Every organisation, no matter how large or small, should have an induction programme in place to orient new employees and provide important information. The length and scope of such a programme are determined by the nature of the role and the amount of information to be imparted. The organisation must be careful not to overwhelm employees with information at first. Different methods of imparting information, such as interactive discussions, buddy systems, and a variety of presenters, can help to make it more interesting and easier to absorb. A well-designed induction programme is an important part of any organisation’s onboarding process. It helps new employees to feel comfortable, familiarise themselves with the company’s culture, learn the ropes and become productive faster. It also helps build trust and improve morale among new hires and existing employees alike.
Induction programmes should provide a comprehensive overview of the company, its policies, history, and culture. This includes introducing new hires to the company’s mission and values, introducing them to other staff members, and providing a tour of the premises. It should also provide a clear overview of the job role, tasks, and expectations, and provide necessary practical training. A good induction programme helps to ensure a smooth transition for new hires. It gives them the chance to ask questions and get clarification on things that might not be clear. It also provides an opportunity to discuss any challenges they may be facing in their new job and to get the right help and support.
A good induction programme needs to cover certain key aspects:
- orientation – both to physical surroundings and to the nature of the organisation and its history
- understanding of policies and procedures, such as health and safety, grievance and disciplinary, harassment and bullying, payroll issues, general housekeeping
- understanding of points of contact for questions or concerns
- understanding of key tasks, duties, the support provided and the goals for the induction period.
Employers should carry out a formal induction process for a number of important reasons:
- it reduces anxiety and enables the employee to settle into their new role more easily and rapidly
- it helps the newcomer develop a rapport with working colleagues and with the employer
- it forms the basis for mutual respect between the employee and the employer and is the foundation of good working relationships
- it confirms the general terms and conditions and ensures that the employee is made fully aware of the standards required of them.
- it ensures that all the relevant paperwork is collected from the employee
- it provides the employer with written proof that new employees are aware of the rules and procedures and of their obligations under the working time legislation; and
- it ensures that employers comply with the relevant statutory obligations in respect of safety regulations and safe systems of working.
An induction programme should be provided for all employees, full and part-time, contractors, transferred employees, and so on. Depending on the number of people involved and the feasibility of having people away from their positions at the same time, this could be a one-on-one session or a more formal classroom approach. It is critical to provide induction as close to the employee's start date as possible. It is also critical to keep a record of induction topics and the date of completion, both of which must be signed by the employee.
Planning an induction is an important part of the onboarding process for any new employee. Although planning an induction programme takes time the first time, the same material can be used repeatedly in the future with little time required to update it. Try to vary the programme so that people are not bored or spend long periods of time being talked at. Any activity involving risk should be preceded by appropriate health and safety training.
Induction can be done by one person or by delegating some or all of it to others. Some induction subjects apply to all new employees, while others are specific to that job in that department. Induction will almost certainly have to take place over time and will almost certainly involve more than one person. It is therefore critical that it is properly planned in a logical order and documented as completed, including the newcomer's signature and date confirming the induction or elements of it that have been completed.
A successful induction should ensure that the new employee feels welcomed and that they have a clear understanding of the company’s expectations, culture, and policies.
Induction planning steps:
- Set the agenda: the first step in planning a successful induction process is to set the agenda for the event. This should include a comprehensive overview of the company, its mission, culture, and policies. It should also cover any topics that the new employee needs to be aware of such as benefits, procedures, and job expectations.
- Prepare materials: once the agenda is set, the preparation of materials such as employee handbooks, policies and procedures information, and any other materials that will help the employee better understand the company.
- Establish a welcoming environment: before the induction, an organisation should ensure that the environment is welcoming and conducive to learning. This includes making sure that the workspace is comfortable, that seating is available, and that there are refreshments available.
- Introduce the team: During the induction, the new employee should be introduced to the team. This can include a tour of the office, introductions to key personnel, and an overview of the various departments and teams.
- Explain company culture: an important part of the induction process is to explain the company culture and values, so that the employee has a better understanding of how the company operates. This can include information about the company’s mission, vision, and goals, as well as any policies and procedures that are in place.
- Explain benefits and rewards: another important part of the induction process is to explain the available benefits and rewards that the company offers. This can include information about health insurance, vacation time, and other perks.
Providing training to employees offers a range of benefits to employers and employees alike. Firstly, training helps to develop existing employees’ skills and knowledge, giving them the ability to take on new tasks and roles or to improve their current performance. This can lead to improved employee morale, as employees feel more valued and appreciated, as well as increases in productivity, efficiency and profitability. In addition, training can help to reduce staff turnover, as employees are more likely to stay with an organisation if they feel that their skills and knowledge are being developed.
From the employee perspective, training can help to increase job satisfaction, develop their career prospects, and increase their motivation and engagement. Training can also give employees a sense of accomplishment and purpose, as well as providing them with the necessary skills to be successful in their roles. Overall, providing training to employees is an excellent way to keep them engaged, motivated and productive. It can also help to attract and retain talent, and to improve the overall success of the organisation.
The onus lies with the employer to ensure that employees receive equal access to training as well as adequate training to do their job. Furthermore, it is a requirement that certain health and safety training be provided to employees upon joining an organisation, e.g., health and safety legislation requires the employer to provide training to employees before commencing work with display screen equipment. It is also a requirement that all employees involved in any lifting be provided with manual handling training. Other health and safety training requirements would depend on the position that the new employee will undertake.
The appropriate level of training will be dependent on the nature of the job, the complexity of the tasks and the employees’ previous level of experience in a similar role. A flexible approach is most beneficial, with training plans being agreed for each individual or each group performing similar tasks. It is important to have records of training in the event that there is a performance or disciplinary issue in the future.
A probationary period is a predetermined amount of time during which an employee's performance is evaluated to determine whether they will be retained in the position they were hired for. This period can last anywhere from several weeks to a maximum of 6 months and is a way for employers to assess both the employee's job performance. During the probationary period, the employer typically provides feedback to the employee regarding their progress and performance. If the employee is deemed to be unsatisfactory, they may be terminated or put on a performance improvement plan. The length of the probationary period is usually specified in the employment contract but must not exceed 6 months (in exceptional circumstances this may be extended).
Application forms, interviews and the taking up of references guarantee employers with an employee whose credentials illustrate that they will be able to perform the job successfully. At this stage, however, there has been no prolonged chance to test the employee’s’ capabilities. An initial probationary period of employment is therefore useful because it gives employers the opportunity to monitor the new employee’s performance, with a structured set of reviews, within a set period of time. Employers will then be able to make the informed decision, after this set period of time, whether the employee has proved suitable.
Employers should make employees aware, by including it in their contractual documentation, that they will be evaluated during their initial probationary period. They should also be made aware that if they do not perform to a satisfactory standard during their probationary period, their employment may be terminated.
Probationary periods that are too short in duration do not allow for adequate monitoring, nor do they allow for the employee to improve, if necessary. A longer probationary period provides employers with a broader and more equitable sample of the employee's work performance to evaluate. Three months is generally considered appropriate, though this will depend on your organisation’s specific circumstances. However, from 01 August 2022, probation periods can no longer be more than 6 months. In exceptional circumstanced a probationary period can be extended for up to a further 6 months (up to a maximum of 12 months in total).
The probationary period can be extended where it in the employee’s interests or where an employee has been on extended leave, such as sick leave. It can also be extended where it is justified by the nature of the work, for example public service employment.
If a fixed-term contract has a probationary period, the length of the probationary period must be proportionate to the expected length of the contract and the nature of the work. An employee cannot be subject to a new probationary period if their fixed-term contract is renewed.
Once an employee has over 12 months’ service, they are covered by the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977–2015.
An employee has the right to expect that their performance will be reviewed during the probationary period, that any problems with their performance will be pointed out to them, and that they will be given the opportunity to improve. The presence of a probationary period that is not used in practise weakens an employer's defence in a dismissal case.
During the probationary period, regular performance reviews ensure that new employees are aware of the required standards and are assisted in meeting them. At the end of the probation period, a documented performance evaluation allows both the employer and the new employee to review the situation to date and assess suitability and mutual compatibility.
The key principles underpinning a probationary process are:
• The employee is made aware if there is a problem
• The employee is given the chance to state their case
• It is explained to the employee what improvement is needed, if any, and in what timeframe
• The employee is aware of the consequences if the improvement is not forthcoming
• The employer gives the employee reasonable opportunity to improve.
Unless the probationary clause specifically subjects the probationary employee to different or modified rules, the employer may still have to adhere to any contractual disciplinary procedures in dismissing the employee.
The European Union Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Regulations 2022, which became law on 16 December 2022 prevents probationary periods extending beyond six months for private sector employees. In exceptional circumstances, the six-month probationary period may be extended to no more than twelve months if it is in the best interests of the employee.
Employees with more than six months of service (excluding public servants) who are subject to a probationary period of more than six months will be regarded to have completed their probation on 1 February 2023 even if their probationary period would otherwise not have expired by that date. Probationary periods can be extended to allow for periods of employee absence.
Any probation period for employees on a fixed-term contract must be proportionate to the length of the contract. An employer cannot include a new probation period when renewing a fixed-term contract.
If an employee is being dismissed during a probation period due to misconduct, they have a right to ‘natural justice’, which means due process and fair procedures. However, this right does not generally apply to a dismissal for poor performance, particularly where the contract expressly allows for dismissal for poor performance during probation. If an employee is dismissed while on probation or undergoing training, the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997–2015 will not apply, once:
- The contract of employment is in writing and
- The probation or training lasts for one year or less and is specified in the contract.
However, the Unfair Dismissals Acts will apply where an employee is dismissed due to:
- Trade union membership or activity
- Pregnancy-related matters
- Entitlements under maternity protection, parental leave, adoptive leave, parent’s leave, paternity leave, force majeure leave or carer’s leave legislation
It is common that notice periods for an employee during their probationary period are shorter than for other employees. Care should be taken to ensure that service, when coupled with notice entitlement, does not exceed one year. Otherwise, the employee will be entitled to the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2015.
It should be noted that an employee is entitled to the protection of the Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2015 even if they do not have one year’s service with the employer. Accordingly, if an employee is dismissed in circumstances amounting to discriminatory dismissal at any time the employer may face a liability under the equality legislation.