Planning to appoint a confidential advisor in your organisation? Here are a few pointers

Stress, burnout and other psychosocial conditions are a growing problem in companies. A confidential advisor can often help prevent or quickly address those risks. Use these five questions to help you appoint a confidential advisor in your organisation.

Absenteeism reached a new peak in Belgium in 2014 and has been rising for twelve years in a row. Stress and burnout in particular are a growing problem in all professions. But that’s not all: the number of reported incidents of harassment at work is also increasing year after year. Not to mention the number of employees harbouring suicidal thoughts. These are all areas where the confidential advisor can make a difference. Verina Servranckx, prevention expert on psychosocial risks at Mensura, has a few pointers to help you select the right person.

1. In which cases can you involve the confidential advisor?

  • The confidential advisor is the first point of contact for employees experiencing a psychosocial problem at work: stress and burnout, bullying, aggression and sexual harassment, trauma and suicide, alcohol and drugs...
  • He or she advises and supports the employee, and may also mediate when requested to do so by the employee. 

2. What is the added value of having a confidential advisor?

  • For employees, a confidential advisor is often far more approachable than a supervisor. Problems come to light faster, do not escalate and get resolved more rapidly. An employee facing problems will often just need a nice long chat to come to the solution himself or herself.
  • Since the confidential advisor has a bird’s eye view of the psychosocial well-being in the workplace, if several workers come to him or her with the same complaint, this may point to a deeper issue. The confidential advisor can signal this to the prevention advisor, who will in turn propose measures to the employer.

3. How do you select the right confidential advisor?

The best confidential advisors are employees:

  • whom colleagues have already gone to before they officially had that role;
  • with a sense of responsibility, and a healthy dose of understanding and empathy;
  • who are part of the workforce and are therefore easily approachable.

Tip: draft and advertise internally the role of confidential advisor, as this ensures people are already aware of the function you create in your organisation.

4. How do you make sure the confidential advisor can fulfill his or her role effectively?

  • Give the confidential advisor confidence in his or her capabilities by providing him/her with intensive training so that he or she is well prepared for the job.
  • Give the confidential advisor a proper remit: the time to dedicate to others by relieving him or her of some of his/her job responsibilities and the place to invite workers over for confidential chats.
  • Ensure that the confidential advisor is well known in your organisation: post his/her contact details on the bulletin board or on the intranet. And introduce him or her whenever large meetings are held.

5. How can the external service help you with this?

  • The external service can screen your candidate confidential advisors to see if they are suitable.
  • The external prevention advisor can advise your confidential advisors should they request assistance.
  • The external service can train your confidential advisors: Mensura offers a high-quality and recently overhauled training for confidential advisors.
    • During the five-day basic training, candidates receive all the theoretical and practical skills they need to start their functions well prepared.
    • During the annual refresher course for supervision, we refine those skills and share experiences and new insights.

Naturally, the confidential advisor is not the only person in the organisation who can offer a listening ear to troubled employees. Ideally, supervisors should also be trained to spot the signs of mental health issues at an early stage, steer a confidential chat and refer employees to professional help if necessary.

Detailed procedures should lay down specific scenarios and assign responsibilities so that everyone knows what to do when a psycosocial crisis occurs.

More info on the courses:

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