Counseling Employees

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Counseling can take various forms: It can be nothing more than the provision of information believed to be important and useful. On the other hand it can include suggestions, recommendations and-in extreme cases, e.g., of looming violence, exhortations to seek additional help. In some instances counseling may be more passive, e.g., serving as a catalyst for personal change merely by listening or simply saying, "Yes, I see" and thereby validating the perception that an issue is important and that perhaps change is needed.

But irrespective of its form, the primary goal of counseling framed in most general terms is to provide help to individuals who seek or require it, whether it be career counseling, financial counseling, legal counseling, family counseling, psychological counseling, etc.

In all cases, the three critical prerequisites are that counseling is needed, that the counselor is qualified to provide such a service and that those counseled seek or accept it.

Counseling is a way to work through challenges and problems with the help of a trained counselor. Within the workplace, it is done to help employees become more productive and happier with their work and to achieve a better work-life balance. It can take place face-to-face, over the telephone, or even online. In the context of an organization, "organizational counseling interventions" should not be confused with "organizational development", even if "personnel counseling" and "personnel development" seem so similar in many ways. Nonetheless, OCI and OD are quite different in various important respects, e.g., organizational development is more group-focused than organizational counseling interventions, which are generally individualized.

Executives and human resources departments are encouraged to and commonly do collaborate to provide this service for the mental well-being of employees. Managers and human resources departments should be purposeful in making sure that all employees are aware of the services available; they should also communicate that employees should not be embarrassed about using it. Managers should also observe employee behavior for signs of circumstances warranting professional guidance. Counselors should be trained in listening to others, be personable, and be trustworthy. They should assure employees of confidentiality and that information will be disclosed only if not doing so would endanger someone or something.

Many situations motivate employees to seek the services of a counselor. Change within the organization, workplace bullying, a crisis, or severe stress are all good reasons to seek help. An employee might also seek service for a personal issue that is affecting work habits. If an employee ever feels the need to talk about anything, he or she should have the opportunity to do so.

Looking after the mental health of employees is, in addition to being a caring action, beneficial to the organization. By investing in mental health services and encouraging employees to use them, organizations will see less absenteeism, higher morale, more productivity, reduced risk of workplace violence and better recruitment and retention.

Many organizations choose to contract outside counseling services for their employees, and some choose to hire a professional counselor to be available on site. Still others may opt to have a mature employee receive special training to act as a counselor. If this is the case, that employee must be completely trustworthy; and it would be best if he or she were not in direct authority over the employee.

In the absence of formal counseling services, simply letting employees know that someone on staff is willing to listen and help through "an open door" policy and in the form of an approachable and accessible supervisor can foster an in-house first-responder support service.
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