The busi­ness case for em­ployee coun­selling

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Ca­role Spiers

WHILST I was in Abu Dhabi this week, I was very in­ter­ested to hear that Shar­jah Women's col­lege is due to launch a ca­reer coun­selling de­gree which comes on the back of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion's an­nounce­ment last year that a ca­reer coun­sel­lor will be placed in ev­ery government school by 2015. I wel­comed this news whole­heart­edly as dur­ing the eight years of work­ing in the re­gion, I have seen that coun­selling is not gen­er­ally a ser­vice that is freely avail­able in the same way as it is in Europe and Amer­ica.

Coun­selling takes place in a pri­vate and con­fi­den­tial set­ting to ex­plore the dif­fi­cultly or dis­tress an in­di­vid­ual may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. It may also be that their dis­sat­is­fac­tion is with their life, or loss of pur­pose or sense of di­rec­tion. By lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively, the coun­sel­lor can be­gin to see the dif­fi­cul­ties, from the other per­son's point of view and help them to see things more clearly and pos­si­bly from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

Coun­selling is a method of ex­plor­ing al­ter­na­tives and does not in­volve giv­ing ad­vice or di­rect­ing the in­di­vid­ual to take a par­tic­u­lar course of ac­tion. A coun­sel­lor's role is not to judge but pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for the per­son to dif­fuse feel­ings such as anger, anx­i­ety and grief.

In this con­text, it is es­sen­tial that coun­sel­lors would need to have a full un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the cul­tural dif­fer­ences of the re­gion.

Most of us work at a fre­netic pace and some­times the pres­sure that comes with this can get in the way of our day to day per­for­mance. In in­dus­try, if em­ploy­ees are not work­ing ef­fec­tively or they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing too much pres­sure, they are prob­a­bly cost­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion a good deal of money in terms of lost pro­duc­tiv­ity and poor per­for­mance. It is pos­si­ble for a busi­ness to lose its best tal­ent be­cause no-one recog­nised the signs that an in­di­vid­ual was not cop­ing ef­fec­tively. And even if stress-re­lated in­ci­dents were iden­ti­fied, there were no sys­tems in place to help the sit­u­a­tion.

Although we may all have per­sonal, or re­la­tion­ship is­sues, there are few man­agers who see it as their role to lis­ten to an em­ployee's domestic prob­lems. In fact, how­ever, this maybe a rather short-sighted pol­icy be­cause if home prob­lems are get­ting in the way of the em­ployee work­ing ef­fec­tively, then it does be­come a man­age- rial is­sue that needs to be ad­dressed.

The aim of a coun­selling in­ter­ven­tion is as a pre­ven­ta­tive tool that will work along­side more for­mal man­age­ment in­ter­ven­tions. HR would usu­ally be the gate­keeper for the ser­vice and if an em­ployee needed coun­selling sup­port, they would go to HR in the first in­stance, or there could be a re­fer­ral from their man­ager.

The types of prob­lems that a coun­sel­lor should be able to help with could be any­thing rang­ing from chal­lenges at work to per­sonal is­sues at home. One can af­fect the other. A pro­fes­sional coun­selling in­ter­ven­tion is cer­tainly the an­swer to dif­fus­ing stress-re­lated is­sues in the work­place, and such a re­fer­ral fa­cil­ity needs to be a part of the HR func­tion.

Em­ploy­ees need to be re­as­sured, how­ever, that the ser­vice is con­fi­den­tial and re­portage does not go back to man­age­ment. It should also not be seen as a weak­ness on the part of an em­ployee who wishes to be re­ferred for help and sup­port in fact in many ways, it is a sign of for­ward think­ing.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions grow through the peo­ple who work for them. When in­di­vid­u­als have prob­lems, or are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing stress, then their pro­duc­tiv­ity de­clines. They be­come pre­oc­cu­pied with their prob­lems and can dis­tract oth­ers in the work­place which can ul­ti­mately also af­fect the gen­eral mo­rale. The sooner th­ese prob­lems can be rec­ti­fied, the bet­ter it is for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

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