Probation Periods act as Filter

Probation Periods act as Filter

I am often surprised at how much effort some companies put into filtering their candidates at the interview process. Yes, it's important to find out as much as possible and try to get the best person available, but at the end of the day, no IQ or EQ test is infallible, especially for companies in Japan needing bilinguals. There are not many resources that can tell you whether a candidate has the right mix of skills and personality to meet the needs of your firm.

Therefore, it is inevitable that multinationals in Japan use the probation period as part of their employee selection process. Now, I know that this is counter to what a lot of HR people and the Labor Standards officials think, but it is a reality in recruiting.

In Japan, the probation period is a gray area where no one is really sure whether the company has the right to let go of an employee for no reason other than that of incompatibility. Yes, it is a gray area, but experience has taught me that if you warn candidates of your probation policy, most will accept the decision if they are let go.

The law is indeed hazy and if you were to listen to the Labor Standards officials, you'd think that once someone is hired, they're already a full-time employee and very difficult to let go. That is not correct. Providing you stress the probationary nature of the hire and document that fact - then if the employee agrees, you have much better control over the termination process later if needed. Of course, part of this approach is the proper review of a new employee's work progress by their manager and by HR, and a suitable system of warnings and remedial action before termination.

Of course, it's not just the new employee who needs to be informed on how the system works. Current employees also need to understand that the new person is intended to help them become more successful as a team. Therefore, it is in everyone's interest to make sure that the new person is the right person. I try to explain to everyone in my own company not to get too attached to a new employee until they actually pass their probation period, just so that if things don't work out, I don't have a morale problem on my hands.

While trying to get this kind of support, it is EXTREMELY important to give a personal, hands-on explanation as early as possible, and follow up on a frequent basis with comments and questions (and peer reviews) about the new person. This way, no one is surprised if things don't work out, and furthermore it involves them in trying to help the new person become more successful - by encouraging an informal mentor system to develop.

Just for the record, although it may cost a month's separation salary to let a new employee do their whole probation period, I usually do allow new staff the whole 3 months. This lets me evaluate not only their personality and teamwork skills, but also their ability to learn and perform AFTER they have overcome the stress of moving into a new position.



I am sorry to say, but can I 'suggest' a different answer and different 'attitude'. I don't know where your information comes from but it misses the underlying nuances. For anyone who wants a different account, Labor law is almost always judged in a labor tribunal (because that's how it is done in Japan). A labor tribunal is not like a western court, as it is based on both 'law' and 'social responsibility'. If a company has attempted to unilaterally terminate the contract, without exceptional reasons, it will be viewed as the 'likely troublemaker'. You will be reminded of that, it is a business dispute, with your employee that you hired. You are making money. And trying to evoke some clause, of questionable legality. You are therefore wasting everyone's time. Given you are using business money to pay for the legal fight against your own employee. You are also wasting money. The balance of social acceptability is tilted heavily towards the employee. As it should be. This is not America, employment is not at will, stable employment is considered the foundation of Japanese society. And suing people ad going to court is also a bad thing.

So the actual unbiased advice is this. A business should quicker and honestly resolve the matter amicably. This is the only solution. Anything else is just bluffing. A serious businesses that hires more than a few people that actually intends to operate responsibly in Japan will find that out sooner or later.