Creative Approach To The Employee Probation Process

Jonathan interviews Martha Woodward to find out how she has found success with her employee probation process.

Jonathan: Got another interview for you, it’s with Martha. It’s one of five. She’s got a lot of great advice and she’s got a lot of value. Check out what she has to say.

Do you have a process around putting an employee on probation? Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Martha: We do. Now, it’s confusing to everybody but me so I’ll see if I can explain it.

Jonathan: Okay. All right.

Martha: Okay, so I call it, there’s two 30 day timers. When complaint number one rolls in, start your first 30 day timer. Basically what I want to know is, is this just very isolated or are we starting a pattern? That first 30 day timer starts and the first complaint is just a verbal warning. If they get another complaint within that first 30 days, that’s still not a huge thing. Could be just oversight or whatever and that’s a written warning. When it becomes more serious is if they hit three within a 30 day period, then that kicks them into probation. That third complaint starts a new timer, a new 30 day timer. That’s a probation timer.

On that one, certain things happen during those 30 days. They’re in probation and in the cleaning world, we pay on job pay. They are allowed to leave the house early, normally, as long as everything’s completed. They get paid by the job. If they go into probation, that privilege is taken away. I actually use Service Autopilot GPS to actually watch and make sure they’re staying in those houses the length of time they’re supposed to, because if … We’ve actually had someone drive away from the house that was in probation. We call them up and we say, “You get back to that house, you are not done, you are in probation.”

They can’t leave the house early. They cannot earn their points toward paid days off. They’re not eligible for that bonus wheel. There’s a multitude of things that happen during probation. If they get, this is where it gets confusing, if they get the next complaint, which you could call it the fourth but we’re in a new timer, so I call it the second. It’s the second complaint in probation, then they’re actually going to be suspended for a day. Then if they get that third complaint in probation, they are terminated.

All along the way this is documented. That’s what’s crucial. We have a master form. It has all five of these complaints listed there. Each time they get a complaint, you write out what it is and so forth and they sign off and it has what the next consequence is, if it happens again. We try to approach it from a, “Listen, everybody’s human. We understand.” We try to be very forgiving as long as it’s not a pattern. That’s what the process is for, if it’s a pattern then you’re in trouble and you know, you’re still treated with dignity of course, but they know.

That’s why they do self exit because they can see the writing on the wall. We’ve got it documented, there’s not doubt about that. It’s just a process. It makes it easy for my office staff because I jokingly say, “I know, I mean I really like you but golly, we’ve got this same policy and I am so sorry but this is the policy.” It’s not me firing you, it’s the policy.

Jonathan: The policy. I was thinking that same thing as you were talking, it also changes the conversation from, in some cases, being subjective. “I feel that you’re not doing very good work.” “I feel this.” “I think that.” “I’ve heard this from some people.” It’s now super clear. It’s all, the guy or the gal that’s paying the bills around the company, meaning the client, is the one saying, “We’ve got an issue.” There’s a lot of clarity to that process. I like it.

Martha: Right. Right. You know me, I’m fairly unemotional but my office staff is not and this is a hard process for them. They can’t be as cut and dry except they can with this policy. It makes it way easier. Like I said, I think we do a good job of educating our staff all along the way, so they know from that first complaint. They know, “OK, here’s the process. We want to keep you out of this process. We’re here to help you.” Then on those people that, honestly, are not the right fit, I have a process to get rid of them.

Jonathan: I think it’s fantastic. Excellent. Very good advice. Thank you very much, Martha.

Martha: You are so welcome.

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