Corporate world is fragile. Employees are always insecure about their future. Will I be laid off? Should I search for another job? Or strive harder to secure the current job?” Will I get another job in this situation? These are mind boggling questions to any typical bottom and middle level employees.

Once some unpleasant news comes out about the state of affairs in the organisation, the deeply suppressed insecure feelings begin to reflect in the attitude and behaviour of employees. Office politics hit all time high. Gossip and rumours become rampant. Information flow is impeded and efforts flow in wrong directions. Now what can HR personnel and managers do in this kind of a situation? How can they boost the morale of the employees, cut down attrition and maintain productivity?

Employee counselling is a suitable solution. It is a service offered to employees, where their fears and problems are addresses. Any issue coming in the way of an employee's performance, be it related to health, personal life or workplace, is identified, and support is provided to deal with it. It involves listening, understanding, empathising, consoling, counselling, guiding, sharing and problem solving.

Employee counselling is multi faceted and involves more than one session. During the sessions, employees can ask questions, discuss their ambitions, seek information or just blurt out their problems.

It is in these sessions, employees can understand the status of the organisation, where it is heading and its future goals. They get an opportunity to analyse to what extent the organisation can support them.

They can discuss whether altering their goals is suitable to their career and helpful to the organisation. They can explore the opportunities from realigning their goals to match those of the organisation.These sessions expose an individual employee's strengths, and weaknesses. They throw light on how one can gain a certain set of skills. They help in dealing with difficult co-workers, clients and superiors. Employees are provided support to come out with ways to prevent and overcome stress and related problems. They learn to improve work relations. They can even seek assistance to deal with personal problems.

On the other hand, employers can use these sessions to regain their influence on the employees and put them back on track. Through these session they can pacify their fears, inform them how the organisation plans to deal with difficult times and what the future of employees could be like. They can communicate their expectations and inform about the benefits employee could get in return.

Another advantage of employee counselling sessions is that it serves as a platform to identify the shortcomings of the management. During these sessions, the management can get an insight into perspectives, expectations, fears and work styles of employees. They can find out whether they are providing the required resources to employees and maintaining a good environment, necessary to deliver duties properly.

The services offered through counselling sessions help in building good employee-employer relationship. They are a means to improve the competence and motivate the employees to perform better. They help in building a healthy work atmosphere. But to reap the benefits of the session, the management should take all the care in choosing the counsellors.

A good employee counsellor must have necessary traits such as empathy, consideration and have no prejudice. He must be a patient listener. Not all employees would be open to the idea of discussing their problems with others. So, the counsellor should focus on building a comfort zone with the employee. He should respect the employees' perspective and not overwhelm him with advice.

The most important aspect of employee counselling is maintaining confidentiality. The counsellor should not discuss about any employee's issues with others.

Counselling is not an additional service but is an integral part of human resource management. So, it should be assimilated into activities right from induction and training.

Success of an organisation depends on its work force. Hence, ensuring physical, mental and emotional well being of employees is an inevitable task. Realising this, many organisations are hiring professionals for the work. Some are even setting up separate department to handle the task.

Nitya Sai Soumya