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EAPs Shift Appeal to Court Generational Differences

The changing makeup of the multigenerational workforce means that EAPs have to reconsider what kind of assistance they offer and how.
Person on laptop

“[Young employees] put things out there on social media, where it is open to many sources. They might be pushing things out to people they’ve never met or don’t know, because it’s just how communication has evolved from years past,” said Thompson.

Employee assistance programs offer valuable resources to employees going through hard times, like substance abuse or mental health issues.

But almost half of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2020, according to behavioral health care company Magellan Health’s “Workforce 2020” report. And many EAPs are still stuck in the one-size-fits-all approach, which doesn’t account for how the workforce of today differs from the workforce of 30 years ago.

“You have to shift and stay current and relevant as time progresses,” said Tina Thompson, senior vice president of health and performance solutions for behavioral health company Beacon Health Options. “If you stand still and provide an outdated process or service, you run the risk of becoming a dinosaur.”

Younger workers in general are comfortable doing their research before they contact an EAP, said Thompson, who has been in the industry for 30 years. In the past, EAPs may not have expected that people would do their homework. They would have relied on the EAP itself to educate them.

“They put things out there on social media, where it is open to many sources. They might be pushing things out to people they’ve never met or don’t know, because it’s just how communication has evolved from years past,” she said.

Although being proactive toward one’s behavioral health is a positive development, there are a few caveats. People may be overwhelmed by hundreds if not thousands of options for resources on the internet, and not all of this information has necessarily been vetted, said Thompson. They may end up with unreliable information about the state of their health.

As a connected group of people, younger workers may also have a sense of urgency and impatience when it comes to getting information and accessing services. Older generations waited for things.

It’s important not to generalize though, Thompson noted. Some of the stereotypes that hold true — older people being bad with technology or younger people being uncomfortable communicating via telephone — are becoming less true.headshot of Tina Thompson, senior vice president of health and performance solutions for behavioral health company Beacon Health Options

“You do need to understand the generation you’re speaking to and what their expectations are,” she said. “And then on top of that, you need to get an idea for where that individual is in the process.”

That’s where offering options and steering clear of a one-size-fits-all approach comes in. An EAP needs stay relevant to everyone who uses the service, she said. That means offering a variety of access points, allowing communication electronically, as well as speaking to a person.

Talking about certain topics around behavioral health can be stressful for employees using an EAP, and the goal of the service is to make sure people get their needs met in the right way and in the right time, she added. 

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below, or email at editor@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.