One-year probation ensures best workers in the job

Monday - 11/15/2010, 7:20pm EST

Robbie Kunreuther, founder, Government Personnel Services

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The federal government is trying to speed up the hiring process, but Robbie Kunreuther said agencies should keep its one-year -- and sometimes two-year -- probationary period.

Robbie Kunreuther is the founder of government training company Government Personnel Services. The probation period is when federal managers observe employees' job skills that they can't see in an interview or resume, Kunreuther said.

And, he told the DorobekINSIDER, agencies should start to think of the probation as part of the hiring process, he said.

"I think everybody's operating in good faith, but once somebody gets on the job we learn so much more about them, and if they're a bad fit we should remedy the situation as quickly as possible," he said.

Kunreuther makes three recommendations for agencies' human resource departments and managers:

  • Ongoing affirmation
    Usually managers must make a decision about a probationary employee after 8 or 9 months. Kunreauther said the decision to keep the employee should be an ongoing process on a bimonthly or quarterly basis. If an employee is not a good fit, a decision can be made earlier in the one-year probation before "more damage" is done.
  • Criteria
    HR and management should come up with a set of criteria for both the characteristics of a successful probationary employee and the symptoms of someone who will not be a good addition to the organization.
  • Shift of focus
    Instead of considering why a probationary employee is unfit for the job, show evidence that the employee should continue in the job. This shift in focus will help remind managers that terminating a probationary employee is not the same as firing a worker. As part of the hiring process, "you're really determining not to select them," Kunreuther said.

Read Kunreuther's article in FedSmith about the federal probationary period.