Employees high fiving
Your employee assistance program committee should include HR employees, as well as representatives from other departments. — Getty Images

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a free and confidential service offered by employers that allows employees to tackle problems that may impact their job performance. Offering an EAP at your company can help boost morale, mitigate burnout, and improve hiring and employee retention. Investing in an EAP can pay off in the long run: Many EAP providers claim their benefits pay for themselves. Consider these factors when creating an employee assistance program for your team.

Start an EAP committee

The first step in creating an employee assistance program is to create a committee made up of members of the human resources team and others. Try to get a mix of employees from different departments and at different levels of the organization. Managers, junior staff, and the head of HR can all be involved.

[Read more: How to Offer an Employee Assistance Program for Small Businesses]

Review the different EAP models

In general, there are three different ways to administer an EAP. Your employee assistance program can be:

  1. In-house, in which your company hires a full-time EAP professional to provide employees with direct services or referral resources.
  2. Outsourced, in which your company contracts an external EAP provider to offer services to your employees through a portal, app, or toll-free number.
  3. Blended, in which employees have the option to seek assistance in-house or via an external vendor’s toll-free phone number (or app).

There’s no one-size-fits-all model for an employee assistance program. While some employees may not be comfortable asking a colleague at work for help, others may appreciate the convenience and familiarity. Work with your EAP committee to determine what model is right for your team.

Create an EAP policy

An EAP policy can help illustrate to your employees the purpose of the program, provide guidelines for accessing resources, and set expectations for what the program hopes to achieve. Consider the policy to be similar to an employee handbook. It’s important to also outline how the business will preserve employee privacy and confidentiality so that employees feel secure to make use of the EAP services.

Training also needs to include how employers can recognize issues so they can appropriately direct employees to the EAP.

Skye Schooley, Business.com

Choose an EAP partner

If you decide to offer an outsourced or blended EAP, the committee will need to vet potential vendors, their services, and costs. There are dozens of employee assistance programs available; some are designed to address financial problems, while others focus on addiction treatment and recovery. Your EAP committee should (anonymously) poll your employees to see what types of services they would be interested in.

[Read more: 7 Health and Wellness Benefits You Can Offer Part-Time Employees]

Provide training

Before you formally launch your EAP, make sure to provide a certain number of staff with training on the program’s policies, procedures, and support. This training should include acknowledgment of employee privacy rules and compliance that may pertain to your specific industry.

“Training also needs to include how employers can recognize issues so they can appropriately direct employees to the EAP. As services and employee needs evolve, it’s essential to ensure that employees maintain and upgrade their skills pertaining to the EAP,” wrote Business.com.

Start onboarding your EAP

As you launch your employee assistance program, consider offering individual sessions to team members to help them make the most of the service. “Your employees may have questions that can’t be easily answered in a company-wide meeting,” wrote The Fool.

Whether you hire an in-house EAP representative or run an outsourced EAP through your HR team, make a plan to schedule personal appointments with each team member. This helps prevent your HR team from becoming overwhelmed with requests and ensures confidentiality.

Measure the results

Many EAP providers boast high ROI for their services. But these results are only achievable if you’ve matched the right services that your employees need. Keep track to see how often employees are taking advantage of your EAP and regularly communicate with the provider. Look for signs of burnout, too, to understand if the EAP model you’ve adopted is working.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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