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FMA Washington Report: March 8, 2024
Partnership for Public Service Suggests Additional Probationary Period Guidance

In December 2023, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provided “Practical Tips for Supervisors of Probationers,” guidance aimed at helping managers maximize their use of the probationary period. The key points are:

• Understand why the probationary period is important.

• Know your new hire’s rights.

• Make full use of the probationary period for employees.

• Communicate expectations for performance and conduct.

• Provide regular and frequent feedback.

• Set reminders to assess the probationer regularly.

• Act promptly.

• Know about the excepted service and the trial period.

• Remember that there are other types of probationary periods, too.

• Regularly consult your human resources advisors.

In February 2024, the Partnership for Public Service suggested additional steps toward improving managers’ utilization of the probationary period when evaluating new hires to the federal workforce. They wrote that improvement of the probationary period “is a low-hanging fruit for holding agencies and federal employees accountable for performance and encouraging emerging best practices in skills-based hiring.”

“Some hiring managers worry about being unfairly dinged for a new hire that doesn’t work out. Others believe that the trouble of creating new vacancies and going through additional hiring processes is worse than simply keeping struggling employees in their position and hoping for the best,” according to the Partnership in a blog post.

The Partnership suggests “encouraging agencies to incorporate the central elements” of OPM’s guidance into performance plans for supervisors. “OPM should also encourage agencies to collect and monitor data on the reminders sent to supervisors about probationary period expirations and the follow-up actions taken by supervisors of probationary employees as a result,” in the blog post.


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