Who Said Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) Are Expensive? by Guy Barbeau

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Employee assistance programs are prevention tools of exponential quality. Photo: ShutterStock

Contrary to what one might think, investing in your employees will generate gains which will be transferred to the return on human capital.

We often forget the value of employee assistance programs included in group benefits plans. However, business leaders should not hesitate to invest in order that their employees benefit. It is estimated that for every dollar invested, it returns a ratio of 8.7: 1. According to a study by social psychologist Mark Attridge, we would get a return of $ 8.70 for every dollar invested in an employee assistance program.

This is a tremendous lever that gives not only a return on investment (ROI), but also a return on human capital (RHC). Mr. Attridge’s study also shows that companies with a high EAP usage usually get better ROI. Using 15% or more can yield more than $ 10 for every dollar invested.

Companies with a high EAP usage usually get better ROI. Credit: Guy Barbeau
What is an EAP used for?

The EAP is a program that provides professional counselling and support services for employees who may benefit from problems affecting work performance. These workplace interventions are designed to help employees resolve their personal problems (marital, financial, emotional, family, alcohol or drug dependence). The plan may also include a wide range of services such as telephone access to nurses, legal assistance and referrals to services appropriate to their condition. Often EAP services are not only offered to employees, but also to their families (spouse, children or life partner ).


Different methods are available to ensure that the employee concerned is adequately supported. It can be a telephone follow-up or a consultation via videoconference. Regardless of the means chosen, we are talking about a short-term approach based on solving the problem.

The service can be delivered in person or in a group and can include career counselling, health coaching, or online programs.

The consultation gives access to specialists in different fields: nutrition, family support, accompaniment in lifestyle changes, financial support or even legal support, without forgetting crisis management in post-traumatic intervention and consultations in management for executives and managers.

We cannot ignore the fact that this is a great human resources management tool at minimal cost for everything related to personal problems, work-related difficulties and corporate coaching. In a holistic view of compensation, the EAP is included in the salary paid both in terms of its economic value and its total value, versus the work accomplished by the employees. Most organizations would not provide their employees with both salary and benefits, if the value of the work performed was not greater than the cost of the compensation awarded.

Employee assistance programs are prevention tools of exponential quality. You may have an EAP in your group benefits plan. If you do not know this, read your plan documentation carefully or consult your human resources department to better assess it.

A management tool

The consequences of the difficulties experienced by an employee can influence his performance and have repercussions on his team. The manager must intervene with the employee. The EAP can confidentially direct him to qualified professionals.

In addition, when management decisions need to be made regarding an employee, the referral allows managers to obtain some follow-up (with the employee’s consent) while the employee receives the assistance he needs. In addition, as a manager’s journey is sown with more complex situations that must be addressed, the specialized assistance offered by management coaching is an important tool of the EAP. Whether it is to better resolve a conflict, manage a harassment situation, intervene with a worker who consumes or any other problematic event, stakeholders are available to offer their support. Legal and financial advice related to the operation of the organization is also included in the EAP.

Crisis intervention

In addition to individual problems, organizations can face disruptive events that destabilize employees, work teams or even the entire organization. The EAP can then provide telephone support to managers in less than an hour and a specialist can be on site for a group debriefing within 24 hours.

Summary of tools and support for managers:

  • Supervised EAP reference
  • Management coaching
  • Crisis intervention
  • Health and wellness video clips and reference materials
  • Health info
  • Training for managers
  • Health promotion activities for all (on request)
The automotive example 

The brand new group insurance plan, exclusive to members of the CCAQ (Quebec Automobile Dealers Corporation), offers optional EAPs specific to an industry such as the automobile industry, emphasizing problems and physical illnesses, which is an asset to the organization. It allows work teams and managers to access personalized service – easily and confidentially.

Support available for employees:

  • Psychosocial help (stress, anxiety, exhaustion, separation, grief, conflict, dependence, etc.)
  • Physical support (improvement of lifestyle, control of chronic diseases)
  • Legal and financial advice
  • Parental coaching (support for parents of children with educational difficulties)

Support available for managers:

  • Coaching and advisory service
  • Psychological help
  • Training
  • Health promotion program
  • Telephone support for managers in the event of a crisis

Guy Barbeau is Vice President of Group Benefits and Annuities at WBL Insurance and Actuarial with more than 20 years experience in financial institutions in both commercial and personal finance. He is a Member of the Board of Directors and National Director of the Credit Institute of Canada and holds a MBA from Athabasca University as well as the CCP professional title.

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