Choosing from array of EAPs complicated task (Web sight)

Employers need to weigh several factors before final selection
By Ann Macaulay
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/10/2007

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a confidential resource that can help employees solve a variety of personal and work-related problems, including substance abuse, bankruptcy, divorce, conflict with co-workers, stress and burnout. There are a wide range of EAPs available, with an equally wide array of services, so deciding on one plan that suits an organization can be a complicated process. Like all business decisions, an employer should consider several factors before deciding on an EAP, such as value, accessibility and the types of services employees require.

Getting the word out

“An HR manager’s guide to employee assistance programs” on the Wall Street Journal’s executive career site looks at how to make the right choice of an EAP vendor. Tips include knowing what the employer wants, performing due diligence, checking references and evaluating the total package. Qualities to consider when looking at EAP packages include convenience, communication, comfort, creativity and confidentiality. “Quality EAPs save the costs of recruiting, rehiring and retraining as well as reduce workers’ comp claims and health benefit utilization,” says the article. “Yet employers won’t reap these benefits if employees shun the program. The effectiveness with which the vendor promotes the EAP is an essential factor to consider. Look for newsletters aimed at employees and supervisors, posters, articles for company newsletters and e-promotional materials.”

Blended model a recipe for success

This Risk & Insurance website article, “A blended EAP is best,” describes JPMorgan Chase’s employee assistance program as “state-of-the-art” in two ways — it’s “a pure example of a ‘mixed’ model blending external and internal counselors” and “it has woven together EAP services with disability management.” The firm has both internal EAP counsellors and an external vendor with a network of employee assistance counsellors. The article quotes Paul Pendler, who runs the organization’s disability unit within the internal EAP, which is part of the human resources department. He “believes that internal control of disability-related services is more likely to yield favourable results than outsourcing. In his opinion, the quality of commitment by the employer is higher. For instance, he argues internally run EAPs will be more attuned to addressing the needs of the whole worker and to looking at employee productivity more broadly.”

EAP buyer's guide

The Employee Assistance Professionals Association in Arlington, Va., lays out what HR should look for in The EAP Buyer’s Guide. This 10-page document discusses the critical components of what to look for in an EAP, such as 24-hour crisis telephone response, substance abuse expertise, confidential assessment and counselling services and guaranteed confidential record keeping. It discusses EAP pricing issues, types of EAPs to avoid and also offers a list of questions to ask, including: Is there a guarantee of privacy? How does the EAP measure client satisfaction? Does the EAP provide on-site service delivery?

Evaluation key to plan design

This eight-page Washington Business Group on Health document looks at making choices in EAP benefit design. It discusses EAP goals and how an EAP fits into the workplace, then looks at the type of model or approach that will work best for an organization. It examines three basic EAPs: medical models, social work/human resources models and risk management models. It also looks at the benefits of internal, external and mixed EAPs and how to choose the best type for an organization. There are also examples of performance measures used by employers, including access, effectiveness, utilization and satisfaction. In the section “Evaluating the EAP’s effectiveness,” it says, “Proactive steps to monitor and evaluate the EAP’s performance are essential to successful employer management of its EAP, whether internal or external,” and it advises employers evaluate no more than three or four significant areas of performance.

EAP questions and answers

Barbara Butler & Associates Inc., a Toronto consulting firm, provides the basics of the various EAPs available and gives a brief Q&A in “Employee Assistance Programs.” It looks at various types of EAPs, including fixed-fee contracts, consortia and peer-based programs, and what each one provides. There’s also a chart that gives the features and benefits for the various interest groups involved — employees, employers, unions and society.

Ann Macaulay is a freelance editor and regular contributor to Canadian HR Reporter. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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