Mining EAP data uncovers valuable info

Reports help spot trends, direct resources

More employers, both large and small, view an employee assistance program (EAP) as a key element in organizational planning at many levels. They’re looking at quarterly, semi-annual or annual reports from the EAP provider and uncovering valuable information on workforce demographics, social trends, potential concerns and hidden risks.

More importantly, companies are using this information to target health and wellness programs to better support employees and gain the best return for health and wellness investment.

These reports contain non-identifying statistical information — no data compromises the strict confidentiality guidelines to which all EAPs must adhere. The information can provide management with good insight into trends or weaknesses affecting their organization.

For example, user demographics indicate who’s accessing the program — employees, family members, managers or retirees. Are they full time or part time? What language do they speak? Where are they located?

For larger companies, data can be further broken down to show which divisions these individuals are with, illustrating the kind of assistance the various segments of the workforce are seeking.

Reports can also relate how employees heard about the EAP services — which would indicate whether or not an organization is successfully communicating the service. Most reports state what percentage of employees asked for in-person counselling as opposed to telephone counselling and how many requested educational materials, referrals to an external advisor or consultations with EAP subject-matter experts.

Organizations can also see why people are accessing the EAP. Is it because of stress? Relationship issues? Parenting concerns? Addiction problems? Financial concerns? Legal problems? Elder-care issues?

Again, this information can be broken down into subcategories. A breakdown of addiction data can indicate whether the requests involve alcohol, drugs, gaming or other problem. This can be a real eye-opener for companies by revealing issues affecting employees’ productivity and health.

Other data concerns outcomes. This is important because the actual issue given by a person when he calls an EAP line may not be the true issue. For example, individuals may access EAP because they feel stressed but the root cause of that stress might actually be financial, marital or work-related.

Armed with this information, companies can develop and implement targeted and preventable strategies, programs and supports. Even more importantly, this data can be an integral part of a company-wide puzzle.

For example, an organization might be experiencing rising medication costs and short-term disability rates that are costing money and time and negatively affecting productivity and customer service.

Looking at prescription drug usage, an organization might discover a large proportion of the drug costs are due to an increasing demand for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. Then short-term disability leave data reveals most people cited depression as the reason for their leave. Finally, the EAP utilization reports show a high percentage of calls involve stress, depression and anxiety.

With a clear picture of what’s happening, a company knows where it needs to invest wellness dollars.

Not only can companies adjust corporate strategies and programs to address issues before they become critical, they can also target certain areas of business that are facing particular issues.

EAP reports could show a sales force is suffering high levels of stress, warehouse staff are experiencing more workplace conflicts and an administrative team is seeking more assistance with child- and elder-care issues.

And, finally, usage reports measure the success of corporate programs. Organizations with an expensive health and wellness program need to know if the campaign is effective. Quarterly EAP reports can provide that proof. If they show a dramatic spike in telephone and online usage in those specific areas, the campaign is working and the company is getting a great return on its investment.

And if the reports show a corresponding drop in the need for related services after the campaign, such as counselling for depression, that’s another sign the campaign was a success.

Shamial Sheikh is the Markham, Ont.-based director of business development for EAP and organizational wellness at Ceridian Canada, a provider of HR solutions including EAP and health and productivity services. He can be reached at (905) 947-7471.

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