How to start & set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

How to start & set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can significantly benefit a company and its workforce by providing essential intervention programs to help employees address personal problems that may be interfering with their ability to do their best work. When set up and implemented correctly, EAPs offer a positive return on investment – but creating a successful EAP means thoughtful selection and deployment of the program.  

When it comes to learning about how to start an employee assistance program successfully, there are several crucial steps HR managers must take to implement and manage the process effectively. 

Read on to learn how to start an employee assistance program in your organization. 

1. Organize a committee 

To successfully establish an EAP, you should form a dedicated committee to oversee the process and promote your new initiative across the organization. This team should have representatives from various departments, including Human Resources, management, and employees. 

The primary responsibilities of an EAP adoption and implementation committee include:

  • Identifying employee needs and concerns 
  • Evaluating potential EAP providers and models
  • Developing an implementation plan for the chosen EAP
  • Promoting the program to earn buy-in and trust

The involvement of diverse stakeholders ensures all perspectives are considered when designing a company’s EAP. It also fosters buy-in from different organizational levels, increasing the likelihood of successful adoption and utilization once launched (which will be critical in showing a positive ROI upon program review).  

To kick things off in the best way possible, be mindful that all stakeholders on the team are included and ensure their input is valued and validated throughout the process.  

2. Discuss and outline your goals for the EAP

Analyzing employee feedback is crucial when devising an EAP. This helps identify areas of need and target objectives that align with your organization’s goals. 

Start by surveying employees to determine the most pressing concerns — for example, this might be stress management, conflict resolution, team building, or financial planning. Next, consider how these issues fit into your organization’s objectives.

  • Determine employee needs: Gather feedback through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews to understand what support services are most relevant and pressing for your workforce.
  • Identify EAP goals: Establish objectives for the program based on identified needs and desired outcomes, for example, reducing absenteeism or improving productivity.
  • Evaluate resources: Assess your current capacity to provide needed support services in-house. Decide if partnering with an external provider would be more beneficial. Don’t forget to consider the budget and available resources or personnel.

These steps will ensure you create a tailored EAP that addresses employee well-being and results in organizational success.  

3. Explore different types of EAPs

To create the most successful EAP you can in your organization, you must evaluate various EAP models and the benefits available.

Determine which EAP benefits you plan to offer

Types of EAP benefits include: 

  • Counseling services for mental health, stress management, or substance abuse issues
  • Financial planning assistance and debt management advice
  • Career development support, such as coaching or training opportunities
  • Legal consultation services for personal matters like divorce or estate planning

Review different EAP models

Before selecting a program, you should evaluate EAP models so you can choose the best fit for your company:

  1. Internal model: In-house professionals provide all services directly within the organization.
  2. External model: A third-party provider delivers all services without your company’s direct involvement.
  3. Blended model: Combines elements of both internal and external approaches, offering a mix of in-house support and outsourced expertise.

4. Develop an EAP policy   

Developing an EAP policy is the next step in creating a comprehensive program. A complete employee assistance program policy will ensure the program runs smoothly and effectively. EAP policies should outline your program’s scope, objectives, and procedures while addressing legal or ethical considerations.

Effective EAP policies will:

  • Define the purpose and goals of your EAP clearly so employees understand the employee benefits.
  • Determine eligibility to use services, such as full-time or part-time status.
  • Establish guidelines on confidentiality to protect employee privacy and encourage usage without fear of repercussions.
  • Create a referral process outlining how employees can access support through self-referral or management recommendation.
  • Incorporate professional standards into your policy to maintain quality service delivery.

Involving key stakeholders like HR professionals, legal advisors, and company leadership as you develop your EAP policy will ensure it aligns with organizational values and adheres to relevant laws and regulations. Regularly review your EAP policy to keep it updated with changing needs within your organization.

5. Select an EAP provider

Selecting an EAP provider that best fits your organization’s needs and budget should be the next step in learning how to set up an employee assistance program. Choosing the right EAP partner is imperative for the success of your EAP program. 

Consider the following factors when selecting a provider:

  • Services offered: Ensure the provider offers comprehensive EAP services that you need, for example, mental health support, financial counseling, or legal assistance.
  • Credentials and experience: Look for providers with a proven track record in delivering high-quality EAP programs to organizations similar to yours.
  • Accessibility: Opt for providers who offer round-the-clock support through various channels like phone, email, apps, or online chat to cater to the diverse needs of your workforce.
  • Affordability: Compare different providers’ pricing structures and choose one that fits your budget without compromising quality. Investing in an effective EAP can help reduce costs associated with absenteeism, turnover rates, and workers’ compensation claims. ROI should factor in the potential cost-saving benefits you’ll likely see after implementation.

Search industry directories or ask for recommendations from other HR professionals in your network to find quality EAP providers. Request proposals from multiple vendors before making a final decision — weighing the different offerings and compatibility with your organization’s goals is a good approach.

6. Train your leadership team

Training your leadership team is a vital step in implementing an effective EAP. Leaders play a significant role in promoting the program and ensuring employees feel comfortable using its services. 

To ensure successful EAP training, use the following tips:

  • Create awareness: Educate leaders about the benefits of Employee Assistance Programs, how they work, and their importance for employee well-being. This can be done through workshops or online resources.
  • Develop skills: Train managers to recognize signs of stress or mental health issues among employees and provide guidance on appropriate intervention strategies. 
  • Promote confidentiality: Emphasize the importance of maintaining confidentiality when discussing EAP-related matters with employees to build trust and encourage utilization.

Incorporating these training elements can empower leadership teams to effectively support employees’ mental health needs while maximizing the impact of your company’s EAP.

7. Prepare resources and support

Successful implementation and utilization of an EAP rely on adequate resources and support. 

Here are tips on how to introduce an EAP to your organization:

  • Create an EAP Resource Hub: Develop a centralized online location where employees can easily access information about the EAP program — make sure it’s easy to find available services, contact details, FAQs, and success stories.
  • Designate EAP Champions: Identify key personnel responsible for promoting the program within their departments or teams. These individuals should be well-versed in EAP offerings and able to answer questions from colleagues and employees.
  • Incorporate EAP into existing processes: Integrate your EAP with other HR initiatives like onboarding materials, employee wellness programs, or performance reviews to ensure seamless adoption by employees.

8. Launch and promote your EAP to employees

You must effectively launch and promote the program to guarantee ROI and strong utilization of your EAP. The following tips show how to promote an EAP to your employees:

  • Spread awareness: Use a variety of channels to promote awareness of your new EAP — email, internal web pages, posters, workshops, and team meetings can all drive information to employees about the benefits and features of EAPs. 
  • Host a kick-off event: Consider hosting a kick-off event or webinar to spread information and encourage future employee engagement.
  • Educate managers: Ensure all levels of management understand the value of EAPs so they can actively encourage their teams to utilize it when needed. Provide them with resources like brochures or training sessions.
  • Maintain confidentiality: Emphasize that using EAP services is confidential to build trust among employees who may hesitate to seek help.
  • Incorporate into company culture: Integrate discussions around mental health and well-being into regular workplace conversations by organizing workshops or inviting guest speakers on related topics.

9. Measure EAP utilization

Assessing and tracking EAP utilization is necessary to gauge performance and prove ROI to stakeholders. Monitor EAP use by:

  • Analyzing usage data: Regularly review reports supplied by your EAP provider. These should include employee engagement information and identify service gaps that may benefit your workforce.
  • Conducting surveys: Periodically distribute anonymous surveys to employees asking about their experience with your EAP. Inquire about any barriers they may have encountered in accessing support to identify areas for improvement within the program.
  • Evaluating the impact on key performance indicators (KPIs): Assess whether there are correlations between increased EAP utilization and improvements in metrics like absenteeism rates, productivity metrics, or employee retention rates. A positive correlation indicates your program effectively supports staff well-being and overall business performance.

Incorporating Talkspace in your EAP

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to start an employee assistance program, Talkspace offers comprehensive solutions that include therapy for employees, consultation with HR teams, follow-up services, and more. Reach out today and discover how we can help you create a successful employee assistance program.

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