Learning & Development

Should L&D Professionals Be Workplace Counselors?

Due to rising levels of stress, depression, and employee disengagement in the workplace, experts are recommending that the roles of the L&D professional and workplace counselor be combined.1 But is this sage advice? Continue reading to learn more. 

What Is Workplace Counseling?

A workplace counselor typically serves as a mentor or coach and helps an employee navigate through stressful or difficult situations in the workplace. Usually, an employee requests the help and is not solicited by the counseling entity. The main agenda of counseling sessions is to help employees find their own solutions to their problems by providing a nonjudgmental, empathic, and accessible environment.
Effective workplace counselors recognize when an employee should consult a licensed therapist or psychologist, however. And typically, L&D professionals can easily fill the role of the workplace counselor because they have access to employees’ records but are not their bosses or colleagues.

Benefits of Workplace Counseling

Here are some of the many benefits of workplace counseling for employees and employers.

  • Gain a safe space to talk about their problems at work.
  • Learn to understand themselves and those around them better.
  • Acquire and improve their coping and stress-management skills.
  • Discover solutions to their own problems.
  • Obtain a more positive and empathetic perspective.
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  • Experience higher employee performance and engagement.
  • Decrease presenteeism, absenteeism, and turnover rates.
  • Treat their employees with empathy and respect in difficult situations.
  • Acquire a reputation as providing a fair and good place to work.
  • Mitigate conflicts, as well as conduct and personnel issues.

Is There Time?

Of course, time is a potential drawback—does the L&D professional have adequate time to be available on short notice to provide initial and follow-up counseling?

How to Be a Successful Workplace Counselor as an L&D Professional

To be a successful workplace counselor as an L&D professional, it’s imperative that you first create an environment conducive to inclusion and anonymity. Employees from across your organization should feel as if they can come to you at any time without fear of judgment or repercussions.
Familiarize yourself with basic counseling skills, but do not expect to serve as a licensed therapist or psychologist. And hone your emotional intelligence skills as much as you can so that you can empathize with and help the employees who come to you.
Realize that each employee is different and will have different triggers for his or her stress, anxiety, etc. For instance, while an employee may have always had a complicated relationship with his or her boss, perhaps the stress is being exacerbated at work because of the recent death of a loved one or because the employee is undergoing a messy divorce. Keep an open mind and really get to know the source of the individual issue when you’re counseling your employees.
In addition, remind your employees of their broader career and learning goals, when appropriate, to keep them focused on attaining goals and achievements. And whenever possible, create videos and other learning content that employees can access when they’re undergoing difficult situations.
And don’t forget to promote that you’re available for counseling, too.
As an L&D professional, be sure to consider the many benefits of becoming a workplace counselor..

  1. People Matters. The Roles of L&D Professional and Workplace Counselor Must be Combined. Accessed 4/6/2018.