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INFOGRAPHIC: 5 questions to consider when evaluating employee assistance programs

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In recent years, we’ve witnessed major improvement in the ways that companies run employee assistance programs for helping their workers improve their physical, mental, financial health and more. EAPs have been around in some capacity for about 40 years now, but as technology changes and employees find new ways of doing work, EAPs have continued to evolve. The goal is to provide a holistic strategy that helps workers in all facets of life.

If you want your business to have a competitive advantage against others in your industry with respect to wellness, simply having an EAP in place is not enough. Chances are, your competitors have one too. According to recent survey data from Towers Watson, 89 percent of companies with 500 employees or more are currently using an EAP, and 50 percent of those companies already have a health and wellness strategy. Of the half that don’t, 94 percent plan to develop a strategy within the next three years.

Of course, not all EAPs are created equal, and it’s definitely possible to design a plan that’s superior to your competitors’ offerings. The following are five questions you should ask as you evaluate your EAP options:

What spectrum of services will you need?
A holistic EAP should be designed to help people with a range of physical, mental, emotional and financial health issues. Will your EAP include all of the above? If not, you may need to consider diversifying your portfolio a bit.

How will you promote utilization?
Having an EAP is great, but the bottom line is that such programs are useless unless people actually take advantage of them. And sadly, according to HR Professional magazine, only 3 percent of employees today are using their employers’ EAPs. So if you offer an EAP, you’ll need a concrete plan for getting people to sign up. Otherwise, your efforts will go to waste.

Will your counselors and health coaches be trained?
A key feature of the best EAPs is the availability of professional coaches who can help employees in a one-on-one setting with the specific wellness issues they’re going through. Do you have these people on staff? And if so, how well are they trained? Masters-level counselors are best equipped for handling major issues.

Can participants have a pleasant experience?
Look at your EAP from the perspective of an employee who’s using it. Do you think they’ll have a pleasant experience? You want them not only to speak to capable professionals, but also be able to find educational resources online if they want to handle their issues privately. Is the most important info easy to find? Is the technology easy to use?

What key services will differentiate your EAP?
These days, a lot of companies have EAPs, so you need to find a unique service that will set your program apart. For example: Work on improving employees’ sleep health. Counsel people with their financial troubles. Provide coaching for managing work-life balance. Any and all of the above can help establish your business as a real pioneer when it comes to corporate health and wellness.

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