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HR Magazine, October 2000: Setting Up A Program

By Rudy M. Yandrick  10/1/2000

HR Magazine, October 2000

Vol. 45, No. 10

Workplace consultants recommend the following steps for employees seeking to set up a peer-to-peer program.

  • Determine whether the peers’ role is to be one of intervention and referral to professional resources or an extension of the resources by assuming a paraprofessional role.

  • Modify company and union policies to ensure that employees are empowered to make peer interventions.

  • Allow employees to select the co-workers who will become peer counselors. In self-managed teams, this can be instituted as a formal team role and responsibility. At the transportation company cited in the article, “peer team leaders are elected by their fellow counselors,” says Ted Miller, a research scientist for Landover, Md.-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. “You can have a person working in the underbelly of the organization—someone with familiarity and credibility with the program—put in charge of policing an entire region.”

  • Write a charter for the program, specifying the mission, limitations of the peer counselors’ role and nomination process for the position.

  • Develop performance criteria for the program and periodically evaluate the outcomes, as Weyerhaeuser and the transportation company have done.

  • As a vehicle for improving the company’s culture, institute a policy and procedure for peer counselors to report “observation data” on operational and environmental issues to the company leadership.

  • Coordinate the peer-to-peer program’s efforts with that of the company or union employee assistance program.

  • Allow counselors time for formal training on topics including addictions, active listening, conflict resolution, problem solving, working with managers and program limitations. This could include a full-day class, monthly skill-building meetings and a one-day annual conference to regenerate their enthusiasm.

  • Use a third-party resource to implement the program, which will both provide staff oversight and assuage any concerns about manipulation by management. Training and staff are the two primary costs for a peer program, which is usually inexpensive to operate.

  • Encourage the formation of AA-style groups for support of people in recovery.

—Rudy Yandrick

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