January 09, 2020
While employee assistance programs (EAPs) are gaining popularity around the world, a number of Global Institute members report low utilization rates--or even no utilization-- in many of their global locations. Since EAPs come with financial and human resource costs, this often leads companies to wonder whether EAPs are worth providing outside the United States. On the other hand, some global employers report widely effective and highly utilized programs that have increased retention rates and productivity. This part of the Global EAP guide outlines 10 ways that employers increase the effectiveness and utilization rates of their EAP using insights from global employers with highly utilized and valued (but different) programs, in their own words.
Involving key local leaders as stakeholders in the selection, program development and goal-setting processes will often lead to greater investment in the program on their part as well as increased cooperation and partnership down the road. Conversely, when business or local leaders do not see the value of an EAP, they are more likely to consciously or unconsciously put up roadblocks to EAP success.
Education & Ease of Use
Familiarize employees with the program and make sure it is easy to access. In many countries, an EAP is a new concept that may be viewed with suspicion. Helping employees to understand what an EAP is and does, putting a face to the EAP provider’s name, and ensuring that it is easy to use may help encourage employees to use the program.
“We needed to tell a story to the business leaders, to the country leaders, on why we wanted EAP, and why they needed to give us the money to implement this benefit. We started to work on the justification, the story of why we wanted EAP.”
Ensure that services are geared toward local and business needs. Even if an organization has a global or regional EAP provider, all programs should be viewed as local and be personalized to the needs of a specific location or business. Needs can be identified through focus groups, employee surveys or informal conversations; regardless, it is crucial that an EAP provider understand these needs and provide services, as well as employ locally-based counselors who understand the culture (when possible), accordingly.
Brand the Program in an Appealing and Culturally Adapted Way
Don’t forget to communicate where and how it can be used broadly. “Employee Assistance Program” may not resonate widely, and terms like counseling and mental health may alienate some people. It is also important to ensure that program descriptions are translated not only for language but also for cultural suitability. Make sure that employees are aware of all the services available that they may not think of from a traditional EAP model. Everyone needs a referral some time for a legal service or a child care need – those types of services can be the best way to engage with employees and redefine the perception of the EAP.
Dedicate Company Resources to the EAP
Several Global Institute members credit their company’s investment in internal EAP resources, and the resulting time spent on promotion, oversight and quality assurance, to the success of their program. Having a physical presence from the corporate level on-site, either occasionally or frequently, may also lead to increased investment on the part of local or business leaders. This also formalizes accountability.
Put EAP Advocates and Champions in Place
One of the best examples of using dedicated resources (as outlined above) is the use of champions. Peer promotion and review -- and a trusted voice -- can go further toward increasing utilization than even the best formal communications campaign. Advocates and champions can also help the corporate staff and the EAP provider understand local needs and tailor services accordingly.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Ensure Clinicians are Qualified and Develop Robust Quality Assurance Processes
It’s important to ensure that employees who do use the EAP have a good experience, and that the company is getting the expertise and services they are paying for (especially when performance guarantees are in place). Initial and ongoing vendor training can help counselors get up to speed with business needs and clinical standards, and periodic audits where feasible will provide regular information about the quality of the program.
Measurement & Evaluation
Ensure the program is having the desired effect. Showing good utilization, positive clinical outcomes or satisfaction measures to corporate, local and business leaders will continue to provide a business case for the program; when clinical outcome measures do not show improvement or satisfaction scores are poor, this highlights a need for more training or a potential change in provider.
Re-group and Stay Fresh
Business and employee needs will change over time. It is important for a company to stay close to those needs and what people are saying about the program so that continuous improvement can take place.
Developing an effective EAP is not easy. It isn’t a matter of just choosing a good provider who can promote and manage the program. It takes support and buy-in from key corporate, local and business leaders, and regular promotion and oversight on the ground. With company investment in a program, employers can provide high-quality, highly valued and highly utilized programs around the world that may help to address the growing challenges employees face in today’s busy world.
More TopicsArticles & Guides Mental and Emotional Well-being Virtual Solutions
IntroductionGlobal Employee Assistance Programs
Full GuideGlobal Employee Assistance Programs: Full Guide
Part 1Global Employee Assistance Programs: Vendor Comparison Chart
Part 2Global Employee Assistance Programs: Purchasing Materials
Part 3Global Employee Assistance Programs: Evaluating EAP Effectiveness
Part 5Global Employee Assistance Programs: Where Do I Start?
Part 5Global Employee Assistance Programs: 10 Employer Tips to Increase EAP Utilization and Effectiveness
Part 6Global Employee Assistance Programs: Going Beyond EAP for Mental Health