A comparative study on the effectiveness of counsellor training programmes for managers
Workplace counseling has been identified as an effective tool for facilitating increased productivity and enhancing efficiency (Franklin, 2003). Productivity and efficiency among the employees are elicited when the organization takes care of their welfare. The managers are often at the forefront in motivating employees and in creating an environment that engenders productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Middle level managers are especially instrumental in creating an environment that nurtures employees well being and thus motivates them to produce more efficiently in the workplace. A healthy and high performing workplace also provides quality service and contributes to overall profits (Carroll, 2001). The role of middle level management is crucial in creating an ambience that facilitates an employee's emotional and psychological well being. This helps the employees to deal with workplace stress which has been increasing at a rapid pace. The middle level managers play an instrumental role in determining how employees respond to the challenges posed by the work environment. Training middle level managers is therefore essential in effective management of the human resources. This study focuses on how to train middle level managers in counseling skills. It is motivated by the fact that effective managers create a feedback loop to top management so that the organization can benefit from the insights gained through employee counseling. This helps them to deal with the challenging situations that affect their productivity at work. Effective counseling skills' training embeds counseling and effective communication skills into management development. The study is also motivated by the fact that effective use of counseling skills helps the managers to address real organizational issues as well as personal issues that have negative impact on the efficiency and productivity of employees. Training managers in counseling skills is fairly recent ill Kenya. Indeed it was introduced in 2002 by the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) which has recently changed its name to the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM). A close collaboration with the Kenya Institute of Professional Counselling helped IHRM to introduce courses in counseling skills for managers. These management courses were intended to bridge the gap between the cognitive managerial skills that are learnt at Business Schools in Universities and the affective skills that are now recognized as necessary in addressing the employee's emotional and psychological needs in the workplace, which interfere with work and affect their performance. Middle level managers work closely with employees, many of whom spend about a quarter of their lives at work, whose key relationships are part of their work and for whom their personal identity is bound up with their job and have therefore integrated their personal and professional lives to a great extent. O'Leary (2002) and Cartwright (2004) observed that: one in five employees suffers from mental illness due to stress at work. Some 90 million working days are lost each year as a result of the employee's illness. Over half of the employees experience emotional problems that contribute to their absenteeism from work and that approximately 20 percent of employee's abuse alcohol in an effort to deal with stress related challenges at the workplace. All these aspects contribute to poor performance at work. The need for training middle level managers in counseling skills has therefore been recognized as a remedy to such problems at the workplace (Bergh, 2003). Kenya Institute of Professional Counselling (KIPC) and Institute Human Resource Management (IHRM) have been at the forefront in providing counselling skills training for managers with a view to helping the employees increase their productivity and efficiency by managing their personal problem situations more effectively and thus improving their work performance. The positive outcomes of such trainings have been witnessed among organizations where managers have been trained by KIPC in such countries as Uganda, Ghana and Southern Sudan. In Uganda and Ghana, KIPC has trained middle level healthcare managers in counselling skills. In Southern Sudan KIPC has trained Catholic priests and Catechists in counseling skills for trauma management. In Kenya KIPC has trained heads of departments in many schools with a view to providing them with the counseling skills necessary to help students cope with their academic work. Through IHRM - KIPC has trained many middle level managers on short courses in counseling skills for managers. Organizations are gradually recognizing that a "wh olen es s" approach needs to be adopted towards employees. This implies that their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being are an integral part which managers need to work with in totality to enhance productivity.