Archive for December, 2016

Five ways to improve awareness and impact of an EAP – the latest EAPA blog!

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in ROI

Five ways to improve awareness and impact of an EAP

Andrew Kinder, Chair, UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association

In a new report from The Work Foundation into how employers are using EAPs, HR managers pointed to an ongoing stigma associated with the EAP. More often than not it’s seen as a counselling service, particularly for staff with mental health issues, putting a lid on the EAP for wider use.

It’s a situation not helped by what the HR managers in the report acknowledge as being low-level promotion of EAPs and a reliance on line managers referring their team members to use the EAP. The reality is that EAPs aren’t only for crises, but have the potential to make an even greater impact on workplaces and employees by supporting wellbeing and resilience in our new world of work in general, coaching people to feel better able to cope, to be happier and more productive.

It shouldn’t only be about the negatives, says Rachel Smith, Consultant at Enlighten: “EAP’s can help with positive life events such as moving home, starting a family, or preparing for retirement. It’s also a source of advice for everyday challenges like tobacco cessation, healthier lifestyles and relaxation techniques.”

Here are five areas for making more of the EAP in your organisation.

1. Re-position to prevention

Eugene Farrell, head of trauma support services, AXA PPP Healthcare says: “EAPs play as much a part in preventing crises as they do in supporting employees when one occurs. By providing information and support early on, EAPs can help employees to deal more effectively with the pressures they are dealing with and help to prevent what could be a manageable issue or situation from spiralling out of control.”

“Comprehensive delivery should concentrate on a mixture of both short term and long term health and wellbeing goals in order to react to instances of crisis, and also offer preventative measures developing the overall health and wellbeing of the wider employee community by challenging and improving the working culture as a whole,” adds David Price, Group Director, Health Assured.

2. Create more champions among line managers

Jonathan Brown, RetailTRUST Director of People and Wellbeing Services points to the importance of support from the board, highlighting 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.

Eugene Farrell suggests: “Line managers are key to successful service promotion and, arguably 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. Creating a positive look and feel for what’s on offer will help to overcome people’s reluctance to use it and in turn increase uptake. Referrals from line managers can also increase utilisation – especially when combined with mental health awareness training.

3. Be clear in the use of language and branding

Diane Hope, Head of Wellbeing at Work Services at Insight Healthcare, argues that employees can be put off by the EAP title, the association with counselling and mental health, and the idea of a ‘programme’ in particular. “EAPs are also very much seen as a ‘counselling service’ by lots of organisations – so employees sometimes miss out on other services like legal advice,” she says.

But what if employers brand the EAP as a more familiar in-house service? More problems says Rachel Smith, Consultant at Enlighten: “Usage can drop significantly as employees think the helpline is connected internally to their organisation and no longer confidential.”

“Before you go to market it is important to know what you are selling,” says Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health (Niamh). “Equally as a customer if you have no awareness or idea what you are buying then buy in becomes problematic. In advance or as part of re-branding, it is essential therefore, to tease out and define the essential core defining elements, aims and objectives of an EAP, distinguishing between the various models. This will go some way 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 a particular employer and its workforce.”

4. Tailor to meet specific needs

“Too often EAPs are thought of as a ‘cure all’ remedy. This can particularly be seen following some of the employee court cases where employers thought that by having an EAP they would be protected against employee litigation,” argues Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at Bupa UK.

“As a consequence, the product has been commoditised and providers have not invested in developing the service. We know it’s essential that clients tune into the needs of their business and engage with their people. There’s a clear need for providers to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and stay focussed on innovation, following the way in which employees interact with each other and their work.”

Diane Hope adds: “The most successful EAPs are those where the organisation works in partnership with the provider to promote and develop the service, which needs to be ongoing throughout the duration of the contract. This does require some investment in terms of time and resources from the purchasing organisation.”

5. Integrate into the wider health strategy

Few organisations currently make full use of insights from the EAP – the opportunity to use data to develop and refine their employee wellbeing strategies.

“EAPs are an important component of any health strategy but they need to be properly linked to other services such as occupational health and health & safety teams,” says Lisa Allan, CEO, OH Assist & Help Employee Assistance.

“Some organisations have employee wellbeing or engagement teams which makes the work of integration more straight forward. For other companies, ensuring that the different suppliers work together is an important aim so that they contribute effectively to improve the health of the organisation.”

Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh), says: “The benefits from an EAP are to a greater or lesser degree dependent on the extent to which the EAP becomes embedded in, and is intrinsic to, a general culture of wellbeing, enabling easy access to timely and tiered workplace solutions which understand and are tailored to meet the needs of a particular workforce. This relies on good account management, building customer relations and above all else getting to know the nuances and complexities of each business.”

To request your copy of The evolution of employee assistance: investigating the use, impact and reach of EAPs in today’s organisations email info@eapa.org.uk.

Latest EAPA blog: Creating a national map of psychological wellbeing at work

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

Creating a national map of psychological wellbeing at work

We know the ratcheting up of pressures in modern life – faster, digitally-enhanced lifestyles combined with austerity and the particular woes of the squeezed middle – means all employees face unprecedented demands and anxieties. We also know that more organisations are using Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to provide important support services, and use of services like counselling is rising.

But as an industry, what we mostly see are only confused reports from the frontline of the war on stress, crises and long-term absence among employees. We only have piecemeal insights that don’t set out with any accuracy what the issues really are nationally and in different sectors and age groups, how they’re changing over time, and most importantly how different employer interventions are helping and what else EAP providers can do.

In a new report commissioned by the UK EAPA from The Work Foundation, researchers found that just 9% of HR manager respondents in the research 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 (9% didn’t know whether there was any evaluation). More detail from the report, which can be requested by emailing info@eapa.org.uk.

A national map of psychological wellbeing in the UK workplace would help employers, wellbeing support providers – and Government – in better understanding and managing the complex issues involved.

As David Price, Group Director at Health Assured, points out, there is a model in the insurance industry: “Claims information is openly available across the insurance sector. Sharing usage data from EAPs would be a brilliant tool to compare information across the marketplace, including both industry averages of utilisation statistics as well as the rise and fall of ‘hot topic’ areas. For example, as a society, one in four people experience mental health issues and suicide is the largest cause of death in men under the age of 45. It would be ideal to see how as a sector we are able to combat these issues together and the impact we could make collectively.”

Gillian Morris, Director of Professional Services, Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh) points to the additional value of creating a standard for benchmarking: “If EAPs are to be considered as a viable and cost effective business solution then we must be able to measure and demonstrate effectiveness in quantifiable business terms. Only then is it possible to quality assure, compare and benchmark outcomes across various EAP models, industries, geographical location, referral characteristics as well as other important variables. This means moving away from the misconceived belief that only the measurable is important to making the important measurable and meaningful.”

No-one would argue that reaching a standard measure for use of services and Return on Investment figures will be easy.

EAP providers deliver services in many different ways and this can be confusing for buyers, says Eugene Farrell, head of trauma support services, AXA PPP healthcare. “With such significant variation, a single ROI measure is going to be very difficult to achieve. However, that should not stop providers from measuring clinical outcomes and demonstrating to their clients the value that their EAP can bring. While it may not be practicable to introduce a standard measure, greater clarity and transparency of measurement of utilisation would be welcome.”

What’s needed at this stage is debate and discussion with HR that can provide the necessary impetus. This kind of national mapping, benchmarking would be powerful for HR in terms of the Holy Grail of demonstrating ROI on support services provided to employees and the importance of wellbeing in general – a real platform for proving impact on productivity and performance, and making sure organisations are getting value. Shouldn’t we start talking about defining terms on usage of services and key measurements?

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