Ensuring effective performance – getting it right from the start

The first twelve months in a job is very important in terms of performance as this is when expectations are clarified and feedback in terms of performance will be often provided by you as a manager. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that staff are clear about the expected performance standards right from the start. This includes during recruitment, induction and that effective feedback is provided through the probationary period. Many performance problems arise as they weren’t tackled early in the role and managers find it difficult then to raise issues that should have been discussed during probation.

Clarifying the role at recruitment

It is important to ensure that any potential member of staff understands the expectations of the role from the start and therefore these expectations could be clearly outlined in the job description and specification so that prospective members of understand the objective of the role and the expected behaviours and skills.


It is important for you as managers to ensure that you get performance management right from the start. You need to set what you, as managers, expect from your staff during their induction. Some points to remember are:

  • Be clear on what your expectations are; make sure they’re realistic, relevant and achievable for the member of staff.
  • Set goals for the members of staff so that they feel a sense of achievement early in the role.
  • Have regular meetings to ensure that their performance is on track and coincide with what is expected of them.


In terms of best practice as a manager you should discuss and agree performance goals with your staff at the start of their employment. In the induction period and through the probation you will need to ensure that the new member of staff:

  • Is clear about the expectations regarding their role and responsibilities – this includes any contractual requirements of the role such as achieving a teaching qualification / accreditation.
  • Are aware of any training they should undertake to support them in their new role.
  • becomes familiar with the University and its policies and procedures.
  • demonstrates increasing competence in the role.
  • develops effective working relationships with colleagues.

Remember to consider the length of the probation period and set objectives accordingly. It is essential to set aside one to one meetings and provide additional support if needed.

If you have any concerns about performance during the probationary period these should be raised as soon as possible with the member of staff. You can explore the underlying cause and take appropriate action to help them improve their performance. If performance does not improve you must take action as it may be necessary to terminate the individual’s employment before the end of the probation. However, this is always a last resort and clear action must be taken to support and train staff to achieve the expected levels of performance. In these situations please contact HR for further guidance.

If there are no problems and the member of staff has achieved the agreed objectives, you can simply confirm that they have successfully completed their probation period. Also, remember on the University’s probation form it is good practice is to acknowledge the contribution and progress that staff have made during their probation.

Once probation is complete you can continue to manage their performance through other processes, including the informal and formal feedback through the PDR.

Scenarios and possible action to undertake – Probation

Scenario Informal considerations for managers Immediate Actions to take Considerations
Poor performance
  • Has the induction and initial training been sufficient?
  • Is the new member of staff fitting in with the rest of the team?
  • Is the member of staff doing the work that they were employed to do?

Have an informal meeting with the member of staff to review progress against objectives and write an action plan and regular review dates?
Find ways to get staff involved in the new team e.g. team building.
Review their job description and ensure they are undertaking the role to which they were appointed.

  • If difficulties outside work – consider support, temporary adjustments and agree a plan going forward, confirm this in email.

Support staff probation is 6 months. Professional, managerial and academic probation is 3 years.

In terms of probation action to address performance must be done quickly with an audit trail and the member of staff must be made aware that they may not be confirmed in post unless satisfactory standards have been reached.

In circumstances in which performance does improve managers should contact HR to ensure that they correct procedures and followed if employment needs to be further reviewed and perhaps brought to an end.

Regular absences Are there any personal issues that might be effecting attendance and performance?

Discuss the absences to discover any underlying reasons for the absence and signpost to relevant support services.
If they absences are unexplained reiterate the University’s policy in this area.

  • No reasons given, highlight expected timekeeping and monitor this over an agreed period.