Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1991-- the Pivotal Year for EAPs that Wasn't

What were you doing in 1991 when the U.S. Congress passed the 1991 Amendment to the U.S. Civil Rights Act? If you were like me, you were oblivious to its implications for the employee assistance field, but it was earth shattering and monstrous.

The only reason the EAP field didn't feel the 9.0 quake rumble under its feet was because all of us, or nearly so, were on the wrong side of the mountain mining what little gold there is in the Managed Care industry. We were trying to understand it, team with it, fight it, and for some surrender to it. Some really famous EAPs sold themselves completely--and vanished.

Where we should have been was digging for the mother lode was on the other side of the mountain. We should have been teaming up with the Property-Casualty insurance industry. That's because the property-casualty insurance industry is not interested in keeping employees from accessing their behavioral health insurance benefits and using EAPs as gate-keeping devices to save health insurance dollars--what little there is to be saved.

These big boys want everything an EAP can throw at a company to reduce behavioral risk exposures. They want--they need the core technology. Why? They pay for the lawsuits that were made possible by the 1991 Civil Rights Act. They are the insurers for damages caused by bad employee/manager/management behavior.

Are you beginning to see the picture?

So what happened in 1991? You will answer this question for yourself in just a minute.

Let me ask: Are you aware that a corporation like Denny's, Toyota, or any business entity can be sued for unlimited punitive damages for sexual harassment and racial discrimination?
Did you know that 10 years ago the average out-of-court settlement for a wrongful discharge claim was $100,000. Even better, did you know that the average jury award for wrongful termination/discharge is $500,000?

So how expensive, or better said, how cheap is an EAP that can help prevent these payouts using its tools and resources so problems never become problems? Call it "dollars recovered from loss."

Ask yourself: How many times have you, as an employee assistance professional sat in your office and had an employee grumble, "I'm going to sue this place." If your experience has been similar to mine, you will probably say, "quite a few times." Of course, if you're a pro, your approach is to help such an employee get their needs met in more effective ways than suing the employer. Unfortunately, these vital successes probably aren't statistics in your annual reports.

The 1991 Civil Rights Act relates to behavioral risk exposures of employees and managers--ones that EAPs deal with all the time. But here is the kicker: Insurance policies were developed in 1992 to protect these companies. But who is protecting the insurers? Enter EAPs.

EAPs, with their education, intervention, assessment, proactive program development, supervisor training, and effective follow up can reduce these exposures. Are you aware of the psychomedical aspects of worker injury and recovery? I would suggest you investigate it. It is rich territory for EAP application. The goal: reducing Workers Comp payouts.

EAPs haven't seen their best days yet. They're ahead. They lie in protecting companies against financial loss associated with human behavior. But these programs can't be watered down. They need to represent the robust approach that the core technology suggests.

Head for the other side of the mountain--and bring a shovel.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cover Your W-2's and 1099s

So let's see how much of an EAP purest you are.

Depending on your orientation to employee assistance programs, it makes absolute perfect sense for the EAP cover only workers who are actually paid employees, who are full time or part time, and who receive access to the employer's benefits, especially health insurance plan.

But what about this? Should an EAP be made available to any employee who works for the organization regardless of pay status--volunteer, 1099, contract, or W-2s?

Any worker who touches the company is subject to personal problems and other forms of behavioral risk. This has nothing to do with pay status. EAPs were developed first and foremost as tools to manage trouble employee behavior, primarily substance abuse. The goal was not only to salvage employees and the proverbial secretary who costs $7000 to replace, but to protect the organization against financial loss--loss of all kinds from troubled employee behavior.

It makes sense to manage any paid worker's or unpaid worker's performance with the EAP. The rationale for doing so is based on the historical reasons EAPs emerged. I know many internal EAPs--especially older programs--that do precisely this. However, I know very few external provider EAPs that do. That's because employers don't want to pay for the extra lives and they have "met the need" by offering the EAP as a benefit only to their "insureds". They forget, or have never learned, that the EAP is a productivity tool. It is not a benefit or counseling service. It's there to protect the employer as well. Many would argue this is their first and most important purpose, and that this is perfectly consistent with the well-being of employees.

The view that an EAP is a benefit has brought us to the point where behavioral risk exposures are increasing for employers. Many don't get the number of supervisor referrals they believe they should be seeing. I have read where some HR managers are taking on the counselor role with employees. Look around the mainstream HR journals and you will find articles on the subject of "putting 'humane' back into human resources." In other words, some HR writers are calling for the HR role of pre-counseling, and then referral of employees to resources in the community. (Holy mackeral! This is what EAPs do!) This phenomenon is due to the loss of the EAP message in mainstream HR literature.

There is a need for education to help make a “cross over” to another way of thinking about EAPs, one that would renew and re-establish, what EAPs can do for organizations. We then need to market the EAP as a resource for all employees and workers, not just the "insureds". The EAP field will be better off, and so will its future. Employers may then begin to pay the necessary fees to have viable EAPs that keep their tushes out of the sling and understand why EAPs are such a good thing for them, not just their employees. Increase your EAP utilization with communication materials that actually keep the need for building utilization in mind with each article written.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

EAPs: Teach this Strategy

No EA professional that I know of has ever helped a troubled employee learn this strategy, but it will go light years in helping employees with performance problems flip overnight to become outstanding employees if they aren't impeded by a severe personal problems like alcohol or drug addiction. To purchase this fact sheet go to http://www.workexcel.com/. It's reproducible and editable, and you put your name on it, etc. Search for fact sheet E076 after November 10, 2008. That is when I will have it posted.

Understanding Completed Staff Work

Maximizing your effectiveness in providing superiors with realistic and actionable solutions to problems is one of the quickest ways to enhance your value within an organization. Understanding the principles of Completed Staff Work will help you to develop a comprehensive and systematic approach to researching, documenting, and presenting your recommendations to your superiors.

Completed Staff Work is a doctrine originally developed in the U.S. military that describes the standard of responsibility, thoroughness, detail, professionalism, and accountability required when preparing material for a superior.

According to a document prepared by the Office of the Provost Marshall General of the U.S. Army, Completed Staff Work is “the study of a problem and presentation of a solution by a staff officer in such a form that all that remains to be done on the part of the head of the staff division, or the commander, is to indicate his approval or disapproval of the completed action.” (Harari)

Principles of Completed Staff Work

Creating Completed Staff Work is as much about process as result. When you are charged with finding solutions for your superior, your job is to work without further input or advice from your superior. Although certain matters may need clarification during this process, all details necessary to researching, documenting, analyzing, and providing a solution are your responsibility.

Your research and analysis should be exhaustive, considering all possible scenarios,
alternatives, and repercussions in determining the best recommended course of action. This recommendation should include thoughtful and detailed steps for implementation, including contingencies for any foreseeable problems.

Once your research and analysis are complete, you should prepare your final recommendations to your superior in a short, concise format. Your presentation should present a clear, unmistakable conclusion that leaves no question unanswered.

Completed Staff Work requires the individual presenting the material to take a strong, clear position. Bureaucratic doublespeak and tepid conclusions are unacceptable. Your final recommendation should be one that you would be willing to stake your career upon.

Rising to the standard of Completed Staff Work requires the best that an employee has to offer. The default operating procedure in many bureaucracies is to limit personal risk, shift responsibility, and do the minimum required to “get by.”

Consistently presenting Completed Staff Work to your superiors will set you apart from peers and earn you notice as a serious and diligent professional.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Old Trick Pulls Utilization--Table Top Tents

Yes, it's simple. But, if you have a workplace with a large cafeteria, table-top tents (cardstock
paper folded in half with your EAP message on either side placed in the middle of
the table) can be effective at marketing the EAP. MS Publisher -- a common Microsoft Office software program can provide you with a quick do-it-yourself template for this marketing strategy.

Use 100# cover or card stock paper or this strategy to prevent drooping messages! It stays standing.

Consider placing five questions about your EAP that target myths and misconceptions about confidentiality, communication with management, what kind of problem EAPs tackle, and other interesting--tough but contraversial questions--on one side of the card and the answers to these questions on the other side of the card. This will stimulate conversation between employees at the table with one asking questions and the other trying to respond with the correct answer.

Everyone will be talking about the EAP by the early afternoon guaranteed.

Use questions that dispel myths and misconceptions about the EAP. Directly under the answers, consider providing additional information in smaller type that expounds on the answer given to the question on the other side of the card.

Consider these issues: Is the EAP is part of the disciplinary process? Is the EAP is therapy? Biographies about staff. Do supervisors find out what employees use the EAP? Can family members use the EAP? What confidentiality laws that govern EAP records, etc. Why EAPs formed. History of EAPs.

Don’t forget to put the phone number of the EAP on the card!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How to Get a Whopper of High EAP Utilization By Promoting Your Professional Staff

Chances are your EAP staff are a unique bunch of folks, but employees within your organization simply don’t know much about them. Of course, they may have heard a brief bio at an EAP orientation but, this alone is not enough to have a favorable impact on your EAP utilization.

Promote your staff using internal communication like your EAP newsletter or other in-house publications. If an organization that you are serving as an EAP provider has its unique internal newsletter, say at a large bank or other business, go to the public relations department and suggest that they run a series of articles that highlight your EAP staff, their background, and skills. A picture along with the bio is a plus.

Specialities such addiction intervention, mental health treatment, adolescent expertise, family counseling, or eldercare resource knowledge will draw employees who identify with those problems. “Identify” is the key word. Simply telling employees that EAPs deal with personal problems is not as effective as actually talking about the specialties of EA staff directly. You want your potential client to get closer to the EAP, and you do this by creating imagery of expertise that the client will feel attraction to using. This makes it all real. Employees don’t want to see themselves as having “personal problems.” They will however, be attracted to solutions.

They much rather stay in denial about the label, and pursue help for their pain. Don’t profile all your staff at once. This is too overwhelming, and a tactical mistake. Instead, dedicate a whole column to one staff member. Really get in there and supply some detail. Then watch how the phone rings. Two years later, do the same thing, but come at it from a different angle. This time discuss past positions prior to the EAP, hobbies, or unique interests. Make your staff real, and you will get a real return.