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In this fast-paced competitive world with increased complexity and intricate management system, employees and organizations are facing various challenges, which are directly affecting the performance and the positive workforce. Thus, now organisations are taking up guidance and counselling to relieve the stress, motivate the employees, and create a positive work environment. Counselling methods are being taken up by the companies to disempower the negativity, which is created due to various issues such as stress, management deadlines, performance constraints, personal issues, to change the work scenario and develop a positive relationship between the organisation and employees. The two major issues that need focus in an organisational setup are performance management and stress control management. These two issues are interconnected and directly affect the working of the employees resulting in their quality degradation and thereby future prospects of a company.
Performance management comprises of performance appraisal systems along with other HR systems to synchronise the work behaviour of employees with the company's goals. Performance appraisal system creates performance standard, monitors whether the employees are achieving the standard, compare the performance, and also take necessary actions to correct the errors happening. Therefore, it results in performance improvement, maintaining consistency and sustainability in the performance, and timely evaluation, thus providing excellent feedback. Besides knowing the competency of its employees, it is also a development tool used to assess the training needs of the staff, deficiency in the performance monitoring criteria, as well as to enhance the skills, knowledge, and work behaviour of the employees. Another very important issue in an organisational environment is occupational stress. It has now become a daily feature of professional life. Inevitably, existence of stress has grown multifold in the workplace and is definitely a big issue. At the same time, employer's responsibility (and liability) for their employees' psychological well-being is becoming ever more clearly defined. Organisations recognise the need to manage stress at work, but what is it exactly that they are trying to manage? This paper discusses the importance of counselling with the aim of identifying why counselling strategies are important for organisational change and employees and how by improving the performance level and reducing the stress level by means of these strategies can modulate the organisational growth and development.
Researchers have proposed various factors that influence occupational stress some of which are psychosocial factors, role overload both qualitative and quantitative, role underload, role conflict, both intersender and intrasender. Various attributes that lead to stress are variety, autonomy, required interaction, optional interaction, knowledge and skill required, and responsibility and specific coping strategies available and implemented are stress management program and relaxation training at the workplace, job redesign, and career planning.
Different research work has been done till date to investigate the output of employee counselling in an organization. It has been identified that counselling helps the employees to sail through difficult situations inside the organization with ease. Upton, Dave (1997) in Developing Employee Counselling focused on the counselling service provided by an N-I organization. The main aim was to identify the managerial system that can be implemented to modify and improve the employee counselling program. It was done through various qualitative and quantitative methods. Quantitative data was collected from all its clients and counselors after every session for over a period of eight months. In Counselling psychology and employee assistance programs: Previous obstacles and potential contributions, Gerstein and Bayer (2005) have analysed various reasons why counselling psychologists are not participating in EAP programs. It also identifies the similarities between the EAP philosophy and activities and psychology counselling practitioners. Suggestions and agenda designed for counselors who want to enter EAP and study the EAP related variables are also given. McConnell, Charles R. (2006), in Effective Counselling for the First-Line Health Care Manager, has emphasised on effective counselling as a supervisory skill. It states that due to ignorance and commonly occurring barriers, effective counselling is hampered. It recognizes the importance of counselling as a vital step for improving the employee performance and some simple guidelines to make the counselling beneficial for employees.
Performance of the employees contributes to the success and growth of an organisation. Various techniques are applied to understand the employees' problems and improve the working standard. The conventional method provided by Kaplan and Norton is the balance scoreboard through which various aspects of performance can be measured such as the financial, internal business, innovation, customer satisfaction, and employee learning. Nowadays for performance appraisal various new methods are being applied. The most common method utilized is the assessment centre which measures the competency of the employees by means of tests, exercises, assignments, and social events. This assessment is generally done on the performance job area of the employees and they are observed and judged based on the job related quality. The main prerequisites that are looked for in this method are organising and planning, interpersonal skills, career orientation, motivation, and intellectual capacity. This is an effective method to identify and understand the development and training needs of the employees. Another technique that is being used is relatively new and is the behaviourally anchored rating scale (BARS) which is a combination of graphic rating scale and critical incidents method. It comprises of predetermined behavioural statements sets and critical areas of job performance which determines whether the quality of the job performance is good or bad. These qualities include knowledge about the job, interpersonal relationships, reliability, adaptability to the job and the surroundings, etc. Thus, by this method employee's behaviour and skills are measured against predetermined standards by recording and comparing. This method can be advocated only with expert knowledge. Another method used for evaluating the performance appraisal is monetary based called the human resource accounting method. In this, the total expense levied on the employee is calculated which include recruitment and selection cost, training cost, remuneration, compensation, rewards etc., and the contribution of the individual to the organisation, monetary based. The contribution and cost difference defines the performance level. Ideally, the human contribution should be more than the expenditure done on them.
There would be no such organization that has zero issues. The requirement is to solve the issues and bring the change. Going a bit more deep into it, an organisational change has actually two components to it. First is the content and the second is the process of the change. The content actually is the object that needs to be changed and process is the way in which it would be obtained. On a broader perspective, the goals for the change should include changes that will increase social support, skills, technology use in a healthy way, career growth, job security, working conditions, reasonable job demands, and employees' autonomy. Change cannot be brought at once but can be done step by step by using counselling strategies.
Conducting workshops for occupational stress is a beneficial method to let the employees know that the management is concerned about them and their problems. It can help to understand and resolve most of the personal and professional issues of the employees. For the success of such workshop counselling, it is important that organisational change strategies and stress management programs be included in it. Participants' involvement, evaluation, and feedback must be taken for understanding the training quality and to inculcate new programs and activities for stress reduction. A stress-reduction workshop conducted in Massachusetts by occupational health and safety agency demonstrated a concrete evidence of how occupational stress negatively impacts employees and workers' performance and personal lives. It helped to improve family dynamics and job skills and positively motivated the workers. Occupational stress committee formation can help to strategize ideas and ways to improve the work environment in the organisation. Such a committee should comprise of employees of different departments and shifts as well as the managerial representatives of authoritative stature. Some factors to be considered in such committee are easy access to resources such as good consultants, records, and training materials. The core guidelines to be undertaken while forming such committee is transparency, rotation of the committee head among the management and workers, avoidance of negativity in discussions, and focus on stress reduction and enhancing performance strategies. The joint labor management stress committee formed by the East Coast public service agency is a good example of successful committee formation for employee benefit.
Formation of a personal stress management program with a good counsellor can target the individual issues along with the organisational change strategies for the larger team as a whole. These two together can clear the bottleneck issues in the organisation and get the momentum going resulting in long-term benefits and growth. One hospital in California employed an occupational psychologist to work with the management and staff to assess the benefits of participation in decision making on the occupational stress, performance, job satisfaction, and turnover. The departments where employees and management participation was carried out, greater motivation, less conflict, uncertainty, and emotional tension, and job satisfaction was observed at the periodic follow-ups.
To target the core practice skills, a public sector child welfare agency initiated a proficiency based training program which was designed to improve the professional skills of the staff. This training proved very useful in psychological strain and stress diminution and improving the overall performance standard of the employees. Such skill-based training with social support can result in symbiotic benefit for both employees and organisation. Good team building, positive feedback, employee growth, and open communication are some of the core elements in workplace strategy formulation.
Along with in-house training, the working conditions of the employees also have a substantial role in decreasing the stress and increasing the performance standards. Job redesigning, use of ergonomics, and reducing the physical hazards can prove to be a positive contribution in improving the overall organisational dynamics. Employing an expert who can counsel on these aspects can help in bringing the required change by advising on proper equipment, light, and work jamming issues.
Work can never be rewarding if health is not good. This is apt for organisations too. Body needs rest and a good healthy mind only can give optimum output. Today's competition has turned humans into machines, and occupational psychologists are working to change this scenario. Strategies to reduce workload, division of labour, and brake mechanisms are being adapted to bring the change.
Bringing organisational change cannot be fully successful if the grass root level problems lie unaddressed. Employees together as a team make an organisation and each and every individual is an integral unit. Strategies to improve their personal coping mechanisms are very relevant to bring the structural change. The main goal for these strategies is to replace the dysfunctional with functional coping mechanisms. A periodic nutritionist visit can provide the employees with proper diet guidance and help them maintain diet diaries. Arranging a fitness facility or equipments along with a fitness trainer can improve the health condition of the staff thus making them more agile and healthy. In an interventional study it was observed that combining the behavioural counselling with health risk assessment can result cardiovascular risk reduction. The employees during the counselling was advised against smoking, healthy eating habits, and proper exercise and rest.
The stress levels in today's working environment are too high. Psychologists can provide various strategies to control and reduce the stress level. One useful strategy to reduce the stress is deep muscle relaxation techniques. Edmund Jacobsen technique is most widely used and effective. Various other techniques of relaxation are also available. The ultimate aim of these techniques is to relax the mind and body of the employees when working under pressure thus cutting the stress cycle short. The possible way of utilizing these strategies is to bring in a stress management consultant or expert to train the employees on these techniques or to train a small group of people who in turn can become the in-house trainers to train the rest of the staff. These relaxation methods are quick and learnt fast and can be done at any part of the day during the job.
Psychology is the study of mind. Thought process is the central source of all actions. Inevitably, stress is also a state of mind. You feel stressed when your mind perceives it in that manner. Psychologists have developed techniques that affect the cognitive power and transform the negative cognition into positive; negative thoughts like "I will not be able to do this" to positive thoughts of "I can do this if done in a systematic way." Thought stopping strategy works on the same line, by stopping bad thoughts before it becomes more repetitive. Pessimistic thinking increases anxiety and stress so by controlling it, stress can be relieved to a great extent. Through Employee Assistance Program an efficient cognitive psychologist can be brought in for an in-house service day into the organisation to work on these techniques.
Sometimes idea sharing can do wonders in an organisation. Social support and sharing employee's personal stress reducing methods with each other can help as a stress buster and reducing the pressure. Periodic meeting with idea sharing and discussion about additional training can work as an effective strategy towards stress and performance. Improving the family dynamics and helping the employees to handle the home pressures can also yield good returns for the organisation.
Making change just for the sake of change does not result in the required goal. The change should be in the right direction to achieve the required goal. Initiating various strategies to release the stress thereby increasing the performance is important for organisational structural change. But measuring the effectiveness of these strategies is also important. This evaluation can be done by means of designing an assessment forum, by means of survey or reviews, to identify the key points in the work setting before, during, and after the endeavours. If the indicator shows positive results then it can be confirmed that the occupational change strategies are yielding desired results and further implementations to improvise it can be procured.
To eliminate occupational stress from the employees completely is inaccessible for any organisation. Organisation's role is to deal with the stress at various levels in its employees. Counselling can prove to be very vital in addressing this issue and reduce and control it talking to the employees and tackling the employees' personal and job stressors. Counselling acts as a helping hand by helping individual to help himself. Counselling is discussion of a person's problem in order to help the person to cope with the situation better. It improves the mental health of the individual. The psychological improvement makes them feel comfortable with themselves and their surroundings and thus helping them in coping up with their work demands with a positive mental health. A systematic and planned formal approach is required to bring the desired change and improvise the mental state of the employees.
Organisational counselling can go a long way in helping the employees to deal with their problems, take right decisions, and managing their responsibilities with less stress and anxiety. Employee counselling can help the organisations in a big way. When the employees realize that the organisation is concerned about them, it can actually help in building long-term commitment between the employees and the organisation. This in turn can help the organisation to modify the employee behaviour and therefore increase in employee productivity. Organisations should take care that the strategies they apply should be relaxed and designed in a manner that will be balanced in expectations and preferences and be proactive in approach.