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Posted: April 11, 2008
<<Prior Strategy                    Next Strategy Coming Soon!
A Crisis in Human Resources Could
Use an EAP Fix

Home Depot put 50 percent of its human resources staff on the chopping block this week—about 1000 positions. Now, of course, there are going to be a lot of human resource managers around the country wondering, "Am I next?"
It's a good question, because companies are getting leaner and meaner, and they're using a take-no-prisoners approach toward increasing sales and revenue on the cusp of a recession. More companies could follow Home Depot's lead, especially as outsourcing firms rev up to take advantage of the pressure on human resource departments.

If you are observant, you know that the key customers of human resource managers are not employees, but line managers. That's because supervisors deal with employees on the front lines, wrestle with their problems and troubles, and must implement policies that are foisted upon them by the organization.

Managers have lots of clout, and they can make plenty of trouble for human resource representatives who are often accused by them of being "out of touch" with their needs.

EAPs, on the other hand, often have close and cozy relationships with managers because they depend on them greatly for their most treasured commodity—a supervisor referral. Supervisor referrals are the ultimate proof of EAP viability. They even top overall utilization rates in some respects.

A supervisor or line manager who loves the EAP staff becomes a walking brochure of the value of the EAP. Each positive relationship like this is worth its weight in gold.

To help human resource managers, EAPs should spend quality time with them and help them understand the issues facing supervisors because although supervisors may complain to human resources representatives, they don't open up about where they are really hurting. There is often tension between managers and HR people, and this doesn't lend itself to vulnerability and tell-all conversations—the type that EAPs have with supervisors.

EAPs often are deeply aware of what supervisors need. They know if supervisors are unsure of how to do performance evaluations, follow up on employees, motivate change, or write corrective letters.

EAPs know if supervisors need help writing more effective documentation, understanding the nuances of the ADA and FMLA, or managing stress. What about skills in managing and resolving conflicts between two employees? Straight up, the EAP knows.

EAPs can help HR representatives reach out effectively to supervisors, and human resource managers should make use of this powerful dynamic. EAPs can help elevate the importance of the human resources management function. This translates to a better relationship between the HR and line managers, something every HR manager dreams about and aspires to.

Of course, all of this is to say that EAPs will be more valuable as a result of this role in supporting human resources personnel. Indeed, it is often the human resources department that has the ability to put the EAP itself on the chopping block.

Partnership in the workplace—it's another word for "what goes around comes around." It translates to helping more employees, too.

In the next toolbox, I will talk about how to take the next step of informally coaching human resources staff so they feel confident enough to deliver to the "core" needs of supervisors.

Daniel Feerst

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