Research reveals that one third of all South Africans have mental illnesses and 75 percent of these will not get any kind of help.2 According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa is ranked as one of the top twenty alcohol-drinking nations in the world.3 An employee assistance program (EAP) provides workers with a way to find help for dealing with personal and work-related issues, including mental health issues and alcoholism. Without this help, these issues could decrease employees’ quality of life and interfere with job performance and decrease productivity.
Here is a breakdown of four facets of EAP’s role in building a productive workforce.
Building a productive workforce starts with organisational support and training
In engaging an organisation’s support through Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) it is important to establish a foundation and policy framework, in partnership with management, which will enable continued support of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EAPs.
The essential elements of establishing a foundation for EAP include:
- A systematic survey of the organisation to determine the nature, causes and extent of problems perceived by individuals – taking the viewpoints of all stakeholders and functional specialists in the organisation into account.
- Explicit commitment and support from top management to provide counselling, advisory and assistance services to troubled employees on a confidential and non-judgmental basis.
- A clear written set of policies and procedures that outline the purpose of the EAP and how it functions in the organisation.
- The establishment of an explicit policy for confidentiality of employee information.
- Confirmation of close co-operation with local unions, where applicable.
- The effective promotion of the EAP to all employees, as potential clients, emphasising in particular the confidentiality, accessibility and scope of issues covered.
- A linked programme for all staff members educating and training on the goals and methods of EAP and focusing on the identification of the “troubled employee”.
- Training of managers, supervisors and shop stewards on their role within the design and implementation of the EAP as well as in problem identification.
- Communicating to management the scope of the duties and capabilities of counsellors, including any limitations on their activities.
- The instituting of procedure for making contact with the EAP, of referral to counselling and the details of procedures for self-referral and managerial referral (if appropriate).
- Consultation with the employer-organisation in establishing and maintaining effective relations with other service providers and in managing provider contracts.
Monitoring and evaluation – an essential tool for effective EAPs
Consistent monitoring and evaluation of EAP services in terms of value, success or impact on the work organisation, as well as individual job performance, is an essential tool in the EAP arsenal particularly when assessing return on investment. This includes:
- The careful maintenance of records for programme evaluation purposes.
- A protocol outlining the extent of short-term counselling and longer-term treatment and assistance.
- A definition of problem assessment procedures (including diagnosis routes) and unlimited confidentiality guarantees as well as the scope of counsellors’ training and their accreditation, competencies and organisational knowledge.
- A statement of macro and micro linkages with other services in the community or with specialist resources or support mechanisms.
- A set procedure for follow-up and monitoring of employees.
- An evaluation procedure of individual and corporate benefits of the EAP on the most impartial basis possible.
- Identification of the effects of EAP services on the employer organisation and individual job performance.
- An administrative channel for the feedback of aggregated statistics on the short and longer-term outcomes of EAP for the organisation.
EAPs build a productive workforce one employee at a time
The provision of counselling and advice for employees and their families, covering a broad range of issues and problems that pertain to work and personal life, lies at the heart of employee assistance programmes. The positive outcome of EAPs depends on:
- Confidential and timely problem identification and assessment services for employee-clients with personal concerns that may affect job performance.
- Use of constructive confrontation, motivation and short-term intervention with clients to address the problems that affect their work performance.
- Referral of clients for diagnosis, treatment and assistance where necessary, as well as case monitoring and follow-up services.
Employee Wellness is a proactive tool in building a productive workforce
Employers are increasingly keen that EAPs be integrated with health-life balance issues and the support of a healthy workplace. The role of the EAP is changing to being part of a more extensive service offering, focusing on overall employee wellbeing. For example, there is a growing trend to engage EAP in the pro-active prevention of absenteeism and to link it with occupational health. Proactive health and wellness interventions include:
- Health and wellness education and coaching
- Wellness assessments
- HIV & Aids interventions
- Wellness events
- Health promotion campaigns
- Online wellness information, advice and interactive tools
- Financial wellness education
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