Developing an employee assistance program is an important role of HR department. This is such an amazing help provided by the company to its employees which strongly reflects its concern for them. The employee assistance program (EAP) delivers more than what a company invests into providing this service. This article suggests why we must have an employee assistance program EAP in our company and what are we losing by not keeping it in place.
Employee Assistance Program EAP is:
“An employee wellness free service to improve the over all health of an employee & his family so that he can deliver his best at the job”
This is one of the many options which a company can use to keep its employees in perfect shape. The basic purpose of such employee wellness programs is to improve the productivity of the organization by keeping its employees healthy. Here, healthy means perfect physical and mental health. The basis of employee assistance program (EAP) is to make the employee happy from inside out. If he is healthy, he is going to perform well at his job.
Role of HR department
Role of HR department is fundamental in providing benefits of employee assistance program EAP. It is the HR department that makes the employee assistance policies along with the higher management and then rolls out for implementation. After all, an ideal HR department works as the parent of employees so this department must take care of all the formalities of employee assistance program EAP.
In this regard, some of the ideal practices can be:
- HR manual must contain the employee assistance policy with all its details.
- Conducting trainings from time to time for creating awareness about employee assistance program EAP.
- Communicating employee assistance policies to new hires in the orientation sessions.
- Selecting the employee assistance program EAP contractors/ consultants based on good reputation.
- Monitoring the outcomes of the EAP sessions.
- Designing the entire employee assistance procedure in a feasible way for the employees.
The advantages of Employee assistance program EAP multiply if all the supporting parties work in close liaison with one another. Above all, this is never possible without the consent of higher management. If the employer is truly concerned about increasing the productivity of his company, he will make all efforts to retain good employees and help them grow.
The next ball is rolled by the HR department which makes sure that managers and employees understand the benefits delivered by employee assistance program. Written employee assistance policy includes the guidelines for using this program by stating when and how to benefit from this program. This policy must be included in HR manual of the company and employees must be informed of it when hired.
Why employees don’t use EAP?
A big problem comes with the fact that employees either do not know the significance of this program or are reluctant of its utilization. In both the cases, company’s investment on employee wellness is wasted. Hence, HR’s responsibility is to keep reminding the employees about it. HR must also try to provide counselling to employee if any performance issue is reported to it. This should be the first step in an ideal employee assistance program.
In the present challenging times, almost everyone is facing heap of financial, family and health problems. Financial and family issues are consequently translated into emotional problems. Due to non attendance, they are converted into physical collapse as well. Such employee is not able to work with the required attention. It is still a dilemma that seeking the help of an EAP consultant or psychologist is discouraged by the society and usually people feel hesitant to go to an EAP consultant. As a matter of fact, everyone is facing stress nowadays so accepting, addressing and getting rid of it completely is necessary.
Here comes the training need of employees again. Making the employees understand that it is not something unusual and weird but it is very normal to seek advice from a qualified person.
Types of Employee Assistance Programs
Based on the type of the facilities, employee assistance programs can be of two types:
- In-house/ onsite employee assistance program.
- Offsite employee assistance program.
In-house/ offsite employee assistance program
This type of employee assistance program is provided in the premises of the organization. This could be either some sort of counselling provided by the HR department or an employee assistance consultant.
Offsite employee assistance program
This type of employee assistance program EAP is provided by a consultant outside the company. This is usually a third party organization which gives counselling services to company’s employees under a contract.
Based on the type of the resources, employee assistance programs can be of two types:
- Employed by company
Employed by company
The company decides whether to employ the employee assistance consultant under its pay roll or not. Big companies usually hire their own EAP consultants which provide in-house services to their employees.
Company gets the services of an employee assistance contractor which may either provide in-house services or offsite services.
Hence, summing up all, the types of services associated with EAP are very flexible. Organization can hire its own consultant or take the help from a third party contractor. In both the cases, purpose is to improve the performance of the employees by keeping them healthy.
Issues covered under employee assistance program EAP
Employee Assistance program covers all sorts of personal and professional problems which cause a decline in employee’s performance. These issues are listed below:
- Family issues
- Workplace issues
- Health issues
1) Family issues
- Relationship issues involving understanding, settling, separation & divorce.
- Parenting issues.
- Imbalance in personal-professional lives.
- Fights in the family due to which employee feels distressed.
- Domestic violence.
- Any family member suffering from some sickness.
2) Workplace issues
- Leg pulling by colleagues.
- All sorts of workplace politics.
- Harassment including sexual harassment/ threatening.
- Prejudiced behavior of bosses.
- Career growth ceilings & no promotions.
- Inadequate guidance by managers.
- Unrealistic goals assigned which are hard to achieve.
- Over time work with no commissions paid.
- Change management in the organization.
- Less or no fringe benefits.
- Performance issues including weak performance and biased performance appraisal reports consequently affecting the morale of employee.
2) Health issues
- Inability to manage emotional stress.
- Anxiety & depression.
- Fear of facing people/ lack of confidence.
- Physical sickness.
- Inability to manage anger at workplace.
- Death of a close friend/ relative leading to grief and mental trauma.
- Substance abuse and drugs.
Procedure of providing employee assistance
The policies & procedure of employee assistance program EAP are written in HR manual and employee handbooks. Nowadays, all organizational policies and rules are also available on companies’ intranets/ employee portals. There can be 2 scenarios:
- When a manager observes that the performance of a certain employee is declining or he is in someway not achieving his goals, then should talk to the employee himself. This shows that managers need training by HR for basic employee counselling. It is possible to solve the issue at this stage leaving no need for further assistance. Manager is supposed to escalate the matter to HR if he cannot cope with the issue himself. HR calls the employee and tries to dig deeper. Employee might be reluctant to share any personal issue with these office colleagues so HR sends this person to employee assistance consultant. Consequently, the issue gets resolved. In this particular case, HR is responsible for monitoring the performance improvement of the employee as he takes EAP sessions.
- In an ideal case, employee feels that he is unable to focus on work due to any personal or professional issues. Therefore, he contacts the employee assistance consultant himself via email, phone or face to face. This depends upon the severity of the problem. So, self realization leads to a much easier employee assistance process. Here comes again the HR role i.e. educating employees about the employee assistance program benefits, policies and procedure so that they can feel and cope with the issues themselves.
How to pay for Employee Assistance Programs?
This depends upon the type of employee assistance program being employed by the company. If the organization hires the consultant on its payroll then, it pays him the monthly salary like other employees.
If company is availing services of third party then, there can be two ways.
- Company pays a fixed amount to the service providers for all the employees whether the employees avail the services or not.
- Company pays for the services only when an employee avails them.
Advantages of Employee Assistance Programs
- Reduce medical costs of the company on employees and their families. They have less mental and psychological issues so this can save the costs before they turn into some serious illnesses.
- Increase in employee performance and productivity of the organization.
- Less absenteeism and less employee turnovers.
- Since employees feel mentally safe, this boosts their morale and confidence. They are more likely to grow in future and develop their skills.
- Employees feel safe that their organization cares for them. So, they are more likely to stay with the company for long.
- Employees feel secure to share their personal issues with the consultant as the employee assistance program sessions are completely confidential.
Outcomes of failed EAPs
Sometimes, stakeholders do not completely understand the benefits of employee assistance program so these programs fail to deliver the desired results. Either the HR is not competent enough to reinforce the implementation of these programs and communicate effectively to the employees or the first line managers don’t take interest in reporting the needs of effected employees. Hence, this entire process becomes ineffective.
The employees might not understand their right to take advantage of employee assistance program EAP. Some employees might feel reluctant to open themselves up to other people. It is even possible that the organization does not have any employee assistance program at all. Therefore, all these reasons contribute to the failure of an extremely useful technique to boost over all performance of the organization. Employees who need professional counselling in particular show more absenteeism, low performance and high turnovers.
When it comes to employee benefits, employee assistance program EAP can deliver the maximum if rightly implemented. This program shows concern of the company for its employees. It is a winning step for the company itself as it encourages a thriving work environment which can help meet its goals. This builds a positive image of the organization.