Jason C. McDaniel, LCSW, CEAP, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, AllOne Health Vice President for Employee and Student Assistance Programs shares his expertise on why the EAP and HR relationship is necessary in a modern and proactive workplace.
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) have been historically viewed by business as a professional resource at the ready when employees and their family members need help with personal problems. The EAP is on stand-by to arrange expeditious, discreet, confidential clinical services designed to assist the employee in acute distress, particularly when that distress is interfering with functioning at work. EAPs are also often known for immediate, same day response to critical incidents, often arising from sudden employee deaths, industrial accidents, or other workplace traumas. Thought of in this manner, the EAP is the provider of psychological first aid to individuals, families, and work groups often in response to crises both of a personal and organizational nature.
While there is legitimate human and financial value derived from EAP’s expertise in being workplace psychotherapist on-the-ready, this paradigm of “psychological services to go” can be ironically limiting, as the EAP service becomes increasingly pigeon holed and relegated to the sidelines of organizational life. This predominant role of the EAP professional as caring, reliable employee counselor may offer much needed peace of mind to HR professionals and operational managers, but it sorely misses the much more abundant set of skills that full scope EAP programs can offer. While many organizations do indeed call on the EAP for behavioral consultation prior to making a management referral into the EAP, truthfully these referrals are often enacted after the troubled employee has already unraveled at work and are subject to significant workplace discipline in lieu of termination. While important to industry, these kind of hasty referrals contribute to the reactive use of EAP services.
Leading edge employers genuinely understand their EAP program as a partner for positively managing their people and thoughtfully cultivating human capital, particularly in a proactive, strategic manner. These organizations, whose HR and departmental managers have a trusting and purposeful relationship with the EAP, gain a significantly greater return on investment from these contracted services.
What kind of fruits might be gained from an HR management team, who collaborated with their EAP as a part of the annual strategic and workforce planning period? Most HR managers are concerned with how they must work within tight budgets and with limited organizational resources to engage their workforces and maximize human capital to navigate strategic business shifts and to confront the daily rigors of meeting key performance indicators. As the human behavior in the workplace expert, the EAP professional is in the perfect position to consult with HR in a proactive manner to offer informed counsel, to creatively suggest people development strategies for a struggling department, to recommend needed training for an ad hoc workgroup that must perform at a higher level, or to improve the leadership and emotional intelligence skills of the executive team. The EAP welcomes the opportunity to partner with HR to shoulder the burden of these omnipresent challenges for organizations.
Our organization not only provides management and organizational consultation as part of its standard contract, but also offers training and organizational development services that provide assessment and customized solutions to assist with proactive workforce development and help departments struggling with conflict or poor morale. We look forward to partnering with your organization to help grow your people and to maximize the potential of your workforce.