How do you measure the impact of an EAP in your organisation? For individual employers, the essential issue (in terms of measuring return on investment) is understanding the measures and evaluating processes used by the EAP practitioner for your programme. What were the performance targets you set for your EAP when you commissioned the programme?
Typical performance targets include:
- Improvement in productivity at work
- Reduction in absenteeism
- Reduction in medical benefit costs
- Improvement in manager productivity
- Reduction in work-related accidents
- Reduction in employee turnover
- Increase in skill, resilience and general functioning
“EAP is best implemented when proper organisational consultation has been done,” says Andiswa Lefakane. “The consultation plays a diagnostic role, such that the EAP programmes can yield meaningful results through individual employees. The EAP-SA standards are in support of this thinking. A well-designed annual EAP implementation plan would help to roll out the necessary interventions and ensure that all the gaps identified through the consultation are addressed. The aforementioned performance indicators are the success and the one critical factor in the wellness of its human capital.”
Most EAPs provide employers with utilisation reports to demonstrate their effectiveness, but it is important to look beyond the metrics and examine the impact on the employees, on the business and how the EAP has positively affected employee performance and their ability to stay at work, as well as their overall functioning.
“Through years of practice, one can argue that there is a correlation between the quality of the EAP interventions and programmes implemented and the work performance. The onus is on the EA practitioner to demonstrate that, in the presentation of the utilisation report, the employer should see the return on investment,” adds Lefakane. “For example, if the utilisation report depicts high-stress levels in the workplace it is expected that the EA practitioner should also make intervention recommendations of how to reduce those stress levels. The definition of EAP in the EAPA–SA standards outlines the unique role of EAP through the use of EA core technologies.”
An EAP is a valuable resource to help increase employee engagement and should form part of the development of any organisational engagement programme. EAPs have a vital part to play in achieving employee engagement in the three key areas:
- Emotional engagement—being involved emotionally with one’s work
- Cognitive engagement—focus while at work
- Physical engagement—being willing to ‘go the extra mile’
Positive engagement in each of these areas can only occur when employees are not distracted by personal life, work life or health and well-being issues. The focus of a good EAP is on providing the information, advice and support, which will enable employees to resolve issues of this nature before they affect the engagement and performance. Organisations with an EAP in place report lower levels of employee anxiety, dissatisfaction and staff turnover, along with higher levels of growth and development opportunities, higher levels of meaningful work and more equitable remuneration. Whether this is as a result of implementing an EAP or because the organisation already has a culture of fostering better working environments, it is highly likely to be a combination of these two factors working in unison.
“EAP Interventions, such as wellness days, are excellent opportunities for employee engagement, on condition they offer a well thought out array of activities. EA chapter development meetings educate EA practitioners in this regard. The EA practitioner should organise a wellness day of such a standard that everyone—from the most senior person of the organisation down to the lowest-ranked individual—should be looking forward to attending the event because of the benefits they will derive from it. In my previous employ, we even brought in a nutritionist who demonstrated how to prepare healthy lunch boxes and displayed multivitamins to keep individuals energised and focussed on a wellness event,” says Lefakane.
What is employee engagement?
Research conducted by The Institute for Employment Studies (IES UK) reveals that the behaviours demonstrated by engaged employees are:
- A positive attitude towards—and pride in—the organisation
- Belief in the organisation’s products/services
- A perception that the organisation enables the employee to perform well
- A willingness to behave altruistically and be a good team player
- An understanding of the bigger picture and a willingness to go the extra mile
The IES report goes on to say: “These workplace factors show strong and consistent relationships with employee satisfaction, mental health, and retention. Engagement has clear overlaps with the more exhaustively researched concepts of commitment and organisational citizenship behaviour but there are also differences. In particular, engagement is two-way: organisations must work to engage the employee who, in turn, has a choice about the level of engagement to offer the employer.”[Source: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/report-summaries/report-summary-drivers-employee-engagement]
Management’s role works in tandem with EAPs work to foster employee engagement. Employee engagement has an ebb and flow, as not every single employee is engaged at work all of the time. Understanding this, employers should focus their attention on workplace factors that typically drive engagement over time, with beneficial employee and organisational outcomes.
“In doing this, it shows that the employer cares and is not just driving their employees to perform like machines. EAP Induction programmes are highly instrumental in introducing this culture as a way of helping a new employee to settle in at their organisation. When employee engagement begins to wane due to other factors within the organisation, then they can at least approach the EAP because they know that their role is to support them in times of trials in the workplace. These are some of the tactics that contribute to voluntary participation in the EA programme,” says Lefakane. The strongest driver of engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved:
- Involvement in decision-making
- The opportunity for employees to voice their ideas, have managers listen to these ideas and value employees’ contributions
- The opportunity for employees to develop their jobs
- The extent to which the organisation is concerned for their employees’ health and well-being.
Further drivers for engagement include:
Understanding the bigger picture
It is important for employees to see the link between their role and that of the larger organisation. Providing your staff with an understanding of their contribution towards reaching these goals provides motivation and increased engagement.
“EAP is instrumental in cultivating a conducive culture for an organisation; for example, an organisation that promotes work-life balance for employees positions the organisation as one that is the best place at which to work,” says Lefakane. “Employees actually choose employers based on many personal things and one of them is organisational culture. EA Practitioners can benefit from attending chapter activities as they are afforded the opportunity to widen their knowledge base in improving their organisational cultures.”
Recognition and reward
The bottom line is that people work to earn. When there is transparency around company remuneration practices—and when employees trust that they are treated with equal respect—it boosts morale, improves loyalty and also increases your chances at hiring top talent in your industry. Equitable pay—coupled with recognition and reward programmes—greatly enhances motivation and leads to commitment and engagement.
Ongoing education and training
Today’s millennial workforce constantly looks at enhancing their knowledge and skill base. In addition to the benefit to employees, providing a learning culture is essential for organisations to remain relevant in today’s constantly changing business landscape.
An effective performance management system contributes positively to employee engagement including goal setting, management and coaching and career development.
Several research studies reveal that most resignations happen because an employee is not satisfied with their boss. An organisation invests well when it invests time and effort in grooming leaders who are aligned to its goals, culture and people. “The leadership of an organisation plays a paramount role in the successful implementation of an EA programme, which is why EA practitioners need to conduct training and refresher courses on how to identify ‘troubled employees’. When the leadership has undergone such training, then they can begin to see their value in ensuring that their human capital is well,” says Lefakane.
“EA chapter meetings are a good ground to acquire such broadness because of the knowledge that is imparted and the networks that you develop. It is for this reason that EAPA-SA standards dictate that every EA practitioner must be an active member of the chapter in order to keep abreast with EA issues,” adds Lefakane. ❦
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Contributor: Andiswa Lefakane
Chapter Chairperson: Egoli
Andiswa Lefakane is a qualified Social Worker and HR Practitioner who holds a Masters in SWK (Employee Assistance Programmes). She is an Executive Director and a shareholder at People’s Health Providers, a primary healthcare and employee wellness organisation in Boksburg, Gauteng.
As a Social Worker, Andiswa has worked for organisations such as the KwaNdebele government and NICRO. She has worked as an HR Practitioner for organisations such as Unilever, New Age Beverages Pepsi, M-Net, SA Express Airways and Transnet. She left formal employment in 2015 as a Manager for EAP, Change Management and Organisational Culture at Transnet. She is also a qualified coach.