Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sell the "Sizzle" in EAP Solutions to Boost Utilization and Penetration of Risk

You are not just an EA professional, you are also a marketing director. This means you have to sell your services, not just tell people what they are. Do this marketing work effectively and you will create emotion in  your audience and they will pick up the phone more often to call for help. In emails, brochure, or other communications talk about "promises" of the EAP. It is a great way to help your mind and language in written communication shift to "benefits" rather than features of your services. This is what "hooks" your EAP client. For example, if an employee comes to your office for help with a financial problems or debt crisis, what are the promises for getting that problem resolved? Sleeping better, less fear, worrying less, and a more hopeful future of course. Employees with financial problems think more about the loss of these things than debt.

Speaking of debt problems and employee assistance programs, consider more outreach in this area if you are not doing so now. People use a lot of denial and magical thinking to deal wit their financial problems. 

A recent MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends discovered that about 44% of employees live paycheck to paycheck, and nearly 60% are very concerned about having enough money to make ends meet. Most people would agree that financial stress is difficult with its accompanying worry and distraction, but this is only part of the story. 

Many people endure financial stress alone because of stigma, fear of being judged by others, or feeling guilty because of overspending. These issues can keep employees from seeking help, even from the most trusted EAP. Financial stress can contribute to headaches, backaches, ulcers, increased blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and panic. Many employees will cope with financial stress using denial, magical thinking, and or coping strategies that relieve fear, but don’t solve their problems. As problems worsen, risk increases for falling prey to payday loans, internet schemes, gambling, or other high risk remedies. Financial problems diminish one’s sense of autonomy, feelings of security, and self-control. So with financial problems come increased workplace absenteeism, diminished workplace performance, and depression. All of these things can adversely affect productivity. Print this form and fax it to get a free trial to FrontLine Supervisor Newsletter to get more good stuff like this and drive more referrals to your program. Print this brochure and fax it. Just mark on it "Dan, just give me a free trial. Don't bill me."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Careful! Don't Serve Up Problems with EAP Concierge Services

Concierge services - non-traditional helping hand services provided by EAPs and other work-life businesses to help employees resolve everyday work-life problems are gaining hold in the EAP field--well, here and there. A recent post on LinkedIn from a EAP in the United Kingdom got me thinking about this topic again.

The fragile rationale for the inclusion of concierge services in EAPs is that if you can't walk your dog and are worried about the carpet at home, this distraction isn't good for your employer's productivity. Hence a leap forward to providing a helping hand to employees that gets the logistics and worry off the employee's mind to free that brain up for more productivity.

I have one reaction to this: What is the "spirit and intent" of the EAP Core Technology?

Skeptics argue that such "concierge" services are the creations of the work-life industry and move away from what EAP services are all about. Others paint a rationale completely consistent with the core technology. 

The reality of course is that competitive pressures to keep EAPs in business (otherwise known as the market economy) are turning some EAPs into do-it-all for you, one-stop resources for employees. Is this practicaal and protectionist or it shooting EAPs in the foot?

Is this an evolutionary step in the EA profession? Or, is it a step away from behavioral risk management, hands-on help for troubled employes, and better penetration into unmanaged risks in the organization associated with human behavior that only REAL EAPs can identify and dislodge? Does it contribute to a loss of focus for the profession, thereby making it ever more vulnerable to being hijacked by managed care?

In many ways, EAPs have always provided some concierge services. I remember a kindergarten teacher phoning to say she was completely frustrated with AMTRAK for billing her $850 twice for taking a bunch of students on a field trip to New York. After four months and getting nowhere fast, she called the EAP. Yes, we took the case. After all, she does not have the time at work to be on the phone all day. About an hour of bird-dogging AMTRAK and the problem was solved. Concierge service? Perhaps, but is this proof that EAPs should dive in head first into this shallow water? If you argue yes, would you post a sign outside the EAP door that advertises "consumer affairs problems solved here?" What about your brochure?

Will these services build your utilization rate? Yes, but at what ultimate cost? I hear the siren's wail on this one? I think it is a shipwreck for the EAP field to venture this direction. I would argue you could make it easier to get farmed out. 

I think there is something called the “spirit and intent” of the EAP Core Technology. It requires an honest assessment of whether activities of your program match it because the profession is fewer in number this year than last--with many EAP closures only since 2012. I don't think concierge activity is what I would call a salvation related activity.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Is Supervisor Training the Key to Reducing Workers' Comp?

I get a lot of news articles coming across my desk. When I read them, I look for small glimmers of light that point to new opportunities for Employee Assistance Programs to do more, be more, get paid more, and be recognized more for what they do. We need all of these things for the EAP profession to thrive. Ohio just claimed that because of supervisor training, they saved $1.2 million dollars in workers' compensation costs over a three year period. The research to substantiate this success was conducted by a third party, so it is credible. I have not discovered all the behind the scenes details yet, but the main thrust was not employee signs, memos, warnings, or education. It is supervisor training that made the difference. But what kind, I don't know yet. I can tell you it was twice a month. Remember that. Here's the questions: What did the training include? Were there communication skills training involved? Was the EAP has a resource encouraged during these sessions. Could an employee assistance program replicate these activities and training with supervisors, and would the training be even more appropriately delivered by EAPs? If you have free time, you may want to explore these questions and this story. Think: "What's in it for EAPs?" When I learn more, I will let you know. Here is the story link: Aren't you curious about these same questions. Can you see that Managed Care would never give a hoot about saving money on Workers' Compensation costs? Check it out: Could EAPs Do This?