Saturday, December 17, 2011

EAPs and the Talent Management Connection

An employee’s most significant relationship in the work organization is the one with the supervisor. Unless this relationship is constructive and positive, the risk of losing a worker to another employer or worse to a competitor will remain unacceptably high. Kevin Sheridan, a business consultant specializing in talent management reports in his new book, Building a Magnetic Culture (2012), that engaged employees are ten times more likely to feel their work is recognized, that their supervisor and top management cares about them, and that they are getting useful regular feedback. Such employees are also four times less likely to leave. Obviously the supervisor is a key influence in helping employees get these needs met. EAPs have a role to play because their skills and abilities can help enhance the relationship that supervisors maintain with employees. Visible and strongly delivered EAP services naturally target the improvement of relationships, and are therefore an excellent strategy for increasing employee engagement, and in turn, the improvement of business outcomes. Excerpted from the Jan 2012 issue of FrontLine Supervisor EAP Newsletter for Supervisors.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

No EAP Assessment and Help for Randy Babbit FAA Chief for Drunk Driving? Missed Opportunity Big Time.

I don't know about you, but I am having mixed feelings about the resignation of Randy Babbit, the FAA chief who was arrested for drunk driving and resigned on Dec. 5. He offered his resignation and it was accepted. Yes, the significance of Babbit's position is important, but should he not get an assessment to see if he has an alcoholism problem? Then, should he not be offered treatment if he is diagnosable? Isn't this the way it is supposed work?

I don't think the Secretary of Transportation should have accepted the resignation (or requested it?). This entire incident is a RIPE opportunity for creating another powerful dialogue about occupational alcoholism and how we are supposed to salvage employees who have substance abuse problems--not for their sake, but for society at large!

Of course, this does not excuse Babbit's behavior. However, it does put the the FAA in the position of easily leveraging him into an assessment and then if needed, treatment for alcoholism after an assessment, if in fact he meets the criteria for the diagnosis of alcoholism.

Now, before you freak out on me for this post, do you realize that the FAA has followed over 1500 recovering alcoholic airline pilots and that the program has an outstanding success rate. The recovering pilot's program is run by the FAA Medical Examiner in Washington, D.C.? I have worked personally with some of these pilots have met the founder of this program when I was at Arlington Hospital Addiction Treatment Program between 1984 and 1995. You probably don't know about this program because it is not publicized. It was started in the 1970's after the GREAT PUSH to help alcoholics in the workplace. Remember that?

The bottom line is that there will always be alcoholic pilots, but identifying them early and leveraging them into treatment is the way to go. And the FAA does. It is the only common sense approach. If you do not do this, alcoholics will hide. And this incident with Babbit will make those employees with alcohol problems go further underground (and then emerge again even worse.)

Also, do realize that Babbit would have been offered an assessment and/or treatment--required by OPM as a firm choice arrangement or be fired in the 1970's and early 80's. For some reason then alcohol-related problems were considered sign of potential alcoholism whose symptoms were behaviors show up as things like drunk driving.

The ADA obliterated these protections and drove practicing alcoholics further underground after its passage. Don't believe me? Okay here is the proof:

Don't you think that after 40 years of enlightened medical and treatment professionals pounding the table to convince society that treating addicts is in everyone's interest that the FAA of all organizations, would stand up and get this guy in treatment, if needed?

I think EAPA should make a public statement about this. This superior executive with an incredible work history is now toast. If alcoholism exists, and it remains untreated, further alcohol problems will continue, and the untold costs will also continue. What will they be?

This was a missed opportunity for the advancement of society's education about alcoholism. I honestly think we had our act together in the mid-1970's, but in 2011, we are back in the dark ages with addictive disease.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reducing Absenteeism: Yeah, EAPs Do That Dummy!

There is a old threat to productivity rearing its ugly head in a new way - absenteeism. Before you say, "no kidding, Dan!", get this: The Washiongton Business Group Health ten years ago released a report, "Staying at Work" Report. It said, "properly targeted and executed disability and absence management programs can, in fact, produce real gains." They cite approaches that fail to mention EAPs in any way.  I just do not understand this!

The ongoing interest in absenteeism problems stems from a survey conducted showing 78% of human resource managers believe the main cause of absenteeism is a belief that those who skip out of work believe they are entitled to time off. This is extremely interesting.

The second most cited reason was a lack of supervisor involvement as a catalyst to discourage worker absenteeism. This has EAP solutions written all over it.
There is no way to discover the occurrence rate of personal problems to the degree that they affect absenteeism through a survey of human resource managers like the one conducted by this Blue Ribbon group. Superimpose this fact on top of the empirically-based research paid for by EAPA members dues and conducted by Linda LaScola Research sometime around 1992-3?, which found that human resource managers don't know how to use EAPs efficiently, and you got yourself a real case for EAPs coming to the rescue.
The obvious problem: EAPs are not being used as management tools in American companies as they were in the 70's. Instead, they are seen as counseling programs predominantly for self-referral. Nothing in this research, and nothing in any article reporting it, ever mentioned anything about EAPs! However, in the 1970's the WBGH was a high-powered elite group that played a significant role in promoting the establishment of EAPs in Fortune 500 companies. (I suspect most of the folks at WBGH from 70's are retired. This might explain their institutional memory loss. That, combined with about 33 HR journals telling everyone that an EAP is something run by a managed care company with an 800#.)

What to do:  Help spearhead an absenteeism management program that puts the EAP front and center. Consider new training, and ask the organization to give you access to their absenteeism report. Watch your EAP utilization spurt up. Let me know if they blow you off. I would love to know why. "EAPs don't do that" might be the key reason -- like they know what EAPs do better than you do! I have seen this a million times. You open your mouth at meeting, and someone says, "EAPs don't do that". Where does this stuff come from?

Do you have a newsletter for employees? If you do not, let prove something to you. You're utilization rate will go up 20% annualized with a monthly EAP newsletter (2 pages--never four!) or if it does not, I will publicly apologize in this blog at the end of a free three month trial.

So, let me send you a free trial. Don't worry, I will not chase you down waving a bill at you. Go here for it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

EAP Utilization Tip: Utilization Review & Hospital Social Workers

How many hospitals are in your town? Medical social workers or utilization review nurses might be the busiest occupation on the planet with the most stress. The cut-backs in hospitals and the personnel shortages they face, have made social workers busier than ever--that's if they have not been fired yet. Some hospitals have let all of their hospital social workers go. They have replaced the bulk with utilization review nurses who line up support and medical help post-discharge.

They could use some help. And they would love to refer employees from the company or companies you serve who've ended up in the hospital for one reason or another. You could lighten their load and get the utilization credit for your program. Remember family members could use EAP services too, so make sure your statistics include "employees impacted" by EAP services.

In many instances, medical social workers perform the same kind of  "brokerage" services for patients and their family members that EAPs do. (Brokerage is arranging services for the client without the client's involvement and then passing them off to that service or agency for continuing care or services.) Medical social workers interface with hospice services, meals on wheels, visiting nurse agencies, home health care, medical equipment companies, admission departments of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, social security disability and retirement offices of local government, many other services. If you have done this work as a medical social worker or hospital utilization nurse, you know that burnout is high. You're on the phone constantly.  Help these hospital professionals by letting them know you exist. When a patient is admitted to the hospital, the EAP (that's you) can be contacted to help arrange support or other services. They instantly become a new EAP client referred to your program. Note that you will need to reinforce your availability for assisting the hospital with patients who are also employees of the companies you serve. I would arrange six monthly letters to the person in the hospital who is head of insurance utilization. Send them monthly regardless. After that, your utilization will increase. Let me know what happens. This is a win-win for everyone, including your EAP client, especially.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Helping EAPs Make a Comeback

The EAP field for about a 20 years has been bombarded with very powerful interests seeking to take what EAPs offer, carve out a piece here or there, and call it their own. Many have borrowed the name EAP and sold it as a service for a secondary purpose like helping contain behavioral health dollars. Few if any other functions are offered in many cases, but the product is still defined as an EAP. 

Although EAPs focus on helping troubled employees and our key activity is the assessment and referral process, the gift within the discovery in the core technology is the ability to manage and intervene with many types of human behaviors and risks the emanate from them. The association, which is us, can shepherd EAPs back to their original value proposition by making it NOT okay to calling anything that sort of smells like an EAP, an EAP.

Although internal EAPs frequently possess the political clout to get behavioral risk projects initiated in an organization – external EAPs still hold the future of the profession in their hands because most American businesses are small and require vendor services.

HR Journals like HR and WorkForce Magazine have not been helpful to EAPs. Even when they mention EAPs and you and I are pleased to see the acknowledgement of what EAPs do, look closer, because almost 100% of the time EAPs are misrepresented as employee benefits, counseling, and clinical services within the 800# context. 

These messages have been consumed by the HR community and benefits consulting industry, and these folks are the primary purchasers and influential persons responsible for making EAP purchasing decisions. A proper definition must begin to be delivered and it would be helpful if the association or a recognized group of "core technologists" would be charged to "codify" the Core Technology so a recognized program represents the spirit and intent of what EAPs were always supposed to be based upon the complete continuum of capability they offer to business and industry. Do you have a copy of the Catalog? You can get one here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

EAP Utilization Tip: Partner with Local Gyms & Exercise Merchants

Gold’s Gym and other franchises are privately owned. This means you probably have opportunities in your town to negotiate with such gyms to get free passes for your EAP clients. You'll boost worksite wellness, too. This is a very cool draw to improve your EAP utilization, and it works. I've done it.

The Gold’s Gym in our area (Arlington Virginia) agreed to give us one month passes for clients who we felt needed to take better advantage of opportunities to improve their health. Good preventative health means pursuing an exercise program, and what better way to get started than with a one-month free pass to a local gym. Word of mouth that the EAP offers clients free passes to a local gym can increase your EAP utilization. It doesn't take much. Just make this a quiet way in which your EAP helps employees. Don't promote it. Simply let it happen and watch the vote of confidence your EAP will soon get.

Imagine being able to hand a free monthly pass to an employee suffering with depression. You know reactive depression and milder depressive disorders benefit from exercise, so visit the local gym. Meet with the decision maker and claim the high ground on this improving the EAP utilization strategy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Training and Reaching Supervisors with EAP Essentials

How do you reach supervisors who are unable to attend supervisor training and other related educational programs offered by the EAP?

Unless your supervisors are communicating regularly with the EAP, they will slowly come to misunderstand it, not trust it, or simply forget to use it as tool to manage difficult behavior and performance problems. The risk to the organization is troubled employees being referred too late or not at all. If one of these employees has serious emotional issues, especially the potential for violence, the organization obviously is at increased risk from an inadequate relationship with the EAP and supervisors. (This is on of the strongest argument for avoiding an EAP "product" wrapped in an insurance plan, largely only a 800# call-in service, that omits an aggressive interface with supervisors.)

So what's the solution for increasing communication and training of supervisors when EAPs can't get "face time" with them? Supervisor training sessions are “iffy” things for companies. Some department managers will work against you, believing they can’t spare the time or give up their supervisors. Frequently, troubled supervisors skip out of training if it is not mandatory. Experienced employee assistance professionals have observed that supervisors with alcohol problems may shy away supervisor training sessions.

Without training in EAP essentials, these managers will remain ignorant about how to use the EAP as a management tool to refer troubled employees. To accomplish this goal, you should subscribe to The FrontLine Supervisor EAP newsletter. The FrontLine Supervisor is the only education tool in the EAP field to educate supervisors continuously about EAP process and supervision skills, while it increases supervisor referrals. A subscription to it increases the rate of supervisor referrals, and the publisher guarantees this outcome.

Supervisors must have ongoing education. One training session won’t cut it. Some HR departments or EAPs may publish their own supervisor education newsletter. Great! It should be distributed on time and it should appear monthly. Quarterly newsletters and the like are simply too infrequent to make an programmatic impact. By default, they tend to be four pages, and therefore too much to read before they are discarded. The FrontLine Supervisor’s question and answer format has proven success rate after 16 years of being irresistible to busy supervisors.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

EAP Marketing Tip #2:

This is marketing tip #2. (By the way, the reason I am offering these tips is because they make you think more deeply about how your EAP can help the business customer. More specifically, they allow you to both educate the customer, debunk myths about EAPs, improve the likelihood that the customer will acquire a more effective model, and deprogram the customer from the brainwashing they have thoroughly received via their trade journals and benefits consultants and financial advisors. Hopefully you and especially new staff witll acquire a new appreciation of value of your own product.

Discuss and provide information and contrast about the experience of your EAP staff, their turnover rate, workload, and pay?

POINTS: Experienced EA professionals are difficult to find and recruit. Have you kept good ones on your staff for awhile? That's a big plus. This stability is a selling point and a product advantage. Certified Employee Assistance Professionals with master's degrees in mental health disciplines are particularly hard to come by, but represent the best pick of those who should be servicing your company. Add a mental health license and/or alcohol and drug counseling certification, and you got yourself a rare find. A recovering alcoholic and addict with any of the forgoing can be worth their weight in gold if their diseases are well-managed.

Most managed care cubicle workers delivering EAP assessment by phone are not experience EAP pros. Many, even if CEAPs, may have no experience outside the phone cubicle on the 14th floor of an office building sitting on the outskirts of town. Most are poorly paid, overworked, and mimic the guy on the Ed Sullivan show you may have seen who spun plates on the top of 24 sticks dashing from one problem to the next with a few smashing to the ground periodically. That is likely to be your EAP customer if they don't choose an effective EAP provider.
Solid and professional EA staff turnover fast in managed care companies leaving quickly when not adequately paid. Such turnover is deadly and risky to the well-being of employees and family members who tend to not only use an EAP service but "connect" to the staff member's personality because of their need to bond with the helper. This is an important dynamic to explain.
Most private EAP providers and managed care companies are notorious for paying low salaries to their line staff. They need to be adequately paid so the stick around.
So, just when everyone in the host company knows the employee assistance professional by name, they leave for few thousand more dollars in their paycheck! This is a serious consequence of commodization. Everyone suffers especially employees.

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."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Small Business EAPs: Last Frontier for Employee Assistance?

One of the anomalies characterizing employee assistance services to small business is that, in comparison with large businesses, the small ones may well use those services less frequently. However, the services may nonetheless be immensely more crucial to small business survival. Within this truism is a decades old marketing dilemma for EAPs. Marketing EAPs to small business is not an easy task.

How do you convince a small business of say 40 employees to pay a reasonable fee for a proactive, high-touch EAP when the EAPs success will be likely be unable to demonstrate that disaster X or crisis Y never occurred? It is easier to intuitively convince a company with 5,000 employees that the EAP probably had an impact on X and Y, especially if records of the past can be compared with those going forward. This eap cost-benefit proof is a tougher challenge.

The answer to this problem must lie in a presentation that includes cost-benefits, reduction in financial risks, and removal of stress experienced by the business owner/decision maker all of which are included in a presentation tailored to small businesses. I will begin discussing these factors in this blog and also discuss other "influencers" in the decision-making process toward the goal of motivating the decision maker to invest in effective employee assistance services.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

EAPs & Liability Prevention: Someone Please Rebut This...

If you think I am nuts for talking about this, please say so, or I just might continue. Seriously. I think there is a room here for a breakthrough on EAPs getting more attention from stakeholders in the risk management arena. But listen, if you disagree, please tell me to stop kicking this horse and give me a good reason. I might be too close to my own brain to see the opposite argument. So, here it goes.

Although virtually unheard of in the EAP literature (including recent writings on behavioral risk), EAPs may prove their highest value in EPL intervention and loss prevention far exceeding health insurance cost containment. Indeed the average jury award for wrongful termination is over $500,000. Out of court settlements average $100,000. I believe this is a powerful EAP role and one EAPA can use to claim the high ground in the EPL loss prevention frenzy currently being spearheaded by big P-C underwriters.

Here's what I recommend the profession consider:

1. Establish and fund a committee on Employment Practices Liability and Loss Control to study the EAP role in preventing lawsuits related to employment practices. Survey EA professionals and the like. Survey literature to spot unaddressed opportunities and evidence that potentially new constituencies for EAPs are not aware EAPs as a solution to their loss prevention goals.

2. Contact major underwriters to learn of their knowledge current state of knowledge and the deficiencies in that knowledge associated with EAPs.

3. Create a multi-part strategy to educate these underwriters using their economic self-interest to consider effective, core tech-driven, and high-touch EAPs as solutions to problems they face.
3. Seek to establish a national dialogue with P-C insurers and insurance agencies selling EPL products. A labor-management-insurer sponsored joint benchmarking project to demonstrate interface and impact would be ideal.
4. Promote and encourage conferences, papers, and partnering opportunities along with aggressive press coverage for this linkage and by so doing, penetrate the P-C literature base.

5. Encourage the establishment of CT-EAP products offered by property casualty insurance companies as part of their programmatic approach to EPL risk reduction.

Okay, am I crazy?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OSHA Safety and Health Checklist (and No EAP)

You would have to be from another planet to not know that EAPs are cost-beneficial and that when fully implemented have a positive impact on helping reduce accident rates and injury related costs. The research has already been done 30 years ago. And EAPs reduce other behavioral losses in the workplace as well. Somehow however the recommendation to have an EAP is still not listed on OSHA's Safety and Health Management Systems Checklist. This list is no small thing. This is the front line handout OSHA distributes nationwide. It covers many recommended steps that companies should take to reduce accidents and injuries. I think "Establish a Employee Assistance Program" should be on this list. I know probably agree. Think about the lives saved, reduced accidents, and reduced injuries associated with helping troubled employees, particularly alcoholic employees, not to mention reduced property damage and lost time results having an EAP in place. How much pull to you have with OSHA? Do you know anyone there? Are you reading this post from  your desk at OSHA because you work there? (Hi!) The above PDF was last printed in March 2008! The clock is ticking. QUICK! Before this gets re-written without an EAP mention, let's get OSHA to include EAPs as an important part of a Workplace Safety and Health Management System. Right now, I see this as an overlooked and critical component that needs to be on this list. Do you agree? Phone right now while you are thinking about it. This is the office of communications phone number:  202-693-1999. If enough people phone, they will consider adding EAPs. It's the little things folks that promote this profession. Look for more of these gems--things EA professionals can do to promote their craft. Email me and I will post suggestions on this blog. Health and wellness in the workplace is dramatically enhanced when EAPs are in place.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Alcohol in the Workplace: Tinkering with the Employee's Denial

As you become an expert on alcohol in the workplace, you will need to become an expert with assessment and helping an employee-client, who may be diagnosable as alcoholic. Invariably you will bump into your employee-client's "model of denial". This is a critical juncture in your assessment interview. All alcoholics have a model of denial. This is a construct that assists the alcoholic in preventing self-diagnosis. 

It is a myth that denial is absolute in alcoholics. Denial is a defense mechanism and it is therefore employed to do battle against self-diagnosis. Non-alcoholic drinkers deny alcoholism of course, but they do not use denial in the classic psychodynamic sense of the term. It is logical and realistic to view all alcoholics as having--if not the ability to self-diagnose their illness--at a minimum, a fuzzy idea about the nature of their problems and whether drinking is in some way linked to them or associated with them. This is all that is needed to help alcoholic employees examine their "denial construct". 

So where to begin? At an appropriate point in your assessment interview, you should define denial in the following way to make an impact and help the employee move toward self-diagnosis--your goal.

Here is the definition that I finally arrived at using after testing a few other presentations to help employees move past denial. I don't simply rattle this off the tip of my tongue, however.  I piece it out in  my discussion with the employee until he or she finally gets it all. I like this definition because it seriously erodes or creates useful anxiety in the employee-client, enough at least to further the interview to the next step. That next step might be a MAST (Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test) done verbally, or some other next step in the interview and assessment process.

So alcohol and workplace intervention is enabled by the following presentation by the EA professional:
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Are you familiar with the term denial and how it works with regard to alcoholism? Here's what I have observed in many people over the years. When considering the definition of alcoholism above, many people focus on the symptoms that they do not have more than the ones they do have. Unlike cancer, where any symptom would cause alarm, symptoms of alcoholism often get ignored if other symptoms can be shown to not exist. This process is called “comparing out” of the definition, and it is a natural part of denial.

Here’s a better way to understand denial. Alcoholics usually maintain a definition of alcoholism that serves to exclude them. Alcoholics usually focus on symptoms of addiction that they do not have and use this information to avoid their self-diagnosis. Alcoholics then change their definition over time to exclude symptoms that they begin to experience.
You can hear this definition discussed in the following video. (FYI: This video is available for purchase in several different formats as a useful tool.) It "stirs the juices" in employees, family members, and of course alcoholic employees in denial. It is also embedded in the Reasonable Suspicion Training Course for (DOT and non-DOT) Training of Supervisors.