Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is one of the most effective tools available to an employer in order to support employees. However, they are under-promoted and therefore under-utilised and undervalued by those employees they are there to help.
Results from our 2017 employee survey, the ’Workplace Wellbeing Index’, show 72% of employers surveyed provide their employees with this popular benefit - but that the average utilisation rates still remain disappointingly poor at around 3%.
Advancements in technology and product features mean that EAPs are not just simply a confidential telephone counselling line any more. Given the fast-paced, digitally evolved lives of the modern employee, EAPs have evolved to meet the needs of their users. EAPs provide a wealth of valuable support and information around health and wellbeing topics including exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and how to maintain a good work/life blend – as well as a wealth of information around childcare and eldercare, debt, legal issues and a variety of workplace related topics. They also give employees access to professionals who can support them with psychological issues, debt or legal worries.
Most EAPs have a range of support for line managers too, including how to be an effective line manager, support employees with long-term health conditions and how to conduct effective annual appraisals.
Despite having access to all this information and support, employee utilisation is low and disappointing.
Do employees recognise you as being a supportive employer? Do they trust that their anonymity is being protected and that any data captured will not be used in a detrimental way? Are they having difficulty finding and navigating to and through what they need - or is it simply that they are just getting what they need from other sources?
Dealing with these issues may take some time, so here are my five immediate tips to help increase the usage of your EAP.
Unsurprisingly, effective communication is key to increasing your EAP access and usage. It needs to be prominent, easy to access and not hosted in the deepest darkest corners of your intranet pages. Employers should be proud that such a benefit is offered to their employees and put it front and centre.
For example, have you considered putting the EAP details in an obvious place on the support tab of your HR department intranet page? Are they clearly displayed within your Health and Wellbeing policy? Are they visible within employee support services, alongside any contact details?
It’s important that the EAP is promoted through employee induction and on-boarding so employees get used to it being accessible from the very start of their employment. Make full use of the communication resources available from the EAP provider too: leaflets, wallet cards, desk prompts and even posters are all great visualisation for internal promotion. They should be visible in breakout areas, tea and coffee points, employee restaurants and recreation areas and noticeboards where possible. Make sure your posters are not just hidden on the back of toilet doors!
"There is no point in your EAP being your best kept secret. Be loud and be proud. "