More and more companies these days are turning toward Employee Assistance Plans or EAPs to help them further support their staff. The idea that an employee’s personal problems are not the employer’s concern is slowly fading away as companies are learning that their people work better when they don’t have personal issues looming over their heads. In many cases, particularly in the case of drug and alcohol addiction, it is far more cost effective for an employer to provide resources to their struggling employee than to let them go from the company.
There are many extra expenses associated with firing and rehiring new staff. There are also greater chances of moral issues in the workplace if an employer simply allows a staff member to continue struggling with their issue. In the end, this leads to behavior such as frequent call outs and reduced productivity. Moreover, the implementation of EAPs actually helps to build loyalty and morale in the workplace. This is because and an employee assistance program indicates that the employer truly cares for their employee’s wellbeing. One of the biggest questions that companies face when looking into establishing an employee assistance program is whether they want to administer one on their own, or hire an outside agency to do so. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
Establishing an In House Employee Assistance Program
Many companies approach their EAP by making it a part of the Human Resources department. This allows for the HR staff to handle the types of issues which an employee assistance program would address. This can be helpful in a number of ways. The first is that it saves money for the company since it doesn’t require an additional vendor. Unfortunately, only about 4% to 6% of eligible people actually use company EAPs to get the help that they need, so for many companies it’s not worth the extra cost to support the few people that actually would make use of the program.
Another way that this is helpful is that it encourages a sense of community among staff. Running an EAP in house means that many of the staff handling any issues would already be familiar with the employees already know the people they help, thus having more insight into the situation. Problems can be dealt with quickly without having to go through a third party. This will allow for more flexibility in company policy and provide better internal handling of the situation.
Part of the problem with running an EAP through the HR department or even giving it its own division is related to why so few people may use them. Fear can prevent a person in need from reaching out for help. One may feel too ashamed or intimidating to admit to a personal problem that is affecting their work On top of that, they may feel upset to receive a punishment from a policy where a violation could result in their losing their job. This unfortunately causes many to overlook or not address the real issue at hand. For many people, they would rather deal with the fallout from calling out to care for a sick child rather than ask for childcare help and risk not getting a promotion because they are perceived as being unreliable. In the case of substance abuse, many addicts fear that they will be fired on the spot or their employer will find an excuse to get rid of them, should they admit to having a problem with drugs or alcohol.
Another issue is that while the numbers are small, ideally they should be larger. If a company is doing everything in its power to get people to actually use the resources available to them in order to get the most productive workforce, they will soon find their HR department overwhelmed with requests and may be unable to handle their regular duties. More staff might need to be hired which could in turn, cost more than just working through a third party.
Outsourcing an EAP
Several companies have found that outsourcing their EAP is a better option for them. One advantage is that employers who allow a separate company to administer an EAP can encourage more people to use it. Many employees may find this route to be far more discrete, therefore taking advantage of help offered when they actually need it. That extra layer of “protection” between employees and their own bosses or managers, they are often more confident in the promise of anonymity for using those services. In fact, most third party EAPs will only provide aggregate information to the companies they are hired by, refusing to provide specific information, such as who needs what type of help.
The use of an external company to administer an Employee Assistance Program also ensures that the most accurate and up-to-date information is available to the staff who need to use it. Even the best HR department may not be able to adequately dedicate the time and effort necessary to research the many options available to employees who need legal services, counseling, rehab, child or elderly care, and the many other services that an EAP might have access to. By hiring experts in the field, companies can be sure that their employees are receiving the kind of information that they need in order to get their lives back on track.
One of the problems with using an external service is that it makes communication more difficult. Plus, the actual decision-makers are usually at least one more degree of separation from the employee, so problems that could be fixed with a phone call could require multiple calls and emails to get the process started. Many people can’t afford the extra time it could take to get everybody on board.
Finding the Right Option
There is no one good approach to implementing an Employee Assistance Program. Every company has to consider its size, the options it would like to offer, and how many people are likely to take advantage of it. They must also consider factors such as how much they should invest in it, and what types of risks are involved in either method. Taking the time to determine the best way to go about getting employees the assistance they need is very important, so make sure to weigh all of your options before you decide.