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Shop carefully when looking for an EAP vendor

In today’s high-anxiety world, it’s not uncommon for employees to battle personal problems such as substance dependence, financial and legal woes, and mental health issues. These struggles can negatively affect their productivity and the working environment around them.

Employers can help by offering an employee assistance program (EAP). This benefit seeks to assist at-risk employees in finding professional help. An employee who enrolls in the EAP may, for example, immediately be put in touch with a counselor or social worker.

Employers don’t have to create and administer EAPs on their own — a wide variety of vendors are available. But, as holds true when procuring any type of benefit, you’ve got to shop carefully.

Critical features

Here are some critical program features to scrutinize before signing up:

Staffing. It’s not enough to have just a sympathetic ear on the other end of a 24/7 hotline. Your provider should also offer a network of licensed, qualified individuals.

Modes of communication. Some employees will be more comfortable with an initial online chat than a phone call, while others may feel the opposite way. Look for a vendor with a variety of contact methods.

Face-to-face meeting capacity. How soon and easily can an employee meet in person with a professional counselor? For employees in remote locations, are video conferences with counselors an option?

Lead time. Inquire about the guaranteed maximum interval of time that can lapse between an employee’s initial contact with a vendor and the receipt of EAP services. Three days is a good rule of thumb, but the quicker the better.

Counseling follow-up procedures. A provider generally shouldn’t end contact with an employee after a single counseling session — even if it appears that his or her issues have been addressed. Services should follow a viable process.

Scope of services. The service menu of some EAP vendors might overwhelm you, but that’s usually better than the alternative. Nonetheless, look closely at everything each vendor offers and gravitate toward those likely to offer the most needed support to your employees.

Value over time

As with any other type of service provider, look for an EAP provider that will work with you to tailor a program that fits your organization’s needs and budget. And don’t view any program as a simple “pass/fail” proposition; a good vendor will modify and improve its program over time to provide more value to you. Contact us for help assessing the costs, advantages and risks of any provider you’re currently using or considering.

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