In the age of digital working, EAPs are a missed opportunity for building people performance and productivity
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services are a missed opportunity for building people performance and productivity in the new era of digital working, according to a new ‘state-of-the-industry’ report produced by Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation.
Just 9% of HR manager respondents in the research – carried out among 88 organisations in September 2016 – had attempted to evaluate their EAP in terms of a cost utility benefit or return on investment via the impact on sickness absence, productivity, performance or engagement. 31% admitted there had been no attempt to evaluate the quality or impact of the EAP and 9% didn’t know whether there was any evaluation.
In the study, HR managers pointed to an ongoing stigma associated with the EAP, as a counselling service primarily for staff with mental health issues, limiting the use of the wider EAP service among employees. Low-level promotion of EAPs and the scope of services available is also thought to be restricting use of services for anything other than crises and situations already at a serious stage.
The Work Foundation study was commissioned by the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (UK EAPA) and published on 23 November 2016 as The evolution of employee assistance: investigating the use, impact and reach of EAPs in today’s organisations.
UK EAPA is calling for a re-positioning of the EAP as a business performance driver, promotion of the EAP as an everyday support service for wellbeing and life coaching; the need for more formal ROI processes and more collaboration between providers and employers to deliver both.
Andrew Kinder, UK EAPA Chair, said: “Our digital working lives are ever-faster, more mobile and flexible. They are also more demanding, pressurised and dependent on resilience. The issue for HR is whether the workplace culture, management and its support services have kept pace with all the changes?”
“Every employee needs a release valve for the combination of home and work pressures,” added Paul Roberts, UK EAPA Board Member and Project Lead. “Which is why the EAP, the provision of professional and independent advice, is gaining in significance as a standard part of workplace life.
“Working in partnership, EAP providers and HR can deliver real organisational benefits though more of a commitment to employee wellbeing by looking closely at the hard evidence and return-on-investment from a pro-active use of EAPs and related initiatives.”
“Creating the right conditions for employees to work in, and promoting ‘good work’ in organisations, is important when considering the health and wellbeing of the working age population. EAPs are one way through which employers can be seen to promote positive employee health and wellbeing, however the research indicates that HR can be doing more to promote this service. Amidst this turbulent economic environment where budgets are increasingly tightened, it is now more important than ever to promote these services and determine what the cost-benefits of EAPs are for both employee wellbeing and organisational outcomes”, commented Dr Zofia Bajorek, Researcher at The Work Foundation.
The overall average level of use of EAP services by employees is 5%. 22% of HR managers say EAP use is rising; 6% say levels have decreased; 72% that use hasn’t really changed. The most common uses of an EAP among the surveyed organisations are for depression (57%), and coping with family events (56%). Workplace issues are less reported – difficulties with line managers (20%), workplace restructure (15%), bullying (6%). EAPs are also seen as an important resource for managers looking for support. In the research, 68% say it’s being used by managers asking for support on how to manage workplace issues, for management consultation (49%) and management information on employee and organisational interventions (44%).
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