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 #.. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confusion about Alcoholism: When Will It End

Tell me if this makes sense to you:  

The risk of an alcohol use disorder, which includes alcoholism and alcohol abuse is higher among those whose parents had an Alcohol Use Disorder. The increased risk is independent of other major predictors, such as gender, parents' social status and the psychiatric hospitalization of parents. The key message for the general public is that there is an increased risk associated with parental alcoholism, but obviously many other factors determine whether an individual develops an AUD.

This is language from a press release I received today. The only difference is that you are only reading the beginning and the end of it to illustrate my point in this post.

Of course this does not make sense, but it is typical double speak I frequently see in research articles about alcoholism where genetics overwhelmingly is evident as the contributing factor, if not the sole factor evident in  acquired alcoholism. These end of the story caveats that contradict research and alcoholism science are not uncommon. It leaves a wonderful opening to the continued psychological treatment of alcoholics and allows the mental health community analyzing why alcoholics drink to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Now, here is link to the rest of the full press release so you can see it in full.


You may want to see this alcohol in the workplace education and awareness tool.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

EAP Marketing Tips: 1 of 10: Talk about Risk Reduction More Deeply

I am going to discuss marketing related issues for EAP providers. Many have complained about low balling, managed care, and "commodization". Commodization is not a problem by the way. It is a symptom of the problem. That problem is lack of definition and codification about what EAPs really are, what they should be, and how they ought to be defined by a nationally recognized organization that both promotes and protects the parameters of the EAP program definition so corporate customers and potential purchasers pull away and are less likely to be attracted to inferior, well marketed knock-offs. (Okay that was a little rough, but this is a blog.)

Back on point. The issue in in free markets is usually also about having a better product and the ability to communicate that. I think a piece of the problem lies here. The problem it seems to me is that EA professionals don't really know their own product very well. Let's discuss this over the next couple weeks and see if my notes transcribed to this blog from the jotted scratches on gum wrappers I possess can assist you with additional insights that will make you better prepared to discuss your program and better able to standou in a crowd because you are able to define a better product.

Issue #1 of 10 for Marketing Discussions with Potential Purchasers of EAP Services:
With the increasing risk to employers of being sued by employees, how does the EAP play a role in reducing this risk beyond simply seeing employees referred for personal problems?

Because CT-EAPs (the CT stands for true core technology-driven programs. Since anyone can call themselves an EAP and get away with it handily, I often like to write "CT-EAP".) deal with troubled employees, many of whom have problems with management, they are frequently the first to learn of an employee’s interest or intention to sue the company. For example, my supervisor did such and such, I am angry, I wonder if I can sue. Such statements, if handled properly, make the EAP an early, front line defense against employment claims and related lawsuits. EA professionals help employees seek solutions to personal problems and will steer employees to more constructive alternatives to meet their needs. In many instances this is accomplished by referring them to human resources, providing conflict resolution assistance, or seeking other alternative dispute resolution channels. Although not researched, EAPs certainly save money by helping ward off lawsuits long before they ever are filed. These are precious dollars recovered from loss. It is more crucial than ever for today’s EA professionals to understand federal laws that govern the employment relationship. EA professionals should know these major laws and have a basic understanding of their tenets. Armed with this knowledge, they can better consult with supervisors in the course of managing troubled employees. Every EAP should respond to an additional question, “How do you respond when an employee comes to your office and states that he or she is interested in suing the company?” Communicating to customers that your EAP is a program of attraction like a magnet for troubled employees and those like to agress against the company financially, where they can get their needs met in "healthier ways" is a huge and attractive marketing point ignored by the most experienced EA professionals and related marketers. A business hearing this may respond very quickly with "where do I sign up!"

Friday, April 8, 2011

EAP Consultancy: Advising Supervisors on How to Investigate Something

Not all supervisors have access to knowledgeable human resource professionals capable giving them instruction on important duties. It all depends on the company's size and its resources and easy access to these resources if they exist. Still, all companies have the same concerns and worries. And meeting the needs of employers should be a key customer service strategy of yours if you are an employee assistance professional. Caveat: If you can justify the activity as falling within the scope of the core technology.

Be creative in your thinking because you may discover new ways of consulting that will prove your value if you think in these dimensions. One of these areas for discussion is giving supervisors basic instruction during consultations with them on investigating employee incidents--serious or not so serious disruptions or violations of company policies or work rules.

Your job is to help protect companies against the impact of troubled employees.

(Digression: Many EA professionals, especially those of yesteryear would argue that this is the most important goal of employee assistance programs. In fact, it is still listed first in the core technology. If you are an "import" to the EAP field and arrived with the idea of only doing mental health counseling in the workplace, you are missing many key aspects of the profession.)

Here's another point to consider arguing: The customer is the person paying your salary. That isn't the employee client. So always thinking about how to meet their needs with your services raises the value of the profession. Am I wrong?

Continuing........One of the resources you may want to consider helping managers with during consultations is providing guidance to them on conducting investigations. Are there commonly used guidelines for investigating incidents in the workplace associated with disturbing employee conduct? Yes. Most supervisors don't know them.

Rule #1--always tell supervisors that you aren't an attorney and that the supervisor should talk to the human resources manager or other adviser to you cover yourself. That being said, investigations follow a logical path to gather information about an event so that a reliable conclusion about what happened can be drawn. So, get this one down pat, and you will provide a valuable service to reduce risk to the employer. You will really get a "Wow!" out of them. You will be a hero. That's what you want. EA professionals are heroes, remember.

Tell the supervisor that he or she must start of thinking of the process like a hopscotch so they don't go off half-cocked. You're going to take it one square at a time. Many organizations have specific procedures to follow concerning things like sexual harassment and other severe events, so again, remind the supervisor to go looking for this information and inquire about how to conduct these types of investigations.

Still, generally speaking however, go ahead and memorize the following spiel: Consider these steps when investigating other conduct-related incidents: First, notify your supervisor about any incident you think needs investigating. Next, interview parties separately, and in private (ask for all details, and ask for the names of any witnesses). Create a written list of your questions so things stay consistent. Third, keep the information you collect confidential from others you interview - persons involved in an investigation are not entitled to the results of your interviews. Fourth, do not form opinions as you investigate - just write down exactly what is said and move quickly in your investigation; and fifth, arrive at a conclusion - do not disclose the nature of administrative or disciplinary actions, if any, to complainants or witnesses. With this information, discuss your findings with a confidentially approved party. That could be an attorney, but do not forget your employee assistance program professional. Lots of confidentiality there. This might be your final stop before a decision or taking the results to the next level of management.

Now you know a little bit more about this subject and can be a true service to managers who ask you in an EAP appointment--"gee, how do I go about this?" You will no longer have to say. "Gee, I am not sure. Maybe there is a book on it somewhere."