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Keeping Your EAP from Closing in 2010

You don't want to lose your employee assistance program to a less effective model offered by a competing service or managed care entity, but are you doing everything you can to help protect yourself from this threat?

I email a couple thousand professionals weekly or so, and one of the neat advantages of being in this seat is getting replies back validating some of the and observations in share.

How not to lose your program and avoiding budget cuts are popular themes. Although many people have ideas and answers, most don't have a strategy for staying on the offensive.

EAPs face issues beyond their control, but I believe they could be more effective with their corporate customers in ways that would help insulate programs from loss.

Three areas of activity or influence address this goal.

One is maximizing EAP utilization, but I don't mean just getting your "numbers up." Rather, I am talk about penetration of risk with strategies and tactics that identify and assist employees with needs and problems who would not typically seek EAP assistance.

Outreach to new customers is what we are talking about. If you can do this, less effective EAP models that can't reach these employees would be less of a threat.

For example, what about making services available to injured employees needing support with the goal of a faster return to work, reduced workers' compensation payouts, improved morale, reduced conflicts, and other secondary benefits?

The second area of influence is participation that show off the EAP as a key player in reducing and mitigating risk to the organization.

Financial risk, behavioral risk, employment practices liability risk, risk of worker death and injury, and other exposures often are linked to employee behavior. Frequently there are no systems to address these human factors. In the past, they've just been accepted.

For example, did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a common denominator in suicide notes of homicidal employees is complaints about disrespect?

EAPs are the perfect for providing this type training and awareness.

Most workplace professionals might train on respect. The usual focus is on signs, symptoms, profiles, and what-if contingencies. However, an EAP can get closer to employees and delve deeper to be more effective because of its special role, trust for the professional that typically exists, and its intimate knowledge of the workforce gained from many confidential interviews.

The third area of influence is enhancing relationships with management. Do this by providing frequent and useful information that helps them improve their job functioning. Supervisor skills, performance management tips, newsletters, and links to other resources in the community are good starting points.

The uniqueness of the EAP role is what defines the profession. Don't lose it because you were not able to articulate it.
An EAP know the personal secrets of both the janitor and the CEO. No other occupation has this reach within the employment setting.

There is no question that turnover of EA professionals, whether internal or externally with vendors, constitutes an EAP utilization killer. Brochures, business cards, #800 numbers on the back of insurance cards do build trust. It takes a face to do that.

In annual reports, spend time sharing with management the behavioral risk exposures the EAP has grown to identify and offer solutions that include the program's capabilities of mitigating them. Educate them to interface with the EAP and use it more effectively.

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