People, Team

Employee Probation – Give it a try?

People often ask how I get the ideas for my blog posts. I usually say it is a mixture of things I do or discover on projects and articles and tweets that I just happen to catch in my Twitter stream. Today was just such a day. I came across an article promoting the use of employee probation.

I ended up thinking long and hard about the idea of employee probation and I wondered, “did the concept of probation start where I thought it did?”

Altar of Google

So I prayed at the altar of Google and this is what I found:

“Probation is a court ordered sanction. The goal being to retain some control over the offenders while allowing them to remain in the community. The concept of probation has its origins in England. After centuries of rigid and harsh punishment for the commitment of crimes, the English courts sought a way to grant leniency to less serious offenders. The idea of judicial reprieve, the practice under English common law whereby a judge could suspend the imposition or execution of a sentence on condition of good behavior on the part of the offender, became common. Judicial reprieve required the offender to maintain this good behavior for a specified period of time. If he was successful, he could apply to the Crown for a pardon. “

So to summarize, probation is a concept that is applied to someone who has been found guilty to retain control over them while determining whether they can demonstrate good behaviour. If they can demonstrate good behaviour, they can be granted a pardon to join society,

Wow. Is this really a term we should still use in the workforce? The name itself has a concept of hierarchy inherent in it. It assumes the employee is “guilty” and may not be a fit. It assumes that the company is above the employee and has control over the employee and their future at the company. It especially places the experienced employee at a disadvantage as they could have left a comfortable career and the new employer can essentially change his/her mind without any impact. (other than having to find another person)


Don’t get me wrong, I think there should be a period of “dating” to ensure a new employee and employer are a good match. Perhaps we need to lose the term probation and make the “dating” period more equitable. If an experienced employee is leaving a job to go to another company, there should be more responsibility on the company so that the company can’t just unilaterally declare “It’s you, not me”

I know my current company, Protegra, operates in this way and takes the hiring, on-boarding, and potential culture fit of employees very diligently and seriously. When I read some articles though, I wonder if the market in general still has a long way to go.

About Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio has worked for Protegra for 14+ years because of the professionalism, people, and culture. Terry started as a software developer and found his technical calling in Data Architecture. Terry has helped to create Enterprise Operational Data Stores and Data Warehouses for the Financial and Insurance industries. Along the way Terry discovered that he enjoys helping to build teams, grow client trust and encourage individual career growth, completing project deliverables, and helping to guide solutions. It seems that some people like to call that Project Management. As a practical Data Modeller and Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Data Modelling and Agile. Terry considers himself a born again agilist as Agile implemented according to the Lean Principles has made him once again enjoy Software Development and believe in what can be accomplished. Terry is a fan of Agile implemented according to the Lean Principles, the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, Operational Data Stores, 4th Normal Form, and asking why


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