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One of the most common criticisms of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) is the low level of employee engagement. The National Business Group on Health estimates that only 5% of employees use their employer’s EAP annually. This estimate is consistent with other sources, which quote utilization in the single digits. Of course, this low engagement estimate includes employers who have signed up for “free” EAPs bundled in a disability insurance plan. These employers may only be interested in an EAP in order to check a box, so they’re not aggressively promoting their programs. In fact, providers of these “free” EAPs are banking on low utilization in order for their economic models to work.
There are many ways to increase EAP employee engagement, and a good EAP provider should be very willing to assist you with your efforts. Examples of some important tactics include:
Building better awareness – Awareness of EAP plans and the breadth of services offered tends to be very low in many companies. More and better communication of the EAP and the services offered is one of the highest impact steps an employer can take.
Customizing the EAP – Comprehensive EAP providers should work with you to customize the services they offer, as well as how those services are delivered, to meet the unique needs of your company and your employees.
Senior leadership engagement – When employees see their leaders are “walking the walk” by engaging with their EAP, it adds credibility and legitimacy.
Make it part of the company culture – Progressive employers recognize the importance of behavioral health, yet most employer wellness programs only focus on physical health. Your EAP and behavioral health services should be integrated across benefit programs.
Overcome the stigma – Sadly, many employees who would most benefit from the services of an EAP refrain from doing so because of the stigma often associated with mental health and EAPs. Making it part of the culture and having senior leadership set the example will help break down the stigma and increase engagement.
Emphasize Coaching to Help Overcome the Stigma
Another potentially more powerful way to overcome the stigma associated with EAPs is to get employees to think of their EAP in a different light. Yes, EAPs are designed to address critical behavioral health conditions like substance abuse or depression. But today’s EAPs offer so much more. Often, employees need advice, direction or just someone to talk to; they don’t need formal counseling. What they need is a coach.
Progressive EAPs offer a broad array of coaching services. And, while EAPs may have a negative connotation to some, coaching is generally always viewed positively. That means more of your employees will seek the help they need.
Don’t be confused and think that coaches are the JV team. Good coaching programs from comprehensive EAP providers will be selective about their coaches, only hiring those that are mental health professionals with master’s degrees.
Types of Coaching Programs
Coaching programs can effectively address the most common issues facing your employees every day – relationship issues, financial concerns, difficulty transitioning into a new position or new location, and leadership issues. Any one of these issues can effect job productivity, engagement levels and job performance. Examples of the types of coaching programs available include:
- Personal Coaching – Helps employees through issues or events that are impacting their lives in some way. These could be relationship issues that are personal or work-related.
- Health Coaching – Helps employees through health issues such as having trouble sticking to a diet, handling stress or quitting smoking.
- Financial Coaching – As earnings or saving issues leaves more employees stressed and looking for help, the need for financial coaching becomes increasingly relevant. Financial coaching can help them with personal money management and related financial issues.
- Leadership Coaching – Helps managers and supervisors recognize and address the behavioral health issues that are creating barriers to advancement or greater leadership success. Leadership coaches in a comprehensive EAP program will help managers identify those issues and guide them in developing and sticking to an improvement plan.
If you’d like to know more about how coaching programs can help your company, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go click here.