Employee Assistance Programme
Traditional approaches to marketing Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services have always been based around the crisis line, support when you are broken, etc. This inevitably led to complications around communicating the service and using it effectively: nobody wants to be exposed as needing support or counselling.
As a result of such negative connotations, the more enlightened EAP suppliers are now marketing their services as staff support services. Calling in to get the time for a Number 13 bus may be one step too far, but calling about a new car that has repeatedly broken down or what injections are needed for a trip abroad are both examples which de-stigmatise the service.
What about stress?
With many reported stress cases being non-clinical, the cultural dimension of an EAP should not be overlooked. Repeated sick notes from GPs are easy to come by and with interpersonal conflict and over-promotion (examples of management issues rather than clinical issues), a positive, motivated workforce which communicates and engages with management will be enhanced by these services. Specific examples of this are the stress and work-life balance self-assessment tools, signposting the employee to the organisation's policies and procedures should conflict start.
In some cases, short-term absence denotes a lack of commitment to the organisation, illustrating that some employees attend but are demotivated and non-productive, and add little value to the organization. In these cases, engaging with them, and valuing their contribution and attendance, can be remedied with self-assessment tools. For others with entitlement mentality or absence indifference, rigorous enforcement of actions relating to absence policy triggers is essential.
Already have an EAP?
If you already have an EAP in place, you should be looking at getting usage rates on the telephone service from 8-15% of all employees and with 30-40% onward referred to face-to-face counselling.
As a cautionary note however, having an EAP or counselling service is no longer deemed to be enough by itself. As an employer, you will need to be proactive about getting staff to use the service and this is best achieved by whoever takes absence notification calls.
Line management training or outsourcing to the new breed of absence management services would be the best way to ensure utilisation. After all, with a utilisation rate of 5-10%, the organisation is paying 100% of the cost of a service that is not relevant to 90-95% of its staff! And that is the key message of the new approach: it is relevant to everyone.
In short, the days of the problem-reactive EAP are over and crisis-focused services will have to adapt or disappear. And with costs declining, almost on a monthly basis, investing in employee engagement and health has never been so affordable.