditional practice of hiring employees on probation. HRKatha spoke to senior HR practitioners to understand the significance of this practice started in the British era and which still continues in the 21st century.

Adil Malia, COO, The Firm says, “This is an old-world practice started during the industrial revolution. Through this clause, you can actually tell a person to leave without any notice period, which is very unfair. It is literally putting the person on fear of God.”

Interestingly, organisations are moving towards an agile culture, where AI and IoT aided decision-making is the norm. On one side, organisations are becoming more scientific in their functioning, while on the other, they are still holding on to conservative practices, such as hiring employees on probation?

Candidate-driven market, really!?

On the face of it, the market appears to be dominated by employees, but the reality is otherwise. By stamping the probationary period clause in the offer letter, employers empower themselves and the hidden message to the employees is that their employment remains at the mercy of the boss.

Emmanuel David

“In case of employees who need supervision, that is, quality and service-level roles, perhaps it makes sense because there is also some kind of learning. The probation period gives the employer a chance to test out these employees”

A six-month probationary period is not unheard of, but it demonstrates polarisation of power in the hands of the boss. It lacks empathy for a new recruit who has to wait for half a year before becoming permanent. Moreover, the job title is also suffixed with ‘on probation’.

Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre, says, “You have a good case, but I wish to give a different point of view. In case of employees who need supervision, that is, quality and service-level roles, perhaps it makes sense because there is also some kind of learning. The probation period gives the employer a chance to test out these employees. If he/she is just not getting it right then with the probationary clause action can be fast, once they become permanent, the notice period can be long.”

AI-aided hiring

The practice also contradicts AI-aided hiring that boasts of scientific precision in candidate selection. Moreover, with predictive analytics, errors in candidate selection based on culture, behaviour and past experiences, have minimised drastically.

” during probation while the company has the right to terminate, the employees also have the right to leave without notice, beneficial to both the parties. I do not see it as a negative emotion at all because the 3-6 months period can be used to understand each other better”

Not so confident employer

It is thought provoking that by adding the clause on the letter of appointment, employers acknowledge the fact that they are doubtful of their own choice and are not confident of their selection.

The clause signifies a marriage with ‘doubt’ as the predominant emotion, which is like starting something new on a wrong foot.

Senior leadership

In case of senior roles, the probationary period loses significance because leaders take a longer period to settle down before they drive changes. Judging senior leadership on their performance during the probationary period is not right.

“Wherever there are leadership and managerial roles, we can do away with the clause, as keeping it becomes farcical. Sometimes, people come and ask me, what exactly the probationary clause means,” says David.

“When you consider yourself as a key player in consumer internet space and compare your business with players like Amazon, Flipkart, your policies have to cater to those kind of target talent pool. From day one we trust our people, no questions asked, the day they walk in they are confirmed”

NV Balachandar, executive director- HR, Ashok Leyland, says, “Probation works both ways because during probation while the company has the right to terminate, the employees also have the right to leave without notice, beneficial to both the parties. They can use this period to understand each other, determine the culture-fit quotient because no preliminary study or research is absolutely accurate.”

“I do not see it as a negative emotion at all because the 3-6 months period can be used to understand each other better,” says Balachandar.

Magicbricks have done away with the probationary clause, Anil Misra, CHRO at Magicbricks.com says, “When you consider yourself as a key player in consumer internet space and compare your business with players like Amazon, Flipkart, your policies have to cater to those kind of target talent pool. In this business the average age is around 30 years, not having the clause is one of employee value proposition. From day one we trust our people, no questions asked, the day they walk in they are confirmed.”

An appointment letter is supposed to give joy to somebody, but when it comes with a probationary clause it does not remain a subject for celebration.

1 COMMENT

  1. I too agree that probation clause will not give any negative feeling as it allow employee also to leave without any encumbrances. Both employer and employee have same rights in this case. An employee will be selected with an interview of about one hour or so, and selection panel may not get a comprehensive idea about culture fit, habits etc. In the same way an employee also may have some idea about an organisation when he attends and selected but it may not be the same once he started working. He may feel a misfit for various reasons. I feel having such a clause does not do any harm for both and both can free themselves within that period.

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