Employee Experience
2 minute read

Why so many fail probation…and how to improve the odds

fail probation

Nearly one in five employees are failing to pass their probation period, according to a survey of British businesses.[1] Even though this figure includes probation extensions, that’s a significant rate of failure. But is it simply the fault of the individual? Evidence suggests otherwise.

There are a wide range of reasons why people fail their probation: absences and poor time management are common complaints, and cultural issues like personality clashes are also amongst the more common problems.[2] But the reason most frequently cited for failing employee probations is, unsurprisingly, poor performance (62%).

Scratching the surface, one of the biggest causes of poor performance is disengagement – not just amongst new recruits but all staff. Gallup research has shown that 70% of the difference between engagement and disengagement is due directly to the manager. So while some cases of underperformance may in fact be a valid reason to extend or fail a probation, the numbers suggest that the vast majority of cases are actually failures of management.

Boosting “underperforming” probationers’ success rates (leaving aside other causes) by 70% would lead to a reduction in probation of nearly 50%. That’s 10% less recruitment you have to do, 10% lower recruitment costs, 10% less training and all the lost opportunity costs that go along with it.

Find out how Learn Amp (voted the world's no.1 LXP) can improve your management and recruitment processes.

Improving the quality of management is one half of the equation. Improving the recruitment process is the other. Better recruitment should spot culture clashes before they become a problem, by assessing the fit of personality and values with the team as part of the recruitment process. Similarly, if lack of buy-in to the business is proving to be an issue, recruiters should be actively assessing whether candidates’ aims and ethos are aligned with the company’s.

Finally, when recruiting, it’s imperative to always be open and honest about what’s expected from the candidate, and what they can expect from the company and the role. Overpromising leads to disappointment, and failure to communication expectations simply leaves candidates confused and sets them up for failure during probation.

So while it’s true that probation is worryingly high, companies can benefit by looking at what they’re doing wrong, instead of blaming individuals. Sort out your management and recruitment processes, and the probation problem will take care of itself.


[1] https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/a-fifth-of-employees-fail-to-pass-probation

[2] https://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/employee-engagement/twenty-percent-employees-fail-to-pass-probation-period/