The role of the ‘Employee Champion’ in Stress Management.

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Ulrich and Brockbank (2005) delineate five key roles for the Human Resource Expert;

  1. Employee Advocate
  2. Human Capital Developer
  3. Strategic Partner
  4. Functional Expert
  5. HR Leader

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My concern for this particular article is the role of Employee Advocate, otherwise referred to as Employee Champion. This in its most basic form entails keeping open communication channels with employees, ensuring that they have their say in matters that affect them, and maintaining their that well-being in the organisation, be it physical or mental.Quite recently the importance of this role was brought back to the focus of my attention, when I confronted with a situation that needed me to be just that.

Whilst lawyers deal with the law, mathematicians with numbers, and cashiers with money, the Human Resource practitioners resources exist in the realm of humanity. Human beings are amazing and quite frankly any organisations biggest resource but they are also emotional, they think, they feel, and they make assessments.  Another difference is that unlike other organisational resources such as machinery and buildings, they leave and when they return sometimes it is with stressors from the outside. However we still need them to perform, to produce, to be motivated, to be present and to even put in discretionary effort!

The question then stands how do we reconcile these 2 truths, where we are dealing with thinking beings who come pre-loaded with various predicaments, and ensuring that these people produce their best work?

As employee advocates one of the ways in which these two truths can be reconciled is through stress management. Stress management refers to the wide spectrum of techniques aimed at controlling a person’s levels of stress, especially chronic stress which is quite common in the workplace. This then aids to improve the everyday functioning of the individual. Apart from the humanistic benefits, this has also been found to have strategic benefits for the organization such as;

  1. Improved earnings, productivity and profitability
    Psychological well-being enables people to work harder and better. This in turn increases productivity  which then has a positive impact will be seen on the bottom line.
  2. Improved motivation
    Greater involvement in employee well being leads to higher morale, improved retention rates, reduced absenteeism, readier acceptance of change, and identification with the organisation beyond the confines of the job.
  3.  Employer of Choice
    Employees communicate information about the organization’s Human Resource systems and procedures to their various social groups. Think about all the organizations that you think are “bad employers” where did you get that information from? Having a stress management  system would serve to bring positive public recognition and label the organisation an ’employer of choice’ which serves to attract high end human resource talent.

 

The following are a few practical stress management techniques that can be utilized in the workplace;

  1. Listen!- As the role of human resource professionals has become more strategic, there is less and less time to be operational and perform tasks such as listening to employees. It is important to remember that simply sharing one’s thoughts and feelings with another person can help reduce stress. Talking over a problem with someone who is both supportive and empathetic can be a great way to let off steam and help one become calm and focused. You don’t have to fix the other person’s problems; you just have to be a good listener, in a calm, face-to-face setting.
  2. Encourage breaks- Deadlines and demands usually lead to hours of unrelenting physical and mental stress. This is counter-productive. The human brain like the body needs a break. Just five minutes will do the trick. So instead of asking where your employees are when they are missing from their desks, recognize the fact that a short break can actually aid them in being more productive.
  3. Prioritize and organize- In today’s information age, everything has a deadline of yesterday! This overwhelms people into stress-stupors filled with inaction and indecision over what to do first. Creating a balanced schedule dependent on urgency, importance and duration can aid to regain in the chaos. Another helpful tip would be into break projects into small steps as opposed to attempting to do it as a whole.
  4. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable – It is important for people to understand that certain things at work are beyond their control especially the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, it would be more useful to concentrate on things in one’s own realm of control such as the way you choose to react to problems. Watch Karen Kane’s Video on Dealing with Difficult People Effectively.

5. Other steps that can be taken to reduce stress in the workplace include;

  • Sharing information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures by giving them opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs.
  • Promoting an “entrepreneurial” work climate that gives employees more control over their work.
  • Establishing workplace policies and regulations that apply to all employees regardless of stature.

 

The above is in no way an exhaustive list of stress management techniques that can be applied in the workplace. Furthermore, not all of these can be applied in all work contexts. This article serves remind and highlight, the unique nature of human beings as an organizational resource and the role professionals such as H.R practitioners ought to take in their management.