Employee counseling at the workplace
Why many organizations are finding it necessary to make employee
counseling services a part of their culture. By Sudipta Dev
complex and stressful lifestyle compounded with uncertain employment conditions
brought about by the recession, has witnessed a sudden spurt in the number of
employees needing counseling in the last 18 months. Counseling (professional
and personal), in fact, has come into focus with most organizations today considering
it as an integral retention tool that can go a long way in bonding an employee
to the organization, improve his performance and productivity. Significantly,
it is not only an initiative for employee welfare but also organizational well
Today stress and anxiety has become a part of everyones life and there
is no such thing as a stress-free employee. Stress is not always work-related,
but due to problems like inability to find work-life balance and other personal
issues. The only solution is to deal with it positively, and it is for the organization
to take the initiative to encourage employees to opt for such counseling sessions.
Organizations have realized the importance of having a stress-free yet
motivated and capable workforce. Therefore, many companies have introduced counseling
services in their organizations and are making it a part of their culture,
stated Vignesh Hebbar, Associate Vice President India, Marlabs Software.
It is also important to understand that the word counseling is different from
psychiatric help. Anagha Wankar, Group Manager-HR, Fujitsu Consulting
India, agrees that earlier, counseling meant a bad wordwhere
you went only if you were not mentally strong to deal with issues.
Mostly, counseling meant a face to face session with psychiatrists. However,
now there is an increasing awareness of the difference between counseling and
psychiatric treatment. Face-to-face interactions continue to be the most influential
method of counseling; but now there is a trend to opt for online counseling
or phone counseling, pointed out Wankar.
Changing the paradigm
The work environment has become more volatile as a result of the changes in
the economic climate and the uncertainties brought about by the same. Explains
Deependra Chumble, Chief People Officer, Hexaware Technologies, The economy
was booming and so were employee salaries which made most of them over extrapolate
their expenses. Suddenly everything came crashing down and a never before seen
downslide prevailed. This created new financial problems and social pressures
which caused stress to many people. Many employees saw their strong relationships
getting stret-ched and strained, some making it to the breaking point. The inability
of employees to handle such a situation themselves became clearly evident. Some
of them couldnt go to their parents, siblings or spouses as most of them
were also going through the same and were not coping up too well. All
this and much more pressure made it almost necessary for HR to bring in professional
counseling at the workplace.
Interestingly, most organizations would not like to see it as an intervention,
but an effort to help the employee find the solution to his problem himself.
Laveena Bhatia, Senior Manager, Human Resources, CSC in India, concedes that
counseling helps employees to manage their own problems, using their own resources.
An organization can earn competitive advantage through workplace counseling
as this is a powerful tool for maximizing work performance and attracting and
retaining quality workforce, pointed out Bhatia.
- Confidentiality: The employee should have the confidence that
no one other than the counselor will get to know of the conversation
or the issue
- Awareness: Employees should know the scope and benefits of
- Continuity and follow-up: The same counselor should address
the issues of an employee
- Sensitization: Managers should be sensitized to recognize
the early signs of a troubled employee
- Objectivity: Do remain objective
- Support positive behavior
- Dont enforce a solution on the employees, but help them find
their own solution
- Dont give false hopes
- Dont share the discussion amongst colleagues/friends
- Dont get angry or show emotions. Stay calm and stick to the
subject at hand
Source: CSC India
Types of counseling
have realized the importance of having a stress-free yet motivated and
capable workforce. Therefore, many companies have introduced counseling
services in their organizations and are making it a part of their culture"
- Vignesh Hebbar
Associate Vice President India,
also goes a step ahead
and helps employees by giving
them a shoulder for their general
life grievances. Then there are certified counselors whom the organization
makes available for the employees, either on the premises or somewhere
- Deependra Chumble
Chief People Officer, Hexaware Technologies
The different types of counseling efforts generally initiated
by organizations areface-to-face counseling, telephonic counseling and
At Hexaware, the first type of counseling is regular internal
counseling, which is done by the immediate supervisor, senior managers or by
HR. This is very effective if the problems are more related to internal environment,
e.g. peer-superior relationship, career progression, any kind of on-the-job
harassment, etc. HR also goes a step ahead and helps employees by giving
them a shoulder for their general life grievances. Then there are certified
counselors whom the organization makes available for the employees, either on
the premises or somewhere outside. These can be individual or some special organization
which are known for giving professional help while maintaining privacy. We,
at Hexaware, have professional counselors in our centers and employees are encouraged
to meet them for any of their personal issues. This is besides HR performing
the role of a counselor, said Deependra Chumble.
The fact that employees often hesitate to approach the counselor, made Fujitsu
Consulting India, start with online counseling and have face to face counseling
only once a month. It requires effort from both HR and the line managers
to maintain the support for employees who need counseling. A lot of HR inputs
are sent in to counselors and employees need to experience that their confidentiality
is maintained by all those involved, added Wankar.
Focused efforts by the organization
Initiating counseling is in fact the easiest part, to make
employees attend the sessions and maintain consistent efforts to continue with
the same is the difficult aspect. Organizations encourage employees to volunteer
themselves, and sometimes a little nudge is needed from the HR department. For
instance, in Kale Consultants posters of I Talk are put up to encourage
employees to discuss their problems.
NetApp offers counseling services to not just the employees but their immediate
dependent family as well. This is a very confidential service provided
to employees. The company does not force its employees to utilize the services.
However, if we come across any signs that an employee would need counseling,
we recommend to him/her the service available, stated Manjunath S.R.,
Senior HR Director, NetApp-India. The process for referral by managers is as
- Recognize signs
- Meet in private
- Determine if referral is required
- When in doubt, consult HR
- Suggest counselinginformal or formal
According to Bhatia the challenges faced by any organization while introducing
an employee counseling program are:
- To analyze the demographics of their employee base,
understand their needs and design the program accordingly
- To ensure effective communication to the employees
about the scope and benefits of the program
- To ensure employees confidence in the program
- To have an effective mechanism in place for data
analysis, while maintaining employee confidentiality
Ramanand Padiyar, Global Head, Human Resources, Kale Consultants,
agreed that mindset is the only constraintemployees need to be open to
the idea that they need counseling for finding a solution to their problem.
He himself has to realize it. We can only help in finding the solutionit
is not prescriptive but descriptive. In fact, 80% of the time the counselors
do the listening and speak only 20%. Our motto is to help the employee to help
himself, pointed out Padiyar.
helps employees to manage their own problems, using their own resources.
An organization can earn
competitive advantage through workplace counseling as this is a powerful
tool for maximizing work performance and attracting and retaining quality
- Laveena Bhatia
Senior Manager, Human Resources, CSC in India
company ties up with a
counseling service provider to offer an Employee Assistance Program, which
is designed to provide help and support when an employee feels
- Manjunath S.R.
Senior HR Director, NetApp-India
Kale does not engage outside counselors, it is done by those
few HR personnel who have the natural disposition to be great counselors, in
particular, patient listeners.
Benefits for the individual and the organization
It is only an engaged and happy employee who can possess the motivation to make
the customer happy. Confidential counseling service at the workplace can guide
an employee in meeting all the challenges that he might face in his personal
or professional life. Professional counselors can help an employee in many ways
to develop skills to cope with their problems, make important decisions or just
explore new avenues for change and growth.
Counseling service is committed to provide employees
total well-beingand believes that their emotional well-being is as critical
as their physical well-being. To this end, the company ties up with a counseling
service provider to offer an Employee Assistance Program, which is designed
to provide help and support when an employee feels the need. This in turn helps
the company to increase its productivity and retain its key talent, added
If done right and if sponsored adequately, counseling contributes positively
to the EQ of the employee and can yield definite business results. Narayan Krishnaswamy,
Co- Founder & CEO, Talking Heads (HR company) believes that for organizations,
it really makes a difference in building a great place to work and to help build
differentiation in the employer brand given the clamor in the marketplace.
Today, it is the knowledge possessed by employees that
represents a key source of sustainable competitive advantage for organizations.
Retaining and building that knowledge is one of the major contributions that
we can make as human resource professionals, added Krishnaswamy.
Hebbar asserted that counseling programs should begin with an objective and
it should end up achieving those objectives, failing which the entire program
can become a futile exercise. Clear communication to the employees on the benefits
of the program, identifying an experienced and a professional counselor are
the keys for success. It is also very important to make sure that organizations
measure the effectiveness of the program by conducting frequent reviews. Counseling
programs should be an ongoing process that can contribute to the learning curve
of both employees and organizations.
Employee counseling services, in fact, should be considered as a business initiative
that is integral to improve employee productivity and benefit the organization.