Current Employee Engagement Levels in Australian Business

A Case for Workplace Counselling

Employees spend about two-thirds of their waking hours on the job. Personal problems, along with increased worker stress and insecurity, evident in Australian workplaces, contribute to absenteeism, low morale, excessive waste and turnover. This can also lead to an increase in lost time injuries. “Presenteeism” is a concept that describes people being present at work but not productive. Current research shows this to be a $33 billion loss to Australian industry.

At a time when companies are looking for every source of competitive advantage, the workforce itself represents the largest reservoir of untapped potential. Roughly speaking, 25% are engaged, 25% are actively disengaged and the other 50% are just doing enough to keep out of trouble. Without going into all the possible reasons, managers claim they are “time poor” and under more pressure than ever before. While this could be an excuse, it seems to be their reality. They claim not to have the time to devote to the varied needs of the work force. In many cases, it is these unmet needs that cause a poor return on the company’s investment in human capital.

Who Uses Workplace Counsellors?

In the US today, many companies have introduced on site counselling programs which contribute to improvements in morale, productivity, safety and quality. Indeed, the programs have been so beneficial that some employees offered to accept a reduction of benefits if that were necessary to keep the program afloat.

Reliable Australian workplace statistics suggest that in an average year 17% of the workforce will experience a crisis event that will interrupt or adversely affect their work. Across the nation a growing number of agencies are providing timely, cost effective, on-site care that gives employees the best chance of managing such events in a positive and productive manner.

What about the Business Results? What is the Potential Return On Investment?

Absenteeism costs your company $789 per employee per year. 78% of absences are due to personal problems equaling a $615 charge to your bottom line. When a resourceful and caring counsellor helps resolve only 10% of those problems, you would save $61.50 per employee annually.

Turnover costs your bottom line 2.5 times per a full-time employee’s salary. A productive $55,000 a year, experienced employee leaving your company costs you $122,500. Department of Labor statistics show that 46% of the people that leave a company voluntarily do so because they don’t feel valued. Counsellors regularly help dissatisfied employees work through their problems, feel valued and remain on the job.

Fraud costs your company an average of $4500 per employee annually (time, tools, raw materials, office supplies, long-distance usage, etc.). Behind the personal financial distress motive of fraud is the existence of an “unsharable need”. Counsellors provide that outlet which allows people to share their problems confidentially when they are in a bind. When a counsellor only prevents 2% of in-house fraud, your savings would be $90 per employee annually.

Although it may not be possible to exactly quantify counsellor impact, positive results will be seen in a number of areas important to every company such as improved employee attitude, morale and teamwork, increased loyalty and commitment to company goals, reduced employee conflict, improved workplace safety, decreased fraud, decreased absenteeism, increased productivity, and reduced turnover.

The Australian Context

Currently counsellors serve in the Armed Forces, schools, some sporting organizations, hospitals and aged care. There is very little corporate involvement, and where this exists, it is mainly concerning industrial relations. From the American experience, it would seem the need for counsellors in corporate Australia is obvious, with 33 billion reasons why.

How does the services of a Workplace Counsellor differ from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

The workplace counsellor is a “hands-on”, personal approach that is relationship building. It is pro-active and takes the initiative to encourage and care for your employees. It offers more services (as listed below) than programs offered by many employers, typically in conjunction with a health insurance plan where professionals attend to one off personal concerns of employees – eg visit from a psychologist.

Conclusion

A recent survey conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce reported the following responses from management and employees:

Management responded that employees wanted

  1. Good wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion

Employees responded that they wanted

  1. Appreciation and recognition
  2. Feeling “in” on things
  3. Help with personal problems

The aim in writing this paper is two-fold:

  • To better care for and make a positive difference in the lives of company employees
  • In so doing, improve company culture, productivity and profitability. If this can be achieved, it would certainly be a WIN / WIN situation

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