‘Return on EAP Investment’ Category
Friday, January 21st, 2011
By Valerie S. Nosek
What Role Does Your EAP Play?
As a human resource professional, a manager/supervisor, CEO or other leader, how do you view your employee assistance program (EAP)? What role does it play in the success of your organization?
Is your EAP there to help address substance abuse in the work place, or as a required referral source for employees who test positive? Do you use the EAP for management referrals to help address job performance issues? Does the EAP exist as a benefit for employees who have problems that exist outside of work and need professional assistance? Do you use your EAP as a resource for consultation – whether seeking assistance for employee behaviors, training issues, change management or organizational development?
Ask different people within an organization what role the EAP serves and you will probably receive different answers, depending on how that individual uses the EAP. An employee may say the EAP helps with personal problems. A risk officer may say the EAP is used for drug and alcohol referrals. A manager may say the main reason for having an EAP is for performance issues and management referrals. Someone in HR might cite several reasons for using the EAP, including training or that it’s an employee benefit. And, while all of those answers are valid, any comprehensive EAP should provide all of those services and more.
Using Your EAP to Support Organization Goals
We encourage those of you in HR, management and other leadership positions to rethink your view of the EAP in the workplace. Go beyond the limited role many EAPs are relegated to and start asking, “What additional value can the EAP bring to our company?”
In fact, we challenge you to begin thinking of your EAP as a strategic partner in the success of your organization.
Of course, your EAP should assist your employees in the traditional sense of an EAP. However, as a leader in your company, expand your vision of the EAP…How can it help you to be a better manager? Meet departmental performance objectives? Assist with change initiatives? Or act as a consultant in organizational development?
What Else Can the EAP Do?
In addition to counseling and substance abuse referrals, an EAP should be able to offer the following:
- Education for Managers/Supervisors about how to use the EAP for both better employee management and “soft” referrals.
- Training and education programs developed and facilitated by proven, quality subject matter experts.
- Leadership development, mentoring and individual coaching programs.
- Conflict resolution and mediation.
- Assistance with policy writing and review.
- Consultation on organizational development projects, such as performance management and needs analysis.
- Management consultations.
- Change management support.
- Critical incident stress debriefings.
- Health fair planning and coordination.
- Assistance with workplace wellness programs and initiatives.
The ability to offer the comprehensive services listed above allows an EAP to be more than a referral source…more than an employee benefit.
Your EAP should strive to understand your business and culture; understand your managers and employees; and seek to understand your organization’s strengths and vulnerabilities, so they can better serve your needs.
At Ease@Work we consider these aspects of understanding to be an advantage in preparing a meaningful approach in how we assist our client organizations, their managers and leadership. We are well-prepared and ready to be an integrated part of your organization’s strategic plan. Is your EAP ready?
Friday, November 5th, 2010
By Valerie S. Nosek
“Workplace safety” is an all-encompassing term that includes many different factors, all of which impact the safety and health of employees. Addressing workplace safety includes how organizations manage environmental hazards inherent to the job, working conditions, work practices and processes, drug and alcohol issues, and potential for violence.
Employers should routinely be assessing safety records and revising safety goals – not only because of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, but also because safety directly affects a company’s bottom line. How an organization approaches workplace safety ultimately impacts profits through employee morale and retention, productivity, worker’s compensation claims, insurance rates and legal costs.
To exemplify this point as related to substance abuse and workplace safety, consider the following:
• Over 14 million Americans use illegal drugs.
• 9.4 million illicit drug-users are employed full-time.
• Over 10.1 million heavy alcohol users are employed full-time.
• As workers, they are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in an accident at work.
• They are 5 times more likely to file for worker’s compensation benefits than non-users.
• 40 percent of the time a substance user causes an accident, a co-worker is injured.
• 47 percent of industrial injuries and 40 percent of industrial deaths are directly linked to alcohol consumption – a legal drug.
Sources: W. Atkinson “EAP’s: Investments, Not Costs,” Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Performance and Behavior Issues Associated with Substance Abuse
• Inconsistent work quality
• Poor concentration
• Lowered productivity
• Increased absenteeism
• Carelessness and mistakes
• Errors in judgment
• Needless risk-taking and disregard for safety
• Extended lunch periods/early departures
• Unexplained disappearances from the job
• Theft (The Ohio BWC estimates approximately 50-80 percent of all pilferage, theft and loss is due to substance-abusing employees.)
Any one of these issues will negatively affect job performance, overall company productivity and profits – more so if problems are widespread, prolonged or not addressed by management. In the worst-case scenario, situations such as the ones mentioned above can result in liability and legal issues for the employer.
Getting Your EAP Involved in Safety
Clearly, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should be an integral part of any workplace safety process.
Early interventions with employee performance issues generally result in an improved prognosis for the employee, but it also makes business sense for the organization. Intervention is extremely important in regards to minimizing safety and litigation concerns, while expediting a return to normal levels of productivity.
Your EAP can help with developing Drug Free Safety Program policy and implementation. An EAP also provides convenience and confidentiality for employees who voluntarily seek help for drug/alcohol abuse, along with providing mandated counseling for management referral cases.
Of course, your EAP should be able to assist with a myriad of other work-life issues, which may also be affecting safety in the workplace. For example, if an employee is distracted due to job, home, or financial stressors, this can result in increased safety risks while on the job. Your EAP can help this employee manage the stressors, so that he/she can return to normal attention patterns, therefore reducing the safety risks associated with a lack of focus while at work.
Don’t Wait for a Crisis
Unfortunately, too often managers relegate their EAP to only addressing difficult employee issues once they have become full blown problems. And while any good EAP should be able to address critical issues, waiting negates the powerful prevention aspect of the EAP.
Activities like making suggested EAP referrals, calling to schedule a management consultation with an EAP professional and scheduling various trainings for your staff are all good proactive examples of the prevention potential of your EAP.
Need help addressing issues that are affecting workplace safety? Contact Ease@Work find out how we might be able to help!
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
Part 1: What are EAP’s?
By Patrick Gaul
The Employee Assistance (EAP) industry is plagued by inconsistencies. I speak with HR professionals for a living and each one has a different opinion of EAP. They range from not knowing what one is to believing that a high quality EAP is one of the most valuable tools they have access to.
The Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA) is a professional society for the EAP industry. They have created a special report titled, “Selecting and Strengthening Employee Assistance Programs: A PURCHASER’S GUIDE.” This guide is a necessity for any organization that utilizes, or is considering purchasing, an EAP. Click on the title / hyperlink or the photo above to be redirected to the EASNA website to download your copy. This guide is jam packed with enough information for a series of blog conversations.
The first conversation is simple.
What is an EAP?
According to the EASNA Purchaser’s Guide, an Employee Assistance Program is:
“…a worksite-based program designed to assist in the identification and resolution of work-related and non-work-related productivity problems associated with employees impaired by personal concerns including but not limited to health, marital, family, financial, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, or other personal concerns which may adversely affect employee job performance.”
That sounds useful, but how do EAPs accomplish this? The report goes on to say:
“The specific core activities of EAPs include:
(1) services for individuals (such as identification and resolution of job-performance issues related to an employee’s personal concerns, and assessment, referral, and follow-up)
(2) services for managers and supervisors (such as assistance in referring employees to the EAP, supervisor training, and management consulting)
(3) services for organizations (such as violence prevention/crisis management, group interventions, and employee orientation)
(4) administrative services (such as the development of EAP policies and procedures, outreach, evaluation and referral resources development).
A definition is helpful, but unfortunately, a definition can sometimes encourage commoditization of a product. A definition does not address effectiveness. Many businesses have used this to their advantage. This includes businesses selling a variety of products to other businesses (like insurance, payroll, etc), EAP consumers and even some EAPs.
Commodity and Confidentiality
EAPs are especially prone to becoming a commodity because of the confidential nature of this business. How effective were we? “We can’t tell you who we helped because it’s confidential.”
Many businesses realized they could take advantage of the commoditization of the EAP by offering a program that meets the above definition, building the cost into their existing business, and then present it as a “free” service.
They calculated their customers (or their competitors’ customers) would spend “X” percent more if their product included an EAP, thereby (in theory) saving them 3 times “X” percent by terminating their legitimate EAP. The business-to-business vendor gets another hook in their customer and higher rates. The customer has a net cost that is lower and has one less vendor to deal with. AND, they can still say, “Of course we offer an EAP, we are an employer of choice!” So, it’s a win-win situation, right? Hmmm…maybe not.
Do you hear complaints about the new, ineffective EAP?
How many people will actually go to the HR Director, or CEO for that matter, and complain that the benefit they utilized to help them kick their addiction was no good. In this example, I’m reinforcing a stereotype about EAPs being just for drug and alcohol addiction.
So OK, let’s try another scenario. “Hey boss, I’m trying to avoid bankruptcy, so I called the EAP for help and they…” or “Hey boss, you are stressing me out so bad that I’ve developed an ulcer. I wanted to avoid medication and learn to deal with the stress, but the EAP…so I just refilled my prescription.”
The bottom line is this: EAPs must be confidential to be utilized because we help with issues that are personal. The confidentiality can often mean that people don’t talk about it. The truth is that you will know an effective EAP when you have one, but you might not know an ineffective EAP if you have one. No news is not necessarily good news when it comes to feedback about your company’s EAP.
So how do you know if your EAP is effective?
EASNA says highly effective EAPs:
“…provide strategic analysis, recommendations, and consultation throughout an organization to enhance its performance, culture and business success. These enhancements are accomplished by professionally trained behavioral and/or psychological experts who apply the principles of human behavior with management, employees and their families as well as workplace situations to optimize the organization’s human capital.”
Now that you know what an EAP is, how do you make sure the EAP you are looking at will be effective? Come back to Interact@Ease for the second part of this series, where we will explore Section Two of the EASNA EAP Purchaser’s Guide titled, “How to Select an EAP.”
Friday, May 28th, 2010
By Patrick Gaul
A report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in March, 2010 breaks down the total cost to compensate employees. Of the $27.42 per hour average spent on the average American Worker, $8.00 per hour was spent on benefits. Health, life and disability insurance total $2.54 per hour while the rest of the benefits expense comes in the form of paid leave, supplemental pay, retirement / savings, and legally required benefits (social security, workers compensation and unemployment).
During this difficult economic time, many organizations are freezing salaries but cannot freeze the cost of benefits unless they do so by increasing cost sharing with employees. Health insurance is still considered a must have for most American workers, so employers are looking for other benefit-related spending they can cut in order to compensate for the increasing cost of basic benefits. Many potential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) customers have given this as the reason for there being no room in the budget for an EAP.
This study has me thinking: How much is the average employer really saving by cutting the EAP from the benefits budget?
This model provides an interesting perspective. A few quick calculations reveal the answer:
The average Ease@Work customer pays between 1.7 and 2.4 cents per hour for our program. The Human Resource (HR) and/or benefits people typically want a program like ours because it is a program that helps in so many ways. For employees it provides counseling, assistance with childcare, eldercare, legal and financial issues, and also a wellness benefit, providing a wide variety of information in many forms including in-person consultations with nutrition and wellness coaches. An EAP even makes life easier on management by providing 24/7 access to behavior specialists for help with challenging employee situations.
I have to wonder if the EAP advocates in HR would be more likely to get budgetary approval from decision-makers if they proposed the EAP as a 2.5 cent per hour “employee” whose job description is to support and service all of their other employees in so many essential ways. Sounds rather inexpensive to me when you think of it that way…
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
Assessing Training Needs, Setting Expectations, Measuring Outcomes
By Valerie S. Nosek
As a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with an extensive training catalog, it’s not unusual to receive a number of calls every week from various organizations requesting training for employees, managers/supervisors and yes, even executive leadership. Providing effective employee education is an important part of what we do – that’s why we ask probing questions about the instigating need, specific objectives, participants to be included, work culture/environment and more, when approaching a training engagement. These initial questions usually lead to a revealing conversation that allows us to match training with needs and secure the best suited subject matter expert to facilitate the program.
It would be very easy to simply say, “Oh yes, we can provide ‘X’ training,” schedule the workshop and be done with it. But, as Benjamin McCall said in his recent post, “How to be an HR Ninja: Uncover Training Needs,” providing effective educational programs in the workplace is so much more than just providing “the training.”
Like McCall, we firmly believe that “training, and the learning that takes place, should engage all members of the organization to increase performance while aligning learning objectives to the overall goals of the business.”
Providing training without a formally expressed expectation of retention or application of what was learned is wasteful of company resources, yet, too often this is how training programs are presented. Effective employee educational programs should lead to sustainable change or improvement of a skill set, on the part of the individual(s) involved.
Furthermore, it is critical to review and assess that the training chosen matches the philosophy of the organization. For example, a client may say they want their middle management staff to be more assertive in decision-making, but then upper management or executive leadership micro-manages when it comes down to actually allowing middle managers to make independent decisions. Training that does not match the culture of the organization not only wastes time and money, but can also result in frustration and lowered morale for employees who were engaged in the training and are then blocked from applying what they’ve learned.
McCall also makes a great point in saying that “Just because people WANT training doesn’t mean they need it and just because they NEED training doesn’t mean they want it.” And it is this statement that is at the center of why any training provider committed to offering effective educational programs should ask those probing questions prior to scheduling training.
It’s very common to receive a request for one type of training, only to discover after an exploratory discussion that the training need is something different than originally thought. Let’s take the hypothetical case of the manager whose team seems to be experiencing an increased amount of conflict and is not acting as a cohesive unit:
We receive a call from the human resource contact at Company XYZ asking for a teambuilding session for one of their divisions. The HR professional says the division’s manager reported that suddenly, members of the group are not getting along and it’s impacting productivity. They need to learn how to work better as a team. We ask for a phone consultation with the manager and anyone else who should be included in determining what outcome is desired from the training.
During a conversation with the manager and his assistant manager, we find the company has recently reorganized some positions and this division was affected. While the team members are the same, their responsibilities have shifted. We also find out that before the changes, the group functioned well and without conflict. The managers acknowledge some employees are having difficulty adjusting to their new roles, but feel they are all valuable and capable of the performance expected.
After this discussion, it becomes apparent the problem is not that the group doesn’t know how to function as a team or that there are members of the group creating conflict. Instead, the employees within the division are having difficulty adjusting to the changes that have taken place.
In a best case scenario, a teambuilding workshop may have reinforced skills this group already knew, but still would not have been the best use of training funds. On a less positive note, bringing teambuilding training to a group who knew they were able to work well together before reorganization could have potentially caused more problems, such as lowered morale or hostility, as employees might feel the blame for lost productivity was misplaced: “We didn’t have any problems until the ‘bigwigs’ decided to do it this way instead of how we were doing it before. Now they’re blaming us that it’s not working when it was their idea.”
A program on change management was more applicable to the division’s needs. Employees were resistant to the changes that had taken place and just wanted things to “go back to the way they were before.” However, a change management session allowed employees to recognize the stages of change, determine where they were in terms of acknowledging and accepting change individually, and learn how to move forward so that the group could return to the exceptional levels of performance expected of them.
Ease@Work can help you address your company’s training, coaching and organizational development needs. Our programs are thoughtfully tailored to your organization, using a variety of methods, some of which might include phone or in-person consultation, needs assessments or use of focus groups. Skills retention can be assessed through pre- and post-testing, assessing application of training 30-, 60-, or even 90-days out.
Thursday, April 8th, 2010
By Valerie S. Nosek, Ease@Work Coordinator
Did you know that tobacco use still leads the pack in being the number one preventable cause of death? Yes it’s true – despite all that we’ve learned about the ill effects of tobacco use, people continue to smoke and use other tobacco products.
According to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) Freedom From Smoking ® program, about one out of every five deaths is tied to tobacco; and for every person who dies of a smoking attributable disease, there are 20 more people suffering from a serious illness related to smoking.
As a human resource professional, benefits manager, company owner or CEO, how can you help but wonder what smoking and tobacco use is costing your organization in terms of insurance premiums, absenteeism/sick days, loss of productivity and ultimately the possible death of an employee?
I recently had the privilege of attending and completing an ALA workshop conducted by Gloria Ayres, ALA Program Director, to become certified as a Freedom From Smoking ® facilitator. Our group included individuals from wellness organizations, hospitals, the insurance and employee assistance program (EAP) industries – all of us looking to help customers, co-workers and others in the community who want to quit smoking.
In preparing for the class, I thought about my motivations for wanting to become certified to teach smoking cessation classes. Of course, I want to help our EAP customers when they request smoking cessation classes for their employees and the ALA’s Freedom From Smoking® is a premiere program. But I also realized I had other motivations.
As a former smoker, I understand what your smoking employees may be struggling with…how hard it is to quit smoking and break that habit (or dependence) on tobacco. I smoked for over 20 years (if you count when I started sneaking smokes as a teen); I have now been smoke-free for 12 years. When I was smoking, I never really believed I could be successful at quitting…but I figure if I could stop smoking and stay smoke-free for this long, so can other people.
I know how it feels to wake up with smoker’s cough…and I know how good it feels when you realize, “Gee, I’m not coughing anymore!” I know how dirty my fingers would feel when I was digging through an ashtray for a longer butt to smoke when I was out of cigarettes and desperate for one; I don’t miss that. I also don’t miss spending my hard-earned money on packs of cigarettes – at over $5 a pack now, that would have been almost a $20-a-day habit for me. Who can afford that?
But more than that – who can afford what tobacco use does to the body?
- More than 4,800 chemical compounds have been identified in tobacco smoke; at least 69 of these are known to cause cancer
- Non-tobacco materials found in cigarettes include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and pesticides…not so funny that the suffix “cide” means “to kill.”
- Every puff of a cigarette increases heart and breathing rates, constricts blood vessels and decreases the amount of oxygen blood can carry through the body.
- Lung cancer is not the only cancer tobacco users need to fear…how about laryngeal cancer, oral cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer and renal cancer?
- Let’s not forget other health issues associated with smoking – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other cardiovascular diseases.
When I quit smoking, I didn’t have access to a program such as Freedom From Smoking ®; I also didn’t know about EAP’s or that an EAP could help with smoking cessation by providing counseling and behavioral change support. Had I been armed with these tools, I may have been successful in quitting earlier – or at least felt more prepared to quit – not as overwhelmed.
- If your worksite is going (or has gone smoke-free) and you know a number of employees are still smoking;
- If your organization has wellness initiatives;
- If your benefits program distinguishes between smokers and non-smokers (either with penalties for smoking/rewards for not smoking)…
…consider offering the Freedom From Smoking ® program to your employees.
Your employees will progress through the sessions, gaining the confidence and skills needed to quit tobacco. They will make real progress in setting a quit date and having the support to see them through those difficult initial days and weeks. They will learn the coping techniques needed to stay smoke-free.
Talk with your EAP representative about smoking cessation programs and how your EAP can support employees who are trying to quit smoking. Along with addictions or behavioral change counseling, a comprehensive EAP, such as EASE@Work, offers nutritional and fitness coaching – which can also help employees maintain a healthy weight while quitting.
If you’d like more information about bringing Freedom From Smoking ® to your site, call me at 216.325.9323 or Contact Ease@Work for more information.
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
Out with the DFWP, In with the DFSP
by Patrick Gaul
It has long been rumored that the Ohio BWC Drug Free Workplace Program (DFWP) was on the chopping block. The BWC sent an announcement on March 31, 2010, confirming those rumors.
“The BWC will phase out DFWP effective July 1, 2010,” according to an update to the Ohio BWC website which was posted on April 1, 2010. April Fools Day, interesting timing. The DFWP is being replaced with the Drug Free Safety Program (DFSP).
Since helping businesses to maintain a drug free work environment is a big part of what Ease@Work does, I spent some time reviewing the DFSP information on the BWC Website. If you would like to do the same, follow this link to the BWC DFSP information Webpage. Here are the highlights as I see them:
- The DFSP is not limited to five years, as was the case with the DFWP.
- Previous participants are eligible to join even if they timed out of the DFWP.
- Stacking of discounts is back, but don’t get too excited. If your organization is group rated, your DFSP discount is limited to 3 percent.
- The DFSP is supposedly simpler and easier to implement than the DFWP.
- The application process has been streamlined.
- The employee education requirement has been reduced from two hours initially and two hours of annual refresher to one hour initially and one hour annual refresher.
- The supervisor education requirement has been reduced from four hours initially and two hours of annual refresher to two hours initially and one hour of annual refresher. (Kudos to the BWC for this! As an employee of an EAP which is in the business of selling Drug Free training, even I think that 6 hours of supervisor training was too much.)
- The DFSP emphasizes tailored approaches to loss prevention and risk management, which includes a mandatory safety review and the provision of accident-analysis training for supervisors.
Two levels instead of three.
The DFSP Basic Level provides a 4 percent discount, which is down significantly from the 10 percent for DFWP Level 1. Group rated organizations cannot receive a discount for participating in the DFSP at the Basic Level. Requirements at the Basic Level include a “safety review” which “walks them through a series of questions designed to demonstrate where the gaps are within the overall approach to workplace safety.”
As was the case with the DFWP, the Basic Level requires a written substance policy. The DFSP includes an outline of questions which, when answered thoroughly, will assist you with designing your own policy. They still suggest that you run your policy past legal counsel for review, but believe this process will be less expensive than paying an employment law attorney to design your policy from scratch.
As stated in the bullets above, the employee education and supervisor training has been reduced in quantity but still follows the same basic guidelines as the DFWP. As with the DFWP, the DFSP drug testing requirements include pre-employment, reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing, as appropriate, return-to-duty and follow-up testing for employees being allowed to retain employment after a positive test. The Basic Level does not require random testing.
The DFSP Advanced Level provides an additional 3 percent “incremental” discount for a total of 7 percent. Only companies which are not receiving a group rating will qualify for the 7 percent discount. Group rated organizations may qualify for the 3 percent incremental discount if they participate at this level. In other words, while discount stacking is technically allowed, a DFSP discount is only available for group rated businesses if they qualify at the Advanced Level and their discount is limited to 3 percent rather than the 7 percent available to businesses which are not group rated.
The Advanced Level requires everything that the Basic Level requires, plus Advanced Level organizations must create a safety action plan from the safety review required at the Basic Level. This plan “moves employers from identifying gaps in safety to taking the appropriate steps to address these issues and better protect the workforce.” BWC safety consultants are available to offer professional guidance in this area.
The Advanced Level also requires random drug testing of 15 percent of the average annual total workforce and it requires a pre-established “working relationship with an employee assistance professional to whom they can refer an employee” testing positive for banned substances and the employer must pay for the cost of the assessment.
This is the cliff notes version of the DFWP / DFSP transition. Again, for a far more detailed explanation, go to the BWC website.
To address the elephant in the room - Why bother?
While the BWC says the new program is “easier to implement” it sure seems like more work with the safety review and safety action plan requirements. On top of it, for your extra efforts you are being rewarded with significantly reduced discounts.
Is it worth the bother?
In my opinion, yes it is. Even under the DFWP when the discounts were 10-20 percent, the most significant cost savings were ancillary to the BWC discounts. The biggest savings came with improvements in workplace safety, improved employee productivity and even wellness. It is apparent to me that the BWC has put a great deal of effort into maximizing the ancillary benefits by improving the focus on workplace safety. I believe that any effort to improve workplace safety is a good investment.
Ease@Work provides a variety of support to employees and management working within a drug free environment. Contact Ease@Work for more information.
Friday, February 19th, 2010
By Patrick Gaul
By now, you have probably seen that Cleveland topped this year’s Forbes Magazine list of America’s most miserable cities. As a Cleveland Area native and life-long resident, I am used to reading things like this and am even able to find humor in it. Heck, I even posted it to my Facebook page. If we can’t laugh at ourselves we’ll cry, right?
Let’s look closer at what Forbes was measuring.
The Weather: Originally I thought this entire rating was based on weather and that really had me confused. As I read the original article, I now realize that weather was just one of 10 factors considered. Sure, the weather isn’t good here in winter, but it’s not the worst in America. A bad snow storm here is 12 inches. In Buffalo they call those flurries. In Cleveland we break out the winter coat, hat and gloves when it falls into the 20’s. In Minneapolis that’s a day at the beach.
This past Valentines Day, Ease@Work’s parent company the Center for Families and Children (CFC) hosted a race called the Run with Your Heart Trail Challenge. A race in winter in Cleveland, it must be indoors, right? Nope, note the word Trail in the title. We didn’t even use paved roads for this event! Was it a 5k / 10k? Heck no, it was an 8k / 15k! CFC decided to embrace the Cleveland winter and see if Clevelanders would rise up to a challenge and we did. This was a sold out race with 200 runners. I was one of those runners and I had a great time. Was I miserable? Not at all.
Most Clevelanders I know love the seasons. If you want a better appreciation for Cleveland winters, get outside into the Metroparks in the winter when everything is covered in a blanket of snow. It’s amazing because everything seems to be asleep until you look down and see animal tracks everywhere, proving that things are not always as they appear.
While the contributors to the Forbes article judge that our weather is something that should make us miserable, they are not in our heads. I invite Forbes magazine to come to the 2nd annual “Run with Your Heart Challenge” on February 13, 2011 and see for themselves that Cleveland winters do not make us miserable.
Corruption by Public Officials: This was one of the factors I believe propelled us to #1. I can’t speak for other Clevelanders, but this one does bum me out. Am I miserable over it? No, but I hate that many voters in my suburb have decided not to support our school system because a former board member (whom I will not name) was prominently featured in the FBI corruption investigation. What’s the bright side? Addition by subtraction for one thing. We now have a better school board because the FBI is doing their job. I just wish the voters would rebel against politicians at the polls rather than against our youngest residents.
The Economy: This was the first thing listed in the Forbes article when they were explaining why Cleveland topped the list this year.
“Cleveland secured the position thanks to its high unemployment, high taxes, lousy weather, corruption by public officials and crummy sports teams (Cavaliers of the NBA excepted).”
Let’s explore this a little more closely. Yes, the economy has dealt more than its fair share of damage to the Cleveland Area and we have lost jobs because of it. I heard an interesting presentation at the Cleveland SHRM Chapter meeting this week. Carin Rockind from TeamNEO addressed the many misperceptions about the Cleveland + Region (Cleveland + Akron + Canton + Youngstown). The thing that I was most impressed with was the fact that this region’s Gross Regional Product (GRP) grew 30% during a recent 15 year period. Coupled with job loss, this means that this region is far more productive than it was 15 years ago. Sure, much of that can be explained by technology advances, but there is no question that we are asking for more productivity out of less employees today than we were even a few years ago.
Ok, so I’m being Mr. Brightside again with my rose-colored glasses on, but there is something to be said for a region that responds to adversity by working a little harder. When it snows, we sell out trailruns; at the same time people down south were shutting everything down due to a few inches of snow. When our co-workers get laid off, we mourn their loss and roll up our sleeves and do the work of two for the same money. The Cleveland area is certainly enduring an extended period of adversity, but we are rising to the challenge. Before we can expect the rest of the country to take note, we need to become aware of the positives all around us.
What can be done? You didn’t expect me to end this without a plug for Employee Assistance did you? If your business is one that is demanding more production out of fewer employees, you must be sure that they have access to a GOOD EAP. Not the free EAP that comes with something else that your company is buying. It’s worth $2 per employee, per month, to make sure your employees can get the help they need to deal with the pressures they are faced with.
Here are a few good tests of your current program:
- The next time an employee shares some information with you indicating they might have a personal problem, suggest they call the EAP. Make sure they know it’s voluntary and that they don’t have to give you any details, but let them know you are genuinely interested in whether the EAP was able to help them.
- The next time you have an issue with an employee’s decrease in productivity, whether it’s an employee who reports directly to you or reports to somebody else, consider sending them to the EAP for an assessment prior to disciplining them. It might be the case that they are having a personal issue they don’t want you to know about, which is affecting their work.
- Check your utilization report. If you think your organization does not have employees with personal problems, you are wrong. Any true independent EAP can expect a utilization level of at least 4% if it is properly promoted. With an add-on program, you will not be likely to see even 1% utilization.
While a lack of employee complaints might be a sign that other benefits are performing properly such as not receiving complaints about insurance benefits – this is not the case with EAP benefits. Employees are highly unlikely to disclose when an EAP is not responsive to them because in filing that complaint with human resources or a manager, the employee is in fact revealing information they would prefer be kept confidential. So, what happens more often than not is that employees do not receive the assistance they need and EAP use is essentially non-existent, making it appear as if your employees are trouble-free.
Your EAP must be engaged in order to function properly. It is well worth the effort to develop relationships with your EAP account representative – see what can be done to promote the services in the workplace, find out how management consultations are helpful in addressing difficult or sensitive workplace situations, talk about how management referrals can save a company from replacing a good worker who may just be going through a rough spot.
Having an engaged EAP supporting your organization is one easy, inexpensive, action you can take to counter the effects that the weather, economy and politicians are having on your employees. Who knows, it might even bump Cleveland from that #1 spot!
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Welcome to Ease@Work 2.0
By Patrick Gaul
The world is changing. In his 2005 book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman described the globalization of the economy and suggested ways that the United States could manage globalization through adaptation.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) industry is changing, too. Human Resource (HR) professionals should take note of this transition in the industry, as the concept of an ever-evolving EAP must be understood in order to ensure your organization is receiving the fullest benefit from your EAP.
At first glance, one of the biggest changes has been one that many in the C-Suite would consider a positive. EAP’s are now available for much less money than they once were. In fact, an EAP is no longer something that has to be purchased at all, as it is given away for “free” by many in the benefits industry. This can be a positive trend for some companies like small groups or groups in financial crisis that would not otherwise be able to pay for an EAP. Having 24 hour access to a counselor to support employees and/or management is something that no company should be without. Most HR professionals understand though that most of these “freeaps” (pronounced free APs), as I like to call them, do not benefit their organization or their employees in the same way a full service EAP does.
Each HR professional probably has a slightly different take on why they would prefer a full service EAP over an add-on program. But, the reality is that the price difference has reached a critical tipping point, where the perceived differences in price often make it impossible for the HR person to overcome the differences in services. (Please note I say “perceived” because free isn’t really “free” when the true cost of the freeap is built into the premium or base price of the service it’s being added to – such as a health insurance premium or payroll service.)
“An EAP is a critical link in the success of an integrated strategy, in that the EAP links health to workplace performance. It is the unique quality of an EAP, but it is often overlooked,” said John Burke, a thought leader in the EAP field and principal of Burke Consulting. (The Changing Nature and Future of EAP’s, Journal of Employee Assistance, 2nd Quarter 2009.)
In the same article, Jodi Jacobson, chair of EAP specialization at the School of Social Work, University of Maryland said, “As the field works to redefine itself, one of our biggest challenges is how to change or improve the face of employee assistance so that we are seen not only as a ‘nice’ additional health benefit, but as a program that is strategically integrated with the larger workplace.”
My personal experience has taught me what Jacobson says is very true. Most people I speak with agree Ease@Work is a “nice” benefit for employees, but that’s not usually the reason a company purchases it. Organizations invest in Ease@Work because we can become “strategically integrated” into the workplace of each of our customers, and because we are an important link between health and workplace performance. Ease@Work provides special training for managers as well as HR professionals in order to guide them through this integration. (I have uploaded excerpts from one of these trainings to Slideshare if you are interested in seeing an example.) The bottom line is, this integration must be intentional and deliberate. It takes work on the part of the EAP and the EAP customer’s management team.
As a manager at Ease@Work with responsibility over Sales and Marketing, I would like to transform the person who believes an EAP is a commodity into a person who understands their organization does not really have an EAP if the program filling the “EAP role” is not strategically integrated into the workplace and producing in a positive effect on workplace performance.
So, the question is, how do I explain this essential difference to HR directors or other leaders in an organization? If I were to try this in a cold call, it would go something like this… (cue the harps and soft focus edit to a man on on the phone)
Me: “Hello, is this the Human Resources Director?”
Me: “Does your company have an EAP.”
HR: “Yes, we get it free with our ________.
Me: “Is it strategically integrated into your workplace, resulting in a positive effect on workplace performance?”
As a company providing personalized service – customized to client needs – in an industry that is rapidly changing in good ways (and bad), it is our goal to provide you with many brief examples of how Ease@Work is a leader among full-service local/regional EAPs. We would also like to entertain you and share with you some great information we come across during the course of doing our jobs. Even if you are not in the market for an EAP, we believe you will learn something at Interact@Ease. Hopefully we will too. For that to happen we need your active participation. Please feel free to interact with us by adding your comments to our entries.
Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Employees More Likely to be Caregivers
Talk to any baby boomer and chances are likely they have personal experience in assisting an aging parent or elderly relative in some way. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 54 percent of the work force will be caring for an elder by 2008.
But why should employers be concerned about employees who take care of older relatives?
Quite simply because eldercare issues directly impact the employer’s bottom line to the tune of billions each year. A 1999 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute “estimated that U.S. companies lose $11 billion to $29 billion a year in reduces productivity;” an upcoming report is expected to show those losses as even greater (AARP Bulletin, May 2006).
Caregiving Issues Multi-Faceted
Human resource departments are finding elder caregiving issues are complicated; there are two distinct sides to the equation. First, there are the practical concerns – those related to safety, living arrangements, medical costs, insurance coverage and/or assistance, managing doctor’s appointments etc. Then, there’s the issue of what impact caregiving responsibilities have on the employee – stress and the resulting negative influences on health and well-being.
While companies have recognized eldercare as a productivity problem, the focus has been on finding resources for the family member, not in addressing the mental and emotional health needs of the employee doing the caregiving. Fortunately, this is changing.
Re-Focusing EAP Services to Meet Caregiver Needs
A recent Wall Street Journal article (June, 21, 2007, page D1) reported “…in the first shift in elder-care benefits in years, a few employers are offering elder-care programs aimed at the health and well-being of the workers themselves. By encouraging workers who have eldercare duties to take better care of themselves, employers hope not only to raise productivity, but to scale down healthcare costs.”
The Ease@Work employee assistance program has been an leader among EAPs, offering eldercare assistance to caregivers in both – community resources aimed toward the needs of the geriatric family member and for the health and well-being of the employee. The Ease team of eldercare specialists have expertise focused on the separate sides of the eldercare issue; employees seeking assistance through Ease@Work have access to the support they need personally as a caregiver in addition to up-to-date resources and practical information.
“Caregivers are usually working and keeping up a house, and they are on-call 24/7 and feeling overwhelmed,” said Margaret Chesler, an eldercare specialist with Ease. ” That puts caregivers at high risk for depression and health problems.”
It is clear with an increasingly aging population, more and more of those in the work force are going to be responsible for an elder family member’s care. The solution for employers begins with a comprehensive EAP that includes an awareness of, and the ability to address, eldercare and caregiving as an integrated issue.