Why an Employment Assistance Program makes good business sense Featured

3:14pm EDT May 1, 2012
Why an Employment Assistance Program makes good business sense

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have been a part of the business scene long enough to almost be taken for granted. By now, many people are familiar with the fact that an EAP is an employer-paid program that is best known for helping employees deal with personal problems that are capable of adversely impacting their work performance, health and well being.

Not as well known, however, is how EAPs can also be used by employers to enhance an organization’s performance, culture and business success.

“Creating and maintaining a work environment that ensures quality production is a primary goal of every business,” says Susan Stocker, sales executive for LifeSolutions, a UPMC WorkPartners affiliate. “Effective, professional EAPs address employees’ personal and work-related issues that have the capacity to interfere with both quality and production on the job. They provide ongoing support and direction to employees through coaching in the form of short-term counseling and referral services for employees and members of their household.”

Smart Business spoke with Stocker about why EAPs make good business sense for employers and how implementing one can mitigate the risks to your business.

How do EAPs provide value to businesses?

EAPs can provide value in three ways: By leveraging the value of an organization’s work force, by addressing the cost of doing business and by helping an organization mitigate its business risks. Having a committed, engaged and productive work force is an essential component of any successful business, and because an EAP directly addresses issues that impact the work force, it is an invaluable tool for employers.

How can an EAP leverage an organization’s investment in its work force?

An EAP is a powerful employer tool that focuses on employees and on the issues they are facing that impact the workplace, but those issues may or may not be about the workplace. It is a key component of an employer strategy to increase employee engagement and improve productivity, morale and work place harmony. An EAP can help an employee learn to bounce back from life’s personal and work-related challenges, and, as a result be better able to produce at maximum capacity.

EAPs also develop leadership, management and supervisor competencies through coaching and consultation. EAPs train managers how to best handle difficult employee situations, including substance abuse issues, dealing with aging parents, financial concerns and relationship issues. And, when management is operating effectively, engagement and productivity increase in the work force.

How do EAPs address the cost of doing business?

EAPs function as preventive vehicles. They connect employees with the appropriate resources for whatever issues they are facing, allowing for early identification and intervention, care management and recovery programs. The result is often more efficient use of health care, which can reduce costs.

EAPs also have proven experience in lowering the rate of employee turnover and the costs of replacing those who leave. They provide access to services designed to reduce workplace absences and, when an employee does have to take time off to deal with an issue, to facilitate a safe and timely return to work. EAP services proactively work with employees to manage day-to-day challenges, and that limits disruptions in the work place. This is important because even those issues that are not work related can affect an employee’s focus at work, and increase an employee’s need for more time away.

When an employee goes on a leave of absence, an EAP can be engaged early to determine if there are any issues beyond the stated reason for the leave that need to be addressed. The employee and the EAP can work together from the start to achieve resolution, thereby facilitating optimal outcomes and return to work.

How do EAPs mitigate business risks?

By promoting and supporting drug- and alcohol-free workplace policies and programs, EAPs help to make work places safer. Safety risks, such as the likelihood of workplace violence, are reduced through the use of EAPs by leaders, managers and employees as they address the issue. By maintaining business practices that promote a violence-free workplace, EAPs reduce the likelihood of legal action or liability resulting from violence.

And by supporting disaster and emergency preparedness, EAPs help minimize the disruption after such events. The EAP also works with the organization to manage the aftermath of such an occurrence to ensure that the resilience of employees and the company will return.

How can an organization choose an EAP that is right fit for it?

You want to choose an EAP that can optimize its value to your company’s culture and work force to ensure the achievement of your business objectives. In making your choice, you should weigh an EAP’s experience and expertise in your field, the credentials of the EAP’s staff, the EAP’s level of responsiveness and accessibility, its ability to integrate with other key benefit providers and whether it can tailor a plan design to fit your company’s specific needs.

SUSAN STOCKER is a sales executive for LifeSolutions, part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. Reach her at (412) 647-6623 or stockerse@upmc.edu.

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