EAP Strategy | EAPA-SA


Improving the design, quality, structure and integration of employee assistance and wellness programmes

Successful EAP and Wellness Programmes are an important part of business strategy

First and foremost it is important to see EAP and wellness programmes as being an integral part of business strategy.   An organisation’s strategy consists of the actions and business approaches management employs to achieve their targeted organisational performance (Thompson & Strickland 1999:5). It is a product of constant industry and competitor analysis, matched with the organisation’s resource strengths and weaknesses as well as competitive capabilities and deficiencies… (a) good understanding of these forces as they influence the company is imperative for EAP professionals as they can help mobilise more value from the company’s human resources, thereby giving the company a competitive advantage over its rivals.1


Today’s workforce faces many new stress-inducing challenges, including the effect that the state of the economy has on their job, lengthy commutes to and from work, in the “sandwich years” the time and energy required to care for ailing parents as well as young families, and not least the impact of new technologies that blur the boundary between work and home life.  However, most employers do not know precisely how to create a healthy and happy workplace.  International research suggests that many businesses are interested in implementing EAP and wellness programmes, but fear that such programmes will cost too much, or that their organisation is too small to support a comprehensive programme.2


How do you design EAP and wellness programmes that clearly and measurably work?  What can employers do to avoid the pitfalls that lead to ineffective and maybe even harmful EAP initiatives?


Employers should look to:

  • standardise their definition of EAP and the scope of services the organisation offers to ensure consistent implementation and administration of programme within the context of the organisation and employee needs,
  • enhance the quality and business value of existing programmes:
    • making them practical and accessible,
    • in a company culture that is health conscious,
    • while being linked to existing support programmes.
    • and where health screenings and education are offered.
  • improve the organisation’s ability to coordinate EAP roles and responsibilities in order to maximize the quality and efficiency of programmes,
  • identify key metrics in support of an EAP programme’s quality, integration and performance.


According to Radhi Vandayar, Marketing portfolio at EAPA, an EAP strategy should consist of the following components:

  • Positioning of the programme in terms of the strategic context
  • Situational analysis which allows for a review of the current programme in relation to current international and local best practice and the specific risks facing the company
  • GAP analysis which highlights the current shortcomings of the programme
  • Programme priorities which result from the established gaps
  • Critical success factors


Vandayar says:  Weaving the EAP agenda into other people management services is the best way for the company to entrench the EAP or wellness programme. So looking at how EAP can support employee engagement processes, for example the proactive managerial referrals can support the performance management process.


research suggests that wellness is an extremely powerful element that can play a significant role in employee engagement, organisational productivity, talent retention, and creativity and innovation. Organisations can improve their effectiveness significantly by addressing the wellness shortfall with a strategic whole-systems approach…(WEF, 2010)


Wellness Programmes in SA have been shown to have the following benefits:

  • Performance-related benefits
  • Health-related benefits
  • Sickness absence and turnover-related benefits
  • Employee-related benefits
  • Benefits to Line Management
  • Benefits to HR, OHS, and Organisational Leadership
  • Positive impact on organisation’s ‘Employer of Choice’ status and significant contributor to organisation’s Employee Value Proposition


So what works? 6 strategic tactics that lead to successful EAP and wellness programmes


  • Leadership commitment and support

It is essential to the success of wellness programmes that they begin with a commitment from leadership, and their continued success depends on ongoing support at all levels of the organisation, from the top down


  • Building an intentional culture of health and wellness

It is important to go about creating a ‘total health’ way of life in the workplace that integrates a comprehensive health model into every aspect of the organisation – from company policies to daily work activities. This encompasses wellness across career, emotional, financial, physical and social well-being.   Offering flexible work schedules, Giving employees latitude in decision-making, setting reasonable health goals, providing social support, enforcing health-promoting policies and establishing a healthy physical environment.


  • Asking your employees for help

An EAP or wellness program cannot be imposed on workers.  Employee engagement in wellness can only be achieved when workers own the programme, understand how they and the company benefit, and are given a meaningful say in its ongoing operation.  Conduct regular surveys or focus groups to determine which aspects of health and wellness are important and beneficial to employees, create and support wellness committees in middle management who conceptualise and manage wellness initiatives for their department.


  • Spreading the word

Frequent and varied strategic internal communication will lead to greater engagement in employee wellness programs. This entails delivering a clear message to employees:  this is what the programme entails, this is how it works, this is what’s in it for you, and here are ways to get involved.


  • Offering smart incentives

A properly devised incentive drive will boost employee participation rates, keeping employees engaged and motivated to begin to achieve self-determined health goals.  The aim of such an incentive drive is to shift employees from simply participating for a reward (an external incentive) to a place where the new behaviour or habit is sufficiently satisfying and worth keeping up (their internal incentive).


  • Monitoring and evaluating the right things

Ongoing programme evaluation is critical to maintaining accountability for a wellness program. To do this successfully, develop specific, relevant criteria and an evaluation plan at the start of a programme so that useful baseline data can be collected and be monitored over time – including calculating Return on Investment (ROI) or Value on Investment (VOI)2

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Contributor: Radhi Vandayar

Contributor: Radhi Vandayar

EAPA-SA Board Member: Marketing Portfolio

Radhi Vandayar, Marketing Portfolio Holder on the EAPA-SA Board, has been a board member for 8 years and has served in various portfolios. She also works at ICAS as the Strategic Learning & Development Manager and was previously the General Manager for the Client Services, a department. As a service provider ICAS engages over 500 companies on behavioural risk issues and have dealt with hundreds of change management interventions across various industries.