Employee Assistance Programmes Are Beneficial and Often Underutilised

I recently completed a client engagement with a manufacturer where the leaders of the company truly value the hard work, dedication and commitment of the entire workforce. The HR team is first class, and in all our conversations, it was obvious that the company is focused on doing the right things for the right reasons and not just concerned with what they are legally obligated to do.

The reciprocity of the employees to the company is evident as well. There are many long term employees in this non-union shop who are there because they want to be there. The general manager is largely responsible for the goodwill that exists at this company. As part of a company-wide training initiative, we discovered an opportunity for improvement, that I’d like to share with you.

The company offers an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to its employees; the only problem is that most managers and supervisors are unclear as to what the EAP does, when it can be utilised, and by whom. We realised that the programme is underutilised and the ROI is not being maximised.

The first function of an EAP is to help the employee and their families navigate life’s challenges.

Some people are extremely resourceful and are able to navigate their way through simple and complex problems with ease. Many people in HR possess this skill set as they are called upon every day to solve problems for the company quickly and accurately. However, not everyone has this skill set and need more guidance and information to help solve life’s problems.

This is the reason many companies contract with Employee Assistance Programmes to help employees cope with life’s challenges. Not just the critical challenges but the everyday challenges that affect a persons’ life.

It’s hard to be fully present in your job if you are worried that your elderly mother is going to fall down the stairs. Also, managers and supervisors care about their employees, but they may not be able to directly help their employees with their immediate concerns because they are not able to do so. These situations should be referred to the EAP.

We adjusted the training content to include information about the EAP and employees were very appreciative to receive this information. Some people used the EAP to locate quality daycare for their children. Some families were having trouble dealing with aging parents and the EAP was able to put them in touch with resources to help ease that burden. Some families had children with learning difficulties and needed help determining the best way to help their children. The list goes on, and it is important to note that the need was always there and so was the EAP, but the two weren’t connecting.

Another revelation was that managers and supervisors were not aware that that they could contact the EAP for an at risk employee. Emphasise to managers and supervisors that they can contact the EAP and it’s easier to empower employees to seek help on their own if you give them a roadmap. By calling the EAP on the employee’s behalf, you can let the employee know what to expect ahead of time and realise that there are resources available to them. It is important to note that the employee does need to call the EAP directly themselves. If the employee chooses not to do that, there is little the manager or supervisor can do after that point. Start an awareness campaign and set a goal to increase usage of the benefit. All managers and supervisors should be intimately familiar with the EAP and know when to make a referral.

If you do not currently offer an EAP to employees, consider researching the benefits and offering this programme as part of your benefits package.

If you are a company who offers an EAP to employees, take the time necessary to make everyone aware how an EAP can assist your employees.

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The benefits outweigh the costs when the program is actively utilised; employees and the company both realise the benefits. The company will benefit by increased employee satisfaction and a more productive workforce. It’s all about the bottom line.

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