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“We have no evidence or correlation to say that just because the service use is higher, it Pie doesn’t mean that you have lots of issues in your organisation, which is what I originally thought, but it could mean that people are aware that the service is there and so are using it.” (Participant 8) Survey respondents were asked how their current EAP usage compared to previous years. Of the 46 managers who answered the question, 6% indicated that EAP use had reduced, 22% reported that EAP use had increased, with 72% highlighting that the use had not really changed.
How has this year’s EAP use compared with the previous year?
72% Both the survey and the interview respondents provided a number of reasons for why any changes in EAP use were found. Most indicated that with EAPs there was constant change in demand because you can never know what is going on in an employee’s personal life.
Variability in work-related issues commonly revolved around organisational restructuring and organisational change which led to periods of employee uncertainty, or increased employee workloads resulting in work-related stress. A number of managers also noted that changes in EAP use could have occurred as a new EAP had been implemented and so there was an increase in service promotion, and when there had been a reduction in use, this was commonly linked to variability in the promotion, and managers were keen to address this.
Interviewees often speculated why employees did not use the EAP. Some managers believed that employees either don’t have any issues that they wanted to discuss or confide in anyone or they did not know that they actually needed the service. However, other managers voiced that more needed to be done to calm fears about the confidentiality of the service, either as there were fears that other employees could find out that the service had been used, or that HR or
line managers would find out why they have used the service:
“One problem is that the employees are worried about what information the organisation would receive, so if they call and speak to a counsellor I think that they are probably concerned about whether the EAP are going to feed anything back to the organisation.” (Participant 4) Managers were keen to highlight that confidentiality was something they always spoke about when promoting the service as they realised this could be a point of contention, or concern for employees. One discussed how they stressed that all information given was anonymised;
that the data given in usage reports were not broken down in such a way that individuals could be identified, and when using the service employees did not have to give all their descriptive
information if they did not feel comfortable to do so. In this way, it was the importance of:
“…re-emphasising when we say it is confidential, it really is confidential, and the information really won’t come back to the managers.” (Participant 8) Many reasons as to why people did not use the service was often related to promotion in some way, whether this was related to employees not even knowing that the organisation had an EAP;
employees may not be aware of what the service offered and as a result of that, there was an
associated stigma that EAPs are only for counselling and health and wellbeing and nothing else:
“There is a stigma. I think people don’t recognise it as an Employee Assistance Programme, they just recognise it as some counsellors, or a counsellor company, even though it is not marketed like that, but that is what people generally consider it to be.” (Participant 7) The quantitative survey asked whether some employees at an organisation were not eligible for the service, and from the 57 who responded, 14% indicated that there were members of staff who were not eligible to use the EAP, 84% said that all were eligible for EAP use, and 2% were unsure.
Are there any groups of staff not eligible for EAP use?
Are there any groups of staff not eligible for EAP use?
Number of respondents
EAP Value to Staff and Promotion Literature discussing EAP use has often considered how having the service is beneficial for organisations in terms of the potential positive implications for improved wellbeing, sickness absence and productivity, but also highlights the role they can have in providing benefits to employees as a result of the advice they can give. This research was also interested in the value of EAPs to employees, and what could be done to improve this. The online survey included an open ended question for HR Managers to discuss what they thought the value and benefits to employees having an EAP could be. Out of the 29 respondents who commented, the most common reply was that an EAP offered both an independent and confidential source of support, something that was external to HR and other managers, and that staff could receive high quality personal and professional support that those internal to the organisation may not be able to offer. Similar themes emerged throughout the qualitative interviews. The opportunity for independent, confidential advice for both work-related and personal problems was often
described as an ‘invaluable benefit’. For example:
“Sometimes staff do not want to discuss their personal matters internally, so the EAP gives them that service, that place to go, where they can be anonymous and discuss their problems.” (Participant 10) However, from both the survey responses and qualitative interviews, this was reported to be a very difficult question to answer, as in most cases the usage of EAPs was low (ranging between 2-16%), and there was the perception that employees saw the service as an ‘insurance policy’ or a ‘back-up’ for when an issue arose, and would use it, if they knew it was there. In this sense, managers often reported they thought that for the majority of employees an EAP was of little perceived importance. However anecdotal feedback suggested that when the service had been used, it had been of great value.
“I think it is of great importance and great value, obviously, because I am in charge of wellbeing. However, whether the rest of the organisation sees it the same way, well, I think it is now of those things that is like an insurance policy. You never know that you really need it until the time comes that you need it…It is probably one of the best wellbeing programmes that we have, but whether anybody else feel like that depends on whether they have needed to use it I guess.” (Participant 1) Some HR Managers highlighted short case studies in their interviews where employees have reported that the speed of the service, where there was instant access to a counsellor, or debt advisors meant that personal issues that often have a ‘knock-on effect’ or ‘spill-over’ for work productivity were dealt with in a timely manner. This was seen as being invaluable as anxieties and concerns were dealt with, and the EAP was a good starting point to instantly direct employees to the correct service. The other reported value discussed in the interviews was that employees had reported that the different modes of service delivery provided by EAPs was of importance, as not everyone felt comfortable using the phone, and the website access, or online discussions were also extremely valuable.
“I think that if you look across the staff as a whole and come up with an average view of the importance of an EAP, then I would think that is quite low. But I think for those individuals who need support, but for that smaller group, then I think it has been vitally important, especially for those who have needed signposting to further professional resources.” (Participant 5) A point made by both survey respondents and HR Managers interviewed was that the value of EAPs to employees could be improved and strengthened if EAPs were better promoted and communicated across organisations. In interviews managers often reported that the usage was low, and one major component of this was what an employee’s knowledge of what an EAP was. Some managers saw this as a two way process however – the EAPs were being promoted in organisations, but it could be that staff were not reading the communication, or in some cases misunderstanding them.
“As a benefit to staff it is there, but it is still probably underutilised. Because it is like anything isn’t it? People don’t read communications until they need it do they? It is important to staff, but it is also very important to the organisation if it is working properly and fully communicated – this means that staff cannot utilise the benefits from the service.” (Participant 7) There were a number of ways through which EAP services were promoted throughout organisations. In the quantitative survey, 49 respondents answered the question about the methods through which the EAP was promoted (multiple options were allowed), 80% of respondents indicated that the intranet and HR were the two main approaches. Posters (67%) and advertising the EAP during new staff inductions (63%) were also common approaches.
Promotion through staff newsletters (45%) and the Trade Union (29%) were the least common methods. Other methods suggested by the survey respondents included promotion via podcasts and webinars, leaflets, wallet cards and through presentations by the provider.
How is the EAP promoted in your organisation?
Number of respondents The qualitative data verified the survey data, with all HR Managers utilising similar methods of promotion including: using organisational intranet sites (however, it was often mentioned that this could be improved as the wellbeing information and contact details for the EAP were often hidden behind many other internal screens, and so needed more prominence); posters;
through the induction to new starters; through discussions with line managers; organisational newsletters; leaflets; wallet cards and through informal discussions with staff.
HR Managers also discussed a number of difficulties that they had with promoting EAP services, and how this can be improved. One factor that was mentioned by the majority of HR Managers was the importance of line managers for promoting the service to those who they have contact with. The line manager was highlighted as they would have an employment relationship with the employee and recognise when an issue may be arising and so would be able to communicate the EAP to their staff.
“There is absolutely a role that line managers can play, and we are finding that to be increasingly important. It can still get better, and there is still room for improvement…” (Participant 3) However, HR Managers also noted some of the limitations of using line managers for promotion.
One provided an example where line managers were asked to hand out leaflets to each of their members of staff, but instead the leaflets were just left on the table for employees to take one if they want one – so the challenges in ensuring line managers were undertaking the tasks asked of them were raised. Another participant highlighted that although line managers were in the prime position for promotion, they also had extensive workloads to complete and so adding an extra task to remember may not be ideal, especially if they are not up to date with the latest services that an EAP provides, or have not had line management training to help recognise when employees may be in need of help. One line manager did question the role of line managers over and above employees in general, and in their opinion every staff member had the role and responsibility to promote the EAP if they knew of another employee struggling
with a work or personal issue:
“Line managers are important, but I think that they are no more or less important than other members of staff…we haven’t particularly targeted line managers in a particular way, as they should be aware as anyone else in this organisation.” (Participant 5) As well as line managers, participants from both the survey and interviews discussed the role of the senior management team in both the successful implementation and promotion of EAPs.
The qualitative data indicated that in almost all occasions the senior management team were very supportive of EAPs in organisations. In general the senior management team would be part of the tender process, suggesting that they thought EAPs were a beneficial initiative, although contract managers believed that more could still be done by them to promote the service, especially during times of organisational change and development.
“On some levels they do support it, and in others, well it is not exactly that they don’t support it, it is just that there might be something else that in more important, or more pressing.” (Participant 6) However, only one interviewee mentioned that they felt the need to justify EAP usage to senior management, especially when it was low, and indicated that support of the EAP may waiver if there were funding constraints and EAP use was still low.
Comments from both the survey and interview data provide evidence suggesting that EAP providers need to take a more proactive role in promoting the service in organisations. HR Managers suggested that this could occur through presentations at health and wellbeing days, and when the service is launched – especially if the service is through a new EAP provider.
Survey comments included implementing roadshows where providers could promote their services more explicitly and concretely to different audiences, and the development of an electronic ‘app’ that employees could receive was also suggested. It was clear that managers wanted more out of providers in terms of promotion, but they also wanted the ‘right’ people to
promote it – providers who are engaging and would inspire people to use the service:
“There really is a joint responsibility between the employer and the EAP to promote it.