Counselling in the Workplace – Should HR be concerned with this?
Employee Assistance Programmes come in many shapes and sizes. One popular type in developed countries is Workplace Counselling. Many believe the company should play a greater role in ensuring that mentally and emotionally, team members are able to give of their best while on the job. But is this really an HR function?
Gary Dressler defined Human Resource Management as “the policies and practices one needs to carry out the people or human resource aspects of a management position, including recruiting, screening, training, rewarding, and appraising”. In other words, HRM is concerned with getting people into the organization, maintaining an effective and professional relationship with the people within the organization and facilitating a smooth transition out of the organization, when necessary. A key component of maintaining the ‘effective and professional relationship’ is the opportunity for counselling in the workplace, predominantly considered the responsibility of the HR Practitioner or Specialist within the organization. It is believed that the Human Resource Specialist ought to be trained to give appropriate counselling to members within the organization.
Counselling is considered ‘a helping profession’. In 1986, the British Association of Counselling defined counselling as “the skilled and principled use of relationship to facilitate self- knowledge, emotional acceptance and growth and the optimal development of personal resources. The overall aim is to provide an opportunity to work towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully. Counselling relationships will vary according to need but may be concerned with developmental issues, addressing and resolving specific problems, making decisions, coping with crisis, developing personal insights and knowledge, working through feelings of inner conflict or improving relationships with others”. Based on this definition, counselling has a place for the HR Practitioner. In daily work life, HR Specialists are sought for advice on work stresses, personal problems, career development, among a plethora of other issues. It would be in the interest of the organization to prepare its team to be able to operate more productively and more resourcefully in order to meet the company’s goals and objectives.
Some benefits or advantages of counselling to the individual are:
Easy access to trained counsellors
A safe space to talk about their problems
Helping employees to better understand themselves
Establishing or improving coping skills
Developing effective solutions to problems
Learning to look at issues with a more positive outlook and different perspective
Some benefits to the organization are:
Improved employee performance, leading to productivity gains
Decreased employee absenteeism
Lower turnover rates among employees
Productive way to handle sensitive situations or staff members with problematic behaviours
Establish a reputation as an employer that cares about staff
The effectiveness of the counselling intervention can be measured using several factors based on the extent to which they have been observed or realised during or after counselling therapy.
Some of these measures include: rates of absenteeism, on-the-job performance, relationship dynamics and employee loyalty. Evidence of the efficacy of the counselling therapy are reduced absences by staff. This shows that the team member is now better able to cope with the demands of both personal and professional life while showing improved signs of self-management. There is also improved work performance which can be tangibly measured by output per hour or output per day, other appropriate rates of output, among others.
Another factor is an improvement in the employees’ interpersonal relationship with members of his/her team, management and the wider corporate body. Very often, counselling is referred for an employee as a result of significantly deteriorated relationships within the organization which is affecting the overall productivity of a group or some member(s) therein. Finally, when counselling is offered, workers tend to consider the company to be more caring and interested in their (the employees’) wellbeing. This engenders a stronger feeling of employee loyalty and overall morale. The positive result is that the team member will be motivated to work harder in the best interest of the company’s success and sustainability.