4 ways to Encourage Use of an Employee Assistance Program

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for good employees to battle personal problems, such as substance dependence, financial or legal woes, or 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). An EAP helps assist at-risk employees in finding the professional help they need. An employee who enrolls in the EAP may, for example, immediately be put in touch with a counselor or social worker.

A common problem faced by many employers who establish an EAP is lack of participation. Whether because of lack of awareness of the program or the stigmas attached to certain personal issues, employees often don’t actively pursue enrollment. Here are four ways to encourage use:

1. Put it in writing — everywhere. Update educational materials, both electronic and print, to highlight EAP services and the issues they address. Use bold graphics and clear, easy-to-read text. Don’t limit a description of your EAP to your employee handbook. Mention it regularly in other employee communications, such as benefits materials and your company newsletter.

2. Offer electronic entry points. Maximize the use of online technology so employees can discreetly gather information and understanding of both what your EAP offers and their personal challenges. You might, for example, add an interactive self-assessment tool to your website that helps users gauge their level of stress, other mood issues, and excessive use of alcohol or other drugs.

3. Go public. To the extent that it’s appropriate and feasible, open up topics to face-to-face discussion. Doing so can help minimize the shame and misunderstandings that may accompany certain forms of struggle. For example, offer brown bag lunch-’n-learn events with presentations on topics such as time management, overcoming financial challenges and stress management.

4. Be comprehensive. Put all your work-life balance initiatives under the EAP umbrella. Many employees are more comfortable starting slow rather than leaping immediately into a behavioral health-related service. Use work-life balance as an introductory step, where appropriate counseling on depression, anxiety and other issues may eventually come into play.

These are just a few ways to take the mystery out of your EAP and make it more effective. Doing so can help you retain good employees and maximize productivity. Let us know if you’d like more information or other ideas.

© 2018

Upskilling: The next frontier in employee training

In the face of a tight job market and a widening skills gap, employers in many industries are catching on to the benefits of “upskilling.” More than just your typical employee training, upskilling takes a broad approach to development.

It can involve teaching workers additional skills in areas related to but outside their current positions to help fulfill the employer’s existing or anticipated needs. Or it can simply give employees access to learning that will help them progress in their careers, either with their current employer or elsewhere.

Real-world examples

Take, for example, Starbucks’ College Achievement Plan. It offers workers tuition reimbursements to earn an online bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. The coffee company doesn’t stop at tuition — it also provides coaches, advisors and 24/7 tutoring.

Another example is Boeing’s recent launch of a program that will give employees access to online lessons, certification courses and degree programs, as well as several programs to help enhance technical skills, starting with digital literacy.

Potential perks

The potential perks for employers are many, including:

• Improved employee retention,
• Reduced recruiting costs,
• Higher productivity,
• Better engagement, and
• Stronger branding.

Companies also are finding that many customers increasingly prefer to do business with organizations that invest in society by investing in their employees. And financial investors often prefer companies that demonstrate a commitment to their long-term success by arming their employees with the tools needed to compete in the future.

Best practices

So, what makes upskilling programs effective? Successful programs generally share several hallmarks. For starters, they take the time to craft individualized development plans, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. These personal plans identify clear goals for each employee and chart a course to meet them.

Making multiple avenues of learning available is also advisable. People learn in different ways — while some employees might thrive in online education, others may get more out of traditional classroom settings. Some people are visual learners; others prefer text.

Regardless of the delivery mechanisms, employers should offer upskilling on an ongoing basis. Experts estimate that skills today have an average shelf life of only five years, so learning should be a constant.

Finally, successful programs usually focus on instructing employees in areas adjacent to their existing skills, instead of “re-skilling” (for example, teaching a coal miner to code). Employees are less daunted and more confident in such circumstances.

Considerable upside

Finding the time and resources to offer upskilling to employees isn’t always easy. But the upside for both your organization’s productivity and its public image can be considerable. For further ideas, contact us.

© 2018

Six Ways to Run a Better Meeting

There are few more self-destructive acts for an employer than to waste its employees’ time. You not only squander productivity but also hurt morale. Among the most common culprits of wasted time are bad meetings. A sloppily managed one can leave employees grumbling and frustrated for hours, even days, afterward. Here are six ways to run a better meeting:

1. Start on time. Beginning promptly shows you respect people’s time and encourages punctuality as an aspect of your organizational culture. Train and encourage meeting leaders to adhere to firm start times. Managers should address chronic latecomers verbally first (but after the meeting), and in writing later if necessary.

2. Lead with something positive. Poorly run meetings can quickly devolve into unproductive gripe sessions. Set the tone for a more constructive discussion of your agenda items by leading off with some good news highlighting an organizational or individual accomplishment.

3. Clear the air. After a positive start, if there’s an “elephant in the room,” confront it. Examples include a sudden staff change, bad sales report or unflattering story in the media. Say whatever needs to be said to acknowledge it and, if appropriate, discuss it. Then move on to a more constructive topic.

4. Deploy multiple voices. Depending on the agenda and meeting length, it’s usually a good idea to ask more than one team member to address a topic and lead a discussion. This will give the meeting more of a dynamic feel — lessening the likelihood that attendees will tune out a single voice. It also eases the burden on one person to run the whole show.

5. Follow a “no rehash” rule. Every topic should be thoroughly discussed. But backtracking to previous agenda items can turn meetings into a chaotic, confusing and laborious mess. Establish and enforce a clearly stated policy that, once the meeting has moved forward, previous discussions cannot be restarted.

6. Conclude optimistically with actionable tasks. Just as you started positively, also try to end the meeting on an upbeat, motivational note. Not every agenda item will require follow-up action, but many will. Identify those that do call for action and assign clear tasks to the appropriate attendees. Otherwise, dismiss everyone with a renewed sense of urgency to work on the items discussed. Contact us for more ideas on how to better accomplish your strategic objectives.

© 2018