According to the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management, the world of business has wised up to the fact that employees aren't plug-and-play pieces of equipment, and actually bring their issues and personal lives to work with them.
As a result, they've come to realise that managing personal issues is as important to productivity as focusing on the pure work output.
And one of the ways of ensuring employee well-being is to have a well managed EAP that addresses personal problems in a manner that's manageable from a business perspective.
However, EAPs don't come without their problems. To ensure your company EAP achieves what it's intended to do, you must steer clear of these deadly sins.
EAP Deadly Sin #1: Not having clear policy guidelines and a defined strategy
A reference to employee assistance that doesn't contain guidelines and an exact procedure to be followed will either cause your EAP to be meaningless and allow it to descend into a mire of uncertainty and lingering unresolved issues.
Your policy must define the business case for having an EAP. This is to ensure that any personal problems are identified early, driven to a solution and brought to a close as early as possible – to have the employee return to productive work as soon as possible.
Your policy statement should state that the EAP is designed to:
Remember, the key a defined strategy is to never lose site of the fact that the programme isn't a counseling service to be used endlessly. It's a counseling service with a defined outcome to resolve the issue to improve attendance and work performance. It's crucial that this objective is met.
EAP Deadly Sin #2: Breaching confidentiality
Breaches of confidentiality from the EAP will render the entire programme useless. Employees will stop using the programme if there's any hint that confidentiality is being breached.
Your EAP personnel must keep all referred matters confidential. Any supervisors or managers referring employees to the programme should not discuss it at all, except with the written permission of the employee.
EAP Deadly Sin #3: Not taking responsibility
A key element of the EAP is the emphasis on employees taking responsibility for their own health and performance. The EAP is what the name implies. After all, it's an assistance programme. It's there simply to assist.
The aim is to assist your employees in correcting their issues so they once again become fully functional and productive members of your workforce.
You can enforce employees to take responsibility by limiting the number of counselling sessions they're entitled to free of charge. 'This prevents the EAP representative from being treated like an agony aunt and nudges the employee towards putting their money where their mouth is,' says the Loose Leaf.
EAP Deadly Sin #4: Not having up-to-date referral details
This ties in very closely with deadly sin #1. Once you have clearly defined your strategy and decided what can be dealt with in-house and what can't, you must compile a list of referral organisations.
Your employees will be frustrated if these lists are not up-to-date, or if they don't provide the type of service advertised. They will feel disillusioned and sceptical about your willingness to help.
By steering clear of these deadly sins, your EAP won't only benefit your employees. It'll also be a useful tool for you. By looking after your employees' general wellness, you can improve their productivity and reduce costs caused by absenteeism, poor performance and lost work days. After all, happy employees tend to work better and more efficiently!