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EAPs What they Promise and What they Deliver

June 5, 2000
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Most likely, your EAP is not the delivering the value you were seeking when you purchased the program. EAP vendors typically promise the following benefits:

  • Improved job performance
  • Lower healthcare expenditures
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Increased employee retention
  • Assistance for employees with alcohol and drug problems

EAPs are capable of achieving all of the above objectives.

In fact, research demonstrates that EAPs can deliver a substantial return on investment, based on accomplishing these particular goals. The problem is that the research pertains to a different model EAP than the one you are probably paying for.

The type of EAP originally associated with a robust cost benefit was based in a large corporation, employed onsite EAP counselors, utilized a full-time EAP manager and generated up to half of the employee cases through supervisory referrals precipitated by declining job performance.

While the traditional EAP model still exists in an ever decreasing number of Fortune 500 companies, the predominant model for EAPs today is an offsite program where employees and supervisors call an 800 number and employees are seen by a community-based EAP affiliate. The question of whether the EAPs is integrated with the workplace makes all the difference in the world as to what the EAP can accomplish.

Benchmarking results

A 1999 survey of 54 Fortune 500 EAPs revealed that onsite EAPs had one third higher overall utilization, received five times the number of supervisory referrals and identified three times the number of employees with substance abuse problems as offsite programs.

A recent comparison of fourteen EAPs in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry also determined that onsite programs had higher utilization, identified more employee substance abuse cases and attracted more supervisory referrals. This study also found that higher utilization was far more significant in determining per case costs than vendor fees.

Company Employee or Vendor?

Employee utilization is not determined by whether the onsite EAP counselor is a company employee or works for a vendor. The issue is trust.

Employees are more likely to use an EAP if they can identify the program with an individual counselor(s) they have seen in the workplace doing EAP orientation sessions, brownbag programs on communication, stress management or coping with change seminars.

Before picking up the phone to make an appointment, the employee must decide, "Can I trust this individual to understand my problem and provide conscientious, confidential assistance?" With the offsite model EAP, an Account Executive typically provides the employee orientation sessions and brownbag programs.

The employee is still faced with the prospect of calling a 1-800 number and speaking to an anonymous counselor. Employees also find it more convenient to see an onsite EAP housed in the company medical clinic or similarly discrete location. Ironically, a standard selling point made for offsite programs is that "Employees are more likely to use offsite programs because they are perceived to be more confidential," but the data points in the opposite direction.

Link to more EAP articles or EAP vendors.

Recent Articles by Kenneth Collins

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