Employee Assistance ProgramsThis being the day of the great downsize many managers are hurrying tomake the cut’s and in doing so closely examining their Employee-AssistancePrograms for effectiveness. What are they? How do they help? How do they work?Are they worth the hassle?What are they?By definition employee-assistance programs (EAP’s) give a business themeans for identifying employees whose job performance is negatively affected bypersonal problems. EAP’s should arrange for structured assistance to solvethose problems with the goal of reestablishing the employee’s job performance.Three ways they help the employer and the employee:First, EAP’s should help in identifying a troubled worker. The twolargest problems in the workplace today are drug/alcohol abuse and the stressfuleffects of downsizing.
Many researchers today believe that drug/alcohol abuseis responsible for most modern-day EAP’s.According to The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance, 25percent of all hospitalized patients have alcohol related problems. Alcohol isinvolved in 47 percent of all industrial accidents and half of all autofatalities.
The cost totals 86 billion dollars per year due to decreasedproductivity, treatment programs, accidents, crime and law enforcement.Although it is most costly at the top alcoholism/drug abuse affectsemployees at every level of an organization. One company found that in thepervious five years each worker with an alcohol/drug related problem missed 113days of work and filed $23,000 more in medical claims than the average employee.However, recovered alcohol/drug abusers will frequently credit their EAP forliterally saving their lives. By reclaiming highly experienced employees thecompany also can recover some of their losses.
One of the most painful aspects of a human resource professional’s jobis downsizing and it probably won’t be going away soon. Layoffs affected 1.1million workers in 1995 and are not expected to improve. EAP’s are a resourcethat can often help managers smooth the transition for outgoing employees andfor those who remain. When a company severs its ties with an employee, theemotional reaction can be intense.
Most laid-off workers will react with angerthen fade into denial and finally acceptance. This emotional roller coaster isnot unlike those experienced by people diagnosed with a serious illness. Theygenerally make the EAP available for up to six months after termination.
This”after termination counseling” will help a company by removing the possiblethreat of retaliation in the form of sabotage or bad mouthing the company in thepublic’s eye (which can be as damaging as sabotage).Second, through orientation and job leverage the EAP should motivate theemployee to get the help they need. The job leverage comes from the QualityAssurance in Drug Testing Act, SEC. 2707.
Employer Practices which says: “Nothingin this title shall be construed to prohibit an employer from taking actionnecessary, up to and including termination, in the case of an applicant oremployee who tests positive for drugs or who refuses to take a drug testauthorized under this title.” This act has not yet passed but it will providethe perfect motivation and release the employer from any lawsuits that mightcome about from employees who think they have the right to do drugs.The purpose of orientation is to educate employees about EAP policies,procedures and services. Although it’s not financially practical to spend anenormous amount of time on this topic, it is important that an organized effortbe made to inform all employees of what the EAP is, How it works and for whom itis intended. Obviously, having a program is wasteful if employees fail to useit. Orientation should be done in a series of informal discussions like thehalf hour before the end of the work day. Combining orientation with writtenhand outs, posters and pay envelope enclosures may be most effective method.
Third, the EAP should help the troubled employee in getting help. Thisrequires the people involved in the EAP to be extremely knowledgeable of theresources available in the community. EAP’s come in many shapes and sizesgenerally dependant on the size of the company. Some EAP’s are simply a hotlinein which employees are encouraged to call a particular number and ask for help.The person on the other end will provide names and numbers of local publicservice agencies. This is considered to be an external program and is veryeffective due to its confidentiality, however, the biggest problem is trying toget the person to pick up the phone.
The most adaptable model for an EAP is one in which posters, cards,brochures, supervisors and trained volunteers refer employees to an off sitecouncilor. Using this “broad approach” a company can probably reduce the costand provide the best help their employees can find. Supervisor interaction andeducation on the services available are the keys to a successful EAP. Are theyworth the hassle?Although EAP’s are here to stay and not many studies are being done toshow their worth or effectiveness.
Most evaluation studies have assumed that a”balance” exists between the activities in the workplace and activities in thetreatment facilities. This assumption is only valid for the EAP’s of the 1970’sthat focused almost entirely on alcoholism. The major difference between theearly programs and the modern is in the training of the supervisor. In theearly programs they trained supervisors to identify problem drinkers based ontheir symptoms and to refer them to the company’s medical department.
Today,EAP’s train supervisors to manage the problems affecting job performance and torefer poorly performing employees to the EAP for diagnosis and treatment of the”underlying” personal problems. This assumption leads to studies being purelyderived from the outcome and generally state that employees who use the programshow an increase in job performance.A most recent study surveyed 508 human-resource professionals, usedseveral statistics that were not based on the “balance.” Released in April of1995 the study shows that replacing workers who have behavioral health problemsor not treating them will cost companies much more than it costs to finance thetreatment. On the average it costs more that $7,000 to replace one salariedworker, $10,000 for a mid-level employee and $40,000 for a senior executive.For every dollar invested in an EAP, a loss of $5 to $7 is avoided.
Time missedfrom work will decrease by 66%, and about 12 percent of employees at one time oranother will use the program if it is available. Employees who were closelyinvolved with their companies EAP found them to be effective and said theprogram resulted in a better work attitude and increased lob performance.Since the beginning of time people have been trying to help people.
This idea never occurred to the corporations until alcohol and drug abuse beganto run wild during the Industrial Revolution. Large companies were formed andpeople turned to alcohol for a release. The big companies began to see thedecrease in productivity and that meant lost money. As in any company the truegoal is to make money and only recently in the fields of Human ResourceManagement with the study of behavioral sciences have corporations decided toaddress employees as people. Believing employee behavior is not only due tohuman relationships but due to changes in the organization too.
Things likeDownsizing and changes in technology will influence employee’s behavior inmostly negative ways. The corporation is no longer a force that cannot bebeaten.EAP’s are a very important part of the new world company. They are aneffective and worthwhile ventures on any scale.
Every company from three to3,000 employees needs to have some sort of EAP. With the overwhelming self-serving attitudes people have today getting a person to commit him/herself tothe company is almost impossible unless they feel as though the company hascommitted its self to them. A well designed and maintained EAP will do justthat.Like anything there are some parts of an EAP that are most important.No matter how well thought through the best EAP could fail and that is what mustbe avoided. Sinking money into a program that will not give any sort of paybackis wasteful. This being the time of the Downsize when companies are trying toget the most bang for the buck you must be careful not to cut your EAP to thebare minimum, don’t get caught up in the statistics.
The only way to truly tellif you have an effective program is to count the uses. If the program is beingused then the chances are extremely good that it is working. EAP’s are not selfinstalling /self running programs.
As supervisors we must keep our ears open tonew ideas and suggestions, constantly trying to improve the system. This is whyhaving dedicated personnel or good volunteers is so important.In conclusion Employee Assistance Programs are definitely worth thehassle.
There is overwhelming evidence supporting the need for these programsin every company. We must strive to help our employees help themselves as muchas possible. Happy employees’ and a cohesive work group are the most importantquality’s a business could possibly have.
If you don’t think it is working thenfix it. Cutting back on an EAP is the key to your businesses’ end.