Guess what? It is useless if no one uses it.
All too often employers invest in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that does nothing but collect dust. In many cases, a lack of program promotion is to blame. However, program perception is often the real culprit. Many employees avoid an EAP that is viewed as nothing more than a resource for mental health, substance abuse or disciplinary action. The stigma associated with these programs keeps employees at bay, preventing them from accessing much-needed services.
So how do you overcome the perception problem and transform your EAP into a relevant, engaging and highly-utilized resource? Give it a face-lift. Here’s how:
1) Start by thinking differently
EAPs once fell under the purview of occupational health, employee relations and even risk management. However, over the past decade, EAPs have become commoditized with the shift to carrier-embedded and affinity EAP products. Today, most EAPs are viewed as an ancillary benefit that falls somewhere under dental and vision on the list of priorities. With this shift, the perception of what an EAP is and what it can accomplish has been damaged.
However, an EAP is more than a basic benefit. Think of the powerful resources a true EAP offers- coaching, work-life balance, training, organizational development, leadership coaching, threat assessment and even change management support. The list goes on. Once we start thinking differently, we quickly realize a true EAP is a cost-effective resource for driving workplace engagement, well-being and culture change.
2) Brand It
Because the term “EAP” has a negative connotation to some, start by giving your program a brand. Create a name, slogan and logo to give the EAP a fresh identity.
If you already have a total rewards, recognition or well-being initiative, perhaps the EAP can be incorporated as an essential component. This immediately helps with both perception and promotion. Whereas employees may overlook promotion about the EAP, they may pay more attention to materials or announcements that are integrated and seem more culture-based.
3) Make it Personal
When it comes to getting help, some employees don’t want to call an 800 number. They want to call a human being. After all, an EAP is about relationships. The people truly make the program. Look for a provider with a strong support team who can commit to being visible and to giving the program a face. An ideal EAP resource is staffed with people your employees can get to know and feel comfortable calling. In short, you want an available and proactive workplace partner, not a vendor with an indistinctive call center.
4) Think Outside the Orientation
If the EAP is only discussed in traditional settings like orientations, open enrollment meetings and benefit fairs, it will continue to be viewed as a benefit and nothing more. The EAP’s value may also be forgotten, as these events don’t happen every day.
Instead, try to infuse the program into regular activities where there’s a natural synergy. For example, leadership development sessions, internal training, team meetings and wellness activities are great platforms that can continue the EAP conversation and help turn the program into a critical component of a larger initiative. You may even consider adding an EAP section to your newsletters, email communications or company-wide intranet.
5) Offer Something For Everyone
Make sure your program offers more than just counseling. Work-life balance services like legal and financial consultation, childcare, eldercare and daily living resources help employees deal with the everyday issues that take can create disruptions in the workplace. You may also consider adding well-being coaching to your program. Often, employees don’t want counseling, but they would like consultation, support and resources. They don’t feel as though they have a “problem”, but they would like to improve in some area of life. By offering a blend of counseling, work-life balance and well-being coaching, your program offers something for everyone. You increase the likelihood someone will call while offering multiple solutions to help employees be their best.
Finally, your EAP should also have an online option of additional services for those individuals who are not yet ready to reach out for direct contact.
Think of the employees who come to work each day who are distracted and aren’t at the top of their game. Whether their issue is big or small, they need the resources you’ve invested in; however, the EAP isn’t on their radar. With these simple shifts, you can repackage your EAP so that it takes on a new life, speaks to your employees and makes a difference to the organization’s well-being.