Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are an investment in the wellbeing of your people and maximising the awareness of your scheme is central to making sure the best return on that outlay is achieved.
Despite this, only 3-5% of the average workforce access their programme despite much of the population being faced with problems that EAPs deal with such as debt, relationship breakdown, stress and depression.
So how can you and your provider improve the awareness of your EAP within your organisation?
Promote EAP effectively
Many EAP customers think that by doing a one-off communication to their people they have promoted their programme effectively, however the fact that so few employees use their services will prove otherwise. Use your internal communication channels, intranet and print to raise awareness of your EAP and its services. Your promotional campaigns need to be regular and ongoing, or the message won’t stick.
It is also important to get your EAP in front of your people. If your organisation holds health and wellbeing days or roadshows, make sure your EAP has a presence. Or if you don’t already hold them, consider creating events to tie in with key moments in the wellbeing calendar, like Mental Health Awareness Week or National Stress Awareness Day.
Position your Employee Assistance Program right
EAPs play as much a part in preventing crisis as they do in supporting employees when one occurs. Service delivery needs to focus on both short term and long-term health and wellbeing goals in order to offer preventative measures and react to instances of crisis.
An EAP should be seen by your people as a 24/7 resource that can positively support them in their day to day lives whatever the situation, with a range of services – from legal and financial support, to mental health support – available online or through an external helpline.
By providing information and support early on, EAPs can help your people to deal more effectively with their daily pressures and prevent what could be a manageable issue or situation from spiralling out of control.
However, end users often don’t even know that the scheme is there, or if they do, they view it as a source of counselling. Don’t just refer to your EAP when someone is in crisis, but stress the benefit as a preventative support, this will help with the uptake of services.
Build trust & talk about confidentiality
Even if they know about their EAP, one of the main reasons why individuals may not make use of the offering can often be a lack of trust in the scheme or whether their issues will really be kept confidential from their organisation. EAPs deal with highly personal issues and therefore if your people don’t trust yours, they won’t seek help.
By creating positive messaging and branding around your EAP it can help to overcome people’s reluctance to use it and in turn increase uptake. Give your people direct exposure to it. Use your on-site promotion to allow them to hear in detail exactly what services it can offer, raise any concerns they have, particularly around confidentiality so they can be properly addressed.
Any good EAP provider should be scrupulous about confidentiality as standard. Reinforce the confidentiality message at every opportunity. The aim should be to convince everyone, and by constantly repeating the message, you can minimise mistrust.
Get organisational buy-in
The importance of support from the board cannot be underestimated. They need to openly buy in to and highlight the importance of the EAP as part of an overall wellbeing strategy integrated into the organisation’s culture and business plans, with KPIs and progress reported at the highest levels.
Line managers though are a key part of successful service promotion. Referrals from line managers can increase utilisation – especially when combined with mental health awareness training. Ensure that they are signposting their teams to services when necessary. A good line manager will care for the wellbeing of their group and promoting the services on offer through your EAP should become as natural as checking in on their workload or private life.
Arguably however, the most powerful endorsement is by word of mouth from users who have had a positive experience. By taking a holistic approach to continuing to promote them.
It’s up to you and your provider to ensure the EAP becomes embedded in, valued by and is seen to complement existing workplace engagement and wellbeing initiatives that meet the needs of your people.
Integrate into the wider health & wellbeing strategy
If you are looking to introduce a health strategy, then you should be aware that EAP’s are an important component. However, they need to be properly linked to other services such as occupational health and health & safety teams.
Bigger and more established companies already have employee wellbeing and engagement teams which make it easier for integration. But for other companies, ensuring that different suppliers work together is an important aim so that they contribute effectively to improve the health of the organisation.
Depending on how your company embeds an EAP system depends on what degree of benefits your staff can receive.
The benefits from Employee Assistance Programs depend on the extent to which the EAP becomes embedded in. Providing a general culture of wellbeing that meets the needs of a particular workforce will be key to achieve tailored workplace solutions. This relies on good account management, building customer relations and above all else getting to know the nuances and complexities of each business.
- Providing an EAP is the opportunity for organisations to make full use of insights from the use of data to develop and refine the personalised employee wellbeing strategy.
- Whilst EAPs operate confidentially, they can usually provide you with anonymised data on the overall state of your employees’ wellbeing. The data should enable you to identify areas where uptake existing issues of your business, enabling you to solve any workplace problem.
- Employee Assistance Programs measure the impact of the employees’ solution. If you aren’t receiving feedback on the effectiveness of their services, ask for it. This could take the form of measures of improvement before and after counselling. Find out what reports your EAP can provide, as they may be translatable into return on investment data – always useful to have when demonstrating the value of your EAP to the wider organisation.