5 Lessons Learned About Employee Probations

There is always a temptation to second guess what’s in the news. Almost everyone will tell you they could do better than, say, the current US President. Retrospect, and a court decision that doesn’t go an employer’s way begs us to not second guess. Take the case of Ly v. Interior Health as an example:

Phuc Van Ly was hired by Interior Health in September 2014 to manage a team of nurses in Kamloops. He was fully qualified for the position and interviewed well for the position. Upon being hired, Ly was placed on a 6 month probationary period where his success in the job would be monitored. During his employ others complained about Ly behind his back, his supervisor gave contradictory instructions and wondered aloud, in his presence, how long he would last.

As this began, Ly tried to reach out to his supervisor for guidance and schedule a meeting to discuss his progress. While Ly attempted to reach out, his supervisor ignored the efforts for weeks until finally scheduling a meeting where Ly was fired, only 2 months after starting. Interior Health claimed that Ly wasn’t suitable for the position and was disrespectful and insubordinate.

Since Ly was found to have acted proactively while Interior Health didn’t act in good faith, the courts ruled in Ly’s favour and was awarded 3 months severance pay. Now, what can employers learn from this case?

5 lessons employers can take away from this case:

  1. Have robust selection processes.

    Think about adding standardized testing and scenarios as part of your interview process. Making a great hire is the first step to success for any position.

  2. Support your new hires.

    If your orientation is over in a day or two, you probably have done little more than fill out forms and shown the new hire where to park. A well planned orientation should be spaced out over weeks and even months with regular check-ins. Trying to cram everything a new hire needs to know to be successful into a short time frame may help you as manager (you can cross “orientation” off on your to-do list) but there is no pay-off for the new employee (or your organization) in the long term.

  3. Know what you are measuring your new hires against.

    The standard applied in this case was “a good faith assessment of…suitability for continued employment”. What do you measure your new hires against? Do you have job descriptions, are new hires given measurable targets to achieve as they are learning and growing into the new job?

  4. Communicate.

    Tell your new hire where they stand on a regular basis: what is going well and not so well. Awkward? Unpleasant? Time consuming? Yes, yes and yes, but this is a key part of managing. Reduce your anxiety about these discussions by being fact based and being able to coach the worker to possible solutions.

  5. Don’t linger forever making a decision.

    Sometimes you have to make the unfortunate decision to terminate someone. Get some assistance to proceed. If you have followed through on the steps above and are still not seeing success, it is likely the that employee feels the lack of success too. No one likes to terminate someone, but if it is the right thing for your organization, it is likely the right thing for the employee, even if they can’t see it at the time.

To read more about Ly’s case you can see the official Supreme Court Case Report or read about it on the CBC website.

If you think you might need help with your recruiting or employee policies, we’d love to help. You can contact HR West by phone, 604.546.7674, email, , or using the form on our contact page.

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