Employee Assistance Programs: Magnets for Employee Retention

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Tuesday May 25, 2016

Category: Certification, Education, Expert Advice

Employee assistance programs (EAPS) are not new to the American workplace, but studies conducted by the relevant organizations are reporting these programs have grown in their stature as an employee benefit and are currently being utilized by growing numbers of employees. Never viewed as a substitute for health and medical insurance, EAPs have matured in their ability to serve the growth and development needs of individuals at every level of the U.S. workforce.

Most notably, EAPS help employees identify and resolve personal and family issues and problems that can potentially impact job performance and result in productivity or service deficiencies. Programs that focus on worker and workplace effectiveness from a holistic (i.e., the whole person) perspective are no longer viewed as “frills.” Rather they are seen as essential elements in a comprehensive employee benefits offering.

EAPs that once stressed a remedial approach (e.g., substance abuse counseling, smoking cessation, etc.) have been expanded to include preventive strategies and components (e.g., career development, stress management, financial planning, etc.) designed to intervene with personal and work issues before they result in more serious health, family and/or workplace consequences. Compared to their older worker counterparts, Gen Xers and Millennials (see Career Mechanic column in May edition of EMInfo) are less concerned about any stigma associated with seeking assistance for mental health matters that may impede their personal career growth and development and more likely to avail themselves of such services.


EAPS Address Variety of Personal, Family and Career Needs

Each EAP should address the myriad challenges faced by the contemporary employee and respond accordingly.  A comprehensive menu of preventive and remedial services to individuals and family members should include the following:

Mental health services, including individual, marriage, partner and family counseling.

Drug, alcohol and other addiction counseling and treatment

Personal and family issues, including parenting, divorce and family concerns.

Wellness and health promotion services, including weight management and smoking cessation.

Financial and legal services, including individual guidance and group education programs.

Career support services such counseling, tuition reimbursement and related employee educational benefits.

Offered via a mix of internal (e.g., time and stress management seminars) and external (e.g., contracted services with professionally licensed private practice counselors) venues, these programs and service must ensure the confidentiality of the users when such privacy is warranted or requested.

Comprehensive EAPs Produce Positive Results

The result of employee participation in the EAP has more than justified their existence, especially over the long term. Where comprehensive EAPs have been offered in the workplace, the following outcomes have been observed:

Greater employee retention

Resolution of personal mental health issues before they reach problematic stages

Improved team building and group participation 

Enhanced worker engagement resulting in increased productivity and service delivery

Decreased absenteeism and tardiness

Reduced accidents and few workers compensation claims

Reduced medical claims due to earlier identification and treatment of mental health and substance issues

Smoother transitions during times of mergers, downsizing, etc.

Compared to older workers, younger employees seem to worry less about any stigma associated with asking for help with mental health and substance use issues. They see EAPs as one of the resources they need to achieve career success and satisfaction.

Why Staffing Professionals Should be Attentive to EAPs

The role of the staffing professional in 2016 has grown beyond the “place the right candidate in the right position” posture to one of “place the right candidate in the right position---one where she or he will prosper and grow.” As stated herein, EAPs have been effective in influencing employee engagement and retention

Many Gen Xers and Millennials have moved engagement and satisfaction ahead of salary when they are examining job options and change opportunities. And when evaluating worker benefits, they appreciate the most comprehensive plan available. From all indications, EAPs will be even more effective and influential in assisting these and future generations in becoming satisfied and productive workers.


Note: The USDL online publication, Employee Assistance Programs for a New Generation of Employees offers an overview of the contemporary approaches the American workplace is using to improve, enhance and extend the value of EAPs. EMInfo readers can find the publication at:


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