Increased use of EAP can boost bottom line |

Increased use of EAP can boost bottom line

Ron Birdsall

An Employee Assistance Program EAP for short is an employer-paid benefit independent of health insurance that provides short term counseling for employees on personal or business related issues, including drug, alcohol and substance abuse.

The program is highly confidential.

It can be used by the employer as a resource to solicit assistance in addressing employee conflict or performance issues.

Today’s EAPs have evolved dramatically from the original one started with IBM approximately 30 years ago.

Typical EAPs offer support in personal and family counseling, critical incident debriefings and employee assessment.

Additional services such as legal support, financial planning and credit-related matters, are often referred by providers to outside specialists to get the employee the appropriate information and support.

Many believe an effective, welldesigned EAP can serve as a significant resource in the areas of wellness, related health programs, performance improvement opportunities and bottom line increases.

It has proven to be extremely effective when used in concert with staff training and wellness programs within the business or work environment.

Until recently there has not been a high level of attention given to the “proactive” qualities an EAP can bring to your business.

Traditionally, the mentality has been reactive therapy – “have them come to us.” This mentality has fostered the negative, “I’m in trouble”, or “I don’t need any help” perception of EAPs.

Upon entering the EAP arena, it was important for me to do some due diligence, and ask lots of questions to understand how EAPs are perceived, what opportunities they present, how they can be more effective and whether their role in the business community should change.

I was somewhat surprised to find it was viewed by many as a negative.

It was perceived in a very limited perspective, one of counseling and therapy.

Many of us are not entirely open to the idea of counseling or therapy.

Thus the challenge is creating an EAP that promotes its true value resolution, reduction of stress, and increased personal productivity and changes the perception of the program.

This is not to imply for a second that people don’t use or benefit from their EAP programs.

To the contrary, literally thousands of employees benefit greatly from the EAP offered to them each year.

The suggestion is employers can benefit significantly with increased usage of the EAP they provide.

If utilization is low (2-7 percent range) questions may come up in the mind of the employer.

Questions such as: “If they’re not going to use it, why pay for it?” “Is the cost worth the benefit?” “How is it benefiting the company?” Given the current economic situation, the competition for market share, and an ever-increasing level of performance expectations of employees, the EAP becomes more of a critical element of your benefit program.

These questions become even more critical and require an evaluation and merits of an existing EAP program.

These current economic situations, business cutbacks, and the war situation as well as every day life create stress and anxiety.

Employers experience the emotional impact of these events via their employees.

It has been shown that stress costs American businesses $200 billion a year in absenteeism, lower productivity, raising health and workers compensation costs.

Staff reductions and cuts in the budgets for staff development also increase stress and ultimately affect the bottom line Working with a quality EAP company, one that offers support and resources to specifically address the core cause of low productivity and stress, as well as providing training resources becomes invaluable.

There must be a “partnering” with your EAP provider, working in concert to identify and address circumstances impacting bottom-line profitability.

The “partnering,” or integration element, is essential.

Being in a position to assist and identify specific areas that are either impacting the company or the employees (we can be certain if something is affecting the employees it impacts the company) require EAP involvement, one that will contribute significantly to improving performance and the workplace environment.

At Dynamic Resource Group, Inc., for instance, our focus is to provide the tools and support that enhance the workplace environment (thus increased productivity) and promote resources for healthier and more productive personal lives.

We provide the resources to your employee that allows them to address concerns can be a much-appreciated resource.

We have interfaced with many local agencies in order to be able to refer or resource any concerns brought to us by an employer or an employee.

We have expanded the traditional scope of an EAP, being proactive, not reactive, providing the expertise and resources resulting in increased utilization and becoming an important resource to ownership and the employees.

The standard EAP services typically include:

* Personal Resources: conflict resolution, couples counseling, reducing family stress, legal and financial resources and more.

* Parenting Support: single parent challenges, step-parenting issues (financial support), divorce and more.

* Career and Vocational: resolution of stress and conflict, enhancing employee performance, retreats (strengthen synergy and employee relationships to achieve business goals and to promote teams).

We have sought to widen these services by providing reduced fees for mortgages, real estate commissions, banking services (free checking, on-line banking), sales training, resources to address IRS concerns, exercise participation discounts and others.

In the past, EAPs have been available primarily to large employer groups.

Our philosophy is to make it available to small business owners as well as large employer companies.

There are significant differences in EAP programs and offering.

Know too, that many EAPs are a national entity, contracting with local psychologists and counselors to provide the necessary counseling services contracted with clients in the area.

Many of these companies have excellent reputations and have recognized professionals providing service, however from a broader perspective, the opportunity to utilize the resource as an integrated business partner is difficult.

However, providing the essential counseling support, they are excellent.

Charges for EAPs across the country and locally can range from $1.50 per employee per month to a rate of $4 per employee per month.

Those EAP companies that are more integrated with corporate management and overall policy development and training have higher costs.

Often times additional training will be negotiated on an “as needed” basis.

Performance assessment costs for the employer, typically range in the $325- $425 per assessment.

Sometimes, they will be negotiated and included in the contract.

In determining the appropriateness of an EAP for your organization, gather information, sit down with an EAP provider and determine how they may contribute to your company.

Choose the one that has the resources to provide the results you are seeking.

An effective EAP can be a valuable resource for your business and your employees.

Make it work for you.

Ron Birdsall is vice president of marketing and operations at Reno-based Dynamic Resource Group Inc., which provides Employee Assistance Programs and related services.