Employers not sure about value of EAPs: Survey

Only one-third using utilization data to support strategic goals

Canadian employers face difficulty evaluating the impact of employee assistance programs (EAPs), according to an Aon Hewitt survey of more than 130 organizations.

Many employers are unsure of how an EAP advances their overall organizational objectives.

While more than 90 per cent of respondents have an EAP in place, only one-quarter believe these programs to be an inseparable part of their comprehensive strategy.

And nearly 40 per cent said the EAPs are just part of a standard benefits offer, while 37 per cent said these programs are not fully integrated with people/risk strategies, found the survey.

“Clearly, there are opportunities for organizations to better integrate health programs, including EAP, into their overall health and benefits offering,” said Michael Kennedy, vice-president, national leader of health and wellness strategies at Aon Hewitt.

“Employers see some programs as more strategic and others less so. Many, however, are also struggling with how to effectively evaluate EAPs and don’t see the value of integrating these programs into overall people strategies because they don’t know how to measure their effectiveness.”

While 89 per cent of employers review utilization data at least annually and more than one-half said they try to determine value for money spent, 84 per cent are either not at all confident or only moderately confident in their ability to determine the value of EAPs to their organization.

Further, only 40 per cent are benchmarking program experience against that of other organizations, and only 35 per cent are applying utilization data to support strategic organizational goals, found the survey.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said EAPs have a positive influence on employee/family health and well-being; a smaller majority said the programs improve employee productivity (53 per cent) and reduce indirect costs such as absenteeism (61 per cent) and presenteeism (present at work, but not productive).

Almost one-half (45 per cent) said EAPs reduce direct costs such as use of health benefit plans while 36 per cent said they increase employee engagement and 30 per cent said EAPs enhance business results.

“Plan sponsors were quite clear,” said George Shipley, vice-president and Canadian national commercial leader, health and benefits, Aon Hewitt. “Over 80 per cent wanted their EAP provider to offer counselling, but only 13 per cent wanted their provider to offer wellness solutions such as fitness, nutrition or naturopathic. The fact that many EAPs offer these resources may lead to misalignment with plan sponsor priorities. Plan sponsors can reduce this risk by establishing priorities and ensuring all vendors are aligned with them.”

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