Sideline assistance Featured

8:00pm EDT May 29, 2003
Did you know that the cost of replacing an employee is 70 percent to 200 percent of that employee's annual salary?

As U.S. business managers struggle to lead employees and deliver results in an uncertain economy, many are turning to experienced behavioral health professionals for guidance on how to lead employees through challenging times.

Businesses are wary about the economic recovery, and many are delaying serious hiring and reducing staffing levels. Managers don't always have the time to hunt down and then adopt best practices for their workplace.

The net effect is to further increase pressure on managing teams -- not just demanding more from stressed employees.

Mental health counselors hear about workplace stress every day from employees accessing their companies' Employee Assistance Program. These efforts may be enhanced with the help of professional coaches, who encourage managerial behavior that may help alleviate employees' job stress.

CIGNA Behavioral Health is one company that offers employers access to independent coaches for individual or group meetings with managers. The program includes periodic coach-manager meetings to review progress against specific goals. It's a tool for managers to anticipate and resolve employee productivity problems before they become a serious threat to business.

Through face-to-face or telephonic options, coaching programs assist managers and provide additional guidance and motivation to keep employees focused and productive. These types of programs focus on performance, not personnel issues; on action, not feelings; and on results, not excuses.

Coaches work with managers to help identify specific coaching goals and expected business results, then complete a thorough assessment. After that, active coaching includes problem solving, modeling, didactic instruction and goal setting. Ongoing maintenance and support is also offered.

Although coaching isn't the same as behavioral health counseling, coaches should have qualifications and credentials, which ensure that professionals with direct experience or specialized training in coaching deliver services, and that each coach has the skill set needed to provide real value, not just cheering from the sidelines.

Is the investment worth it? Consider the fact that 100 executives from companies which utilized professional coaching claimed an ROI of six times the cost of coaching. Most wanted help on how to better engage employees as team members, focusing employees on narrower, more achievable results. Others wanted to resolve unique workplace cultural conflicts and barriers to success.

In a world where it's more difficult and expensive than ever to recruit and keep the best employees, coaching programs can help ensure key personnel remain content, challenged and contributing members of the team. Gregory C. Donnelly ( is vice president, sales manager, sales division of Cigna HealthCare. CIGNA HealthCare is one of the nation's leading providers of health-benefit programs, with managed care networks serving 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CIGNA HealthCare provides medical coverage through managed care and indemnity programs to more than 13.3 million people, including more than 250,000 in major Ohio markets. Reach Donnelly at (216) 642-2573.