Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Power of Understanding and Using EAPs As "Programs of Attraction"

Is the EAP a place where employees should go to complain about things like harassment, ill-treatment by supervisors, or other injustices, even racial, religious, or sexual discrimination?

Or should the human resources department be the only avenue for such complaints?

If the answer is yes, that EAPs can be avenues of such help, should this be promoted as a parallel avenue of assistance?

Then again, if not, and an employee phones the EAP with one of these complaints, should the EAP reject the appointment and tell the employee only HR deals with those matters? Is there risk in rejecting such inquiries? Could a more serious underlying personal problem exist or be in tandem that needs to be discovered?

Answer: Employees should absolutely be encouraged to seek support and help from the EAP for these types of problems along with HR, even though later they may find redress via the HR department.

What is the justification for this opinion? The answer lies purely in reducing risk to the organization and getting more expedient help to employees who may not trust HR, feel their concerns won’t be held in the same confidence, or don't feel comfortable venting and processing with the HR manager (who may not be an trained empathic listener).

But doesn't my position interfere with traditional HR functions? Is this the EAP doing the HR department's job?

The answer is no, of course not. EAPs are programs of attraction. This is a seldom discussed concept in the EAP field but it was frequently discussed in the 70's and 80's.

A program of attraction model wicks risk from the organization. It draws out opportunities to reduce risk--employees who may be violent in the future, angry with management, or likely to file employment claims or lawsuits for the missteps of the organization.

EAPs help these individuals get their needs met in healthier ways. And the cost-benefit is incalculable.

There are opportunities for attracting more at-risk employees to your EAP. EAPs are underutilized however as tools to reduce risk when they are walled off because of turf issues in the organization.

Promote your EAP as a program of attraction. And explain this dynamic in marketing and promotion to prospective business customers. They will quickly grasp the idea of value in your proposal and your philosophy of how EAP programming can do more for them. Any proposal discussion with the prospect will shine with this discussion.

An EAP, like Alcoholics Anonymous, is a program of attraction when properly installed in an organization. This paradigm has been lost as a discussion point over the past 30 years. Reviving it could be a significant way for the EAP field to regain much of it lost perceived value among business customers who farm it out for an 800 #..