An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is an employer-based support programme, primarily focused on short-term counselling interventions that assist employees and their family members with personal challenges. These challenges, which include job stress, family and financial issues, alcohol and substance abuse, and mental health issues, can negatively impact on employees’ focus and productivity.
The value proposition for employee assistance programmes and services
Generally speaking, EAPs provide value in three ways.
1. EAPs leverage the value of the organisation’s investment in its workforce by:
- Encouraging employee engagement
- Improving abilities of employees and dependents to successfully respond to life’s challenges
- Offering employees short-term problem-resolution services or referring employees and dependents to mental health treatment services when indicated
- Developing employee and manager competencies in managing workplace stress and improving work team performance.
2. EAPs address the costs of doing business by:
- Reducing workplace absenteeism and unplanned absences
- Decreasing workplace accidents
- Lowering employee turnover and related replacement costs
- Facilitating safe, timely and effective return-to-work for employees after short-term and extended absences
- Reducing healthcare costs
- Improving the value of organisational investments in wellness and health promotion, self-care management, continuity of care and work-related efforts
- Increasing efficient use of health care through early identification, care management and recovery efforts
3. EAPs mitigate business risks by:
- Reducing the likelihood of workplace violence or other safety risks
- Managing the effect of such disruptive incidents as workplace violence, injury or other crises and facilitating a swift return-to-work after adverse workplace events
- Supporting disaster and emergency preparedness and minimizing disruption after such events
- Smoothing the adjustment to mergers, acquisitions, site closures or other workforce change events
- Reducing the likelihood of legal action or liability (e.g., maintaining business practices that promote a violence-free workplace)
- Promoting and supporting drug- and alcohol-free workplace policies and programmes
“Quantitative measures are foundational to the quality improvement initiatives necessary to ensure that future EAPs can successfully address the needs of the changing workforce.”
How is EAP success measured?
A significant amount of original empirical research has been conducted, globally, since the inception of the Employee Assistance industry to establish that there is frequently a positive financial return on investment to be found in utilising EAP services. Quantitative measures are foundational to the quality improvement initiatives necessary to ensure that future EAPs can successfully address the needs of the changing workforce. Yet, the employee assistance industry in South Africa has not developed sufficient peer-reviewed research to assess the validity or practical value of current EAP models.
So, how currently can an organisation know whether its EAP is working or whether there are more and expanded services that it could be offering?
- Firstly, in monetary terms, tangible evidence of a positive return on EAP investment (ROI) can be found in the decrease in absenteeism, as well as in the medical aid claims and disability benefits.
- Secondly, EAP (and encompassing broader Employee Health & Wellness programmes) success can be determined through determining value on investment (VOI), which not only includes measuring a financial return on investment, but also includes evidence of positive employee impacts, such as improved worker engagement, greater overall health and wellness, and better employee life satisfaction.
Rapidly changing market forces in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the evolving needs of today’s workforce present the EAP field with structural, measurement and service-delivery challenges. Organisations need to clearly define the scope covered by their EAP services, strategically align EAP activities within their organisations and leverage EAP performance data to make their EAP and employee health and wellness initiatives the best that they can be.
Click here to read more about to how calculate EAP Return on Investment (ROI).
How can EAP Return on Investment be described?
In a nutshell, the ROI related to EAP typically includes the overall healthcare cost savings achieved, as well as productivity increases due to a reduction in sick days taken by employees. Calculating the ROI based on the hard savings numbers related to EAPs provide most companies with the justification for implementing such programmes.
How can Employee Health & Wellness Value on Investment (VOI) be described?
Value on investment is a less easy term to understand as it is not self-descriptive. Typically, outcome measures that are part of Employee Health & Wellness VOI are self-reported, require additional data collection and expense, and can be considered “softer” measures. It is evident that the best workplace wellbeing programmes impact employee morale, but how exactly can employee morale be quantified? The same could be said for team cohesiveness, or recruitment, or retention.
These are all questions related to value on investment and a wellness VOI evaluation does not necessarily produce a numeric ratio like ROI does.
The table below is a fairly exhaustive list of the known reasons for utilising a workplace wellness programme and illustrates the best method for determining programme value for each: