Through a series of questions and answers we asked EAPA-SA President, Thiloshni Govender, to provide members with feedback from The Board’s strategy meeting – pertaining to EAPA-SA’s plans and key focus areas over the next five years as a leading industry association.
By way of introduction, Thiloshni Govender is Director Employee Wellness at the Eastern Cape Department of Health. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work (EAP) with over 20 years’ experience in the Employee Assistance field and since 2008 manages EAP, HIV and TB; OHS and Injury on Duty at Eastern Cape Department Of Health.
Q: In light of your vision for EAPA-SA over the next 5-year term what exciting plans are afoot, and what actions have the board taken since the strategic planning meeting in November 2018?
Building on the achievements of the past Board our key focus areas are:
- EA Service Providers: EAP is still very much an emerging industry. There are a few well established service providers and many new players entering the industry. EAPA-SA offers membership to those providing EAP services as a quality assurance mechanism to protect organisations and employees receiving services. EAPA-SA intends to categorize and grade service providers, revise membership criteria, strengthen the vetting process and create support mechanisms for emerging EAP Providers to ensure that quality EAP services are delivered in the industry.
- EAP Education and training: The EAP-related training and education space is broad, varied and unregulated. Plans are afoot to conduct a scan of all EAP-related training and training providers, to streamline and ensure alignment with EAP national standards and practice, as well the National Qualifications Framework. EAPA-SA will be offering CPD accreditation for professional development activities and well as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for those wanting an EAP Professional Designation.
- EAPA-SA Chapters: To strengthen and position our local Chapters to be effective platforms for our members, from both the public and private sectors; to receive professional development and to actively contribute to the EAP industry.
- EAP Stakeholders: To expand and strengthen our stakeholder base to increase support to the EAP industry, collaborate with other associations and organizations providing workplace services.
- EAP for Africa: To build our relationship with our African sibling countries to support the development of their professional associations, share learning and professional development and support EA Professionals.
Q: What positive, big-picture actions are you calling for from the EAP/EW industry at large in South Africa?
We are calling on the Industry to:
- Embrace South African culture and integrate it fully into EA practice – increase outreach and involvement of family, social and spiritual networks outside the workplace.
- Proactively promote diversity inclusion and Ethical leadership practices in client work organizations in support of nation building.
- There are various disciplines involved in EA Practice: Psychology; Social Work; Occupational Medicine / Health, Biokinetics, Spiritual Care etc. EA Practitioners need to demonstrate the transversal nature of South African EA core technology through teamwork in all aspects of programme services.
- Show return on investment to employers to shift attitudes to EA Practice from “nice-to-have” or compliance to recognise EAP as a strategic partner for organisational wellness
- Be mindful that EAP is a resource and not a commodity – we must remain open and responsive to the dynamic nature of workplaces and adjust our service offering accordingly.
Q: As peers and colleagues in the EAP/EW industry, what actions would you like to see EAPA-SA members take to partner with the Board and Association in nurturing growth and development within the industry in South Africa?
- Members need to actively grow the industry. I appeal for our members not to become comfortable with traditional practice, but to be sensitive to the changing workplace needs / culture and adapt services to respond to these needs – be the agile specialist consultant.
- More engagement and active participation at local level to drive national projects.
- EA Practitioners are the resource for their organisations – be serious about professional development to ensure that they are sharp, up-to-date with the latest knowledge and skills, so that they can lead transformation in their workplaces.
- Use the local Chapters to share best practice and learning between public and private sector EA Professionals – these two sectors present with different workplace dynamics which may present as unique EAP experience – there is much to be learnt from each other.
- Be exemplary in professional conduct to demonstrate integrity and positively influence workplace conduct.
Q: What profound changes do you anticipate will affect the South African workforce in the next five years – changes that EAP and EW practitioners will have to keep in step with, in order to be of service in supporting their clients?
- SA Workplaces are grappling with diversity issues and practitioners need to facilitate and support transformation through inclusion. Diversity issues include race, gender and generational differences.
- 4IR and the Millennial workforce have created demand for flexible working conditions, more communal workspaces, new forms of communication, social media / technology-driven work systems and processes and changing power dynamics in workplace relationships. EA Practitioners not only have to keep up with the changes but also actively integrate these into EA service delivery. Addictions, interpersonal challenges, bullying, mental illness, trauma – these may change in shape and form but the negative impact is still strong and practitioners need to continuously update their knowledge and skills to support appropriately.
- Blurring of boundaries between work and personal life – EA practitioners need to help workplaces and employees maintain sanity and balance.
- Embracing digitization and AI options for EA services.
Q: How do you see EAPA-SA spearheading development and supporting the Sub Saharan Africa cohort of EAP / EW practitioners; and do you think Africa will continue to leapfrog first world countries as the industry continues to innovate to meet the diverse and ever more complex needs of the African workforce?
- As we share we learn and as we learn we share – this embraces our unique African Ubuntu philosophy.
- The EAP for Africa Project is a key project for EAPA-SA. It initially started to facilitate the establishment of like structures in our sibling countries and then expanded to provide a professional home to practitioners outside South Africa in the absence of their own structures as well as joint professional development. EAPA-SA provided a shared platform for professional development through the PAN African Eduweek held in September 2018 and continues to encourage cross country partnerships.
- Attending the EAPA International Conference in Minneapolis gave me the exciting opportunity to meet and network with many fellow African EAP delegates. We will nurture these relationships through which we can learn and support each other.
- Many EAP Providers in SA have a footprint in Africa and we will continue to reach out to our African siblings through the professionals and organisations they serve.
- Africa / South Africa are unique in challenges and in innovation. We look to the international platforms to learn and stimulate finding our own solutions. If we continue to be sensitive and responsive to our workplaces as well as bold in our thinking, we will continue to innovate.