What Do Employers See as the Benefits of Assistance Programs?

Article excerpt

What Do Employers See As the Benefits Of Assistance Programs?

The personal and professional lives of employees at any level in an organization are inextricably intertwined. Although some organizations still engage in denial, facts show that problems such as alcoholism, substance abuse, stress, smoking, and family and financial concerns do not recognize any line of demarcation between home and office. Until the 1980s, most organizations in the public and private sectors coped with these problems by accepting the consequences of suffering low productivity, profitability and morale, or firing troubled employees and sustaining increased costs or recruiting, training and morale.

Today, organizations have the opportunity of investing in employee assistance programs (EAPs) as a means of improving job performance, profitability and the quality of work life by helping employees through difficult times. EAPs also offer a number of other benefits, including the containment of health care costs, responsiveness to employee interest in wellness and prevention programs, a reduction in absenteeism, turnover and disciplinary problems, and an enhanced public image. As a result of these benefits, more and more organizations are adopting EAPs as an integral part of their employee benefit package.

In recognition of this trend and of the resource conscious environment in which many companies exist, we determined that a valuable contribution could be made by investigating the actual costs and benefits of EAPs to various organizations.

Methodology

The participating organizations for this study originated from a random sample of 2,000 small, medium and large private and public sector organizations chosen from a list purchased from the American Society for Personnel Administrators (ASPA). The intent was to explore the influence of several variables such as internal versus external providers, scope of employees and benefits covered and the impetus for adoption in small, medium, and large organizations.

Surveys were sent to the human resource management, benefit, and health and safety administrators on the list with an assurance of anonymity. Also, a summary of the results was offered to those who requested this information under separate cover.

Variables included in the questionnaire were selected after a review of EAP literature and interviews with a sample of EAP administrators. A test questionnaire was developed and administered to 10 human resource managers and 10 graduate MBA students to determine whether or not the questions were understandable and relevant to the study of EAPs.

The questionnaire was divided into the following five areas of investigation: organizational characteristics of the respondents; reasons for adopting an EAP; type and scope of services offered by the EAP; knowledge of and factors used in assessing the costs of an EAP; and effects and benefits of the EAP. Average annual EAP costs were also included in the information collected.

Preliminary testing of the results confirmed that the participant organizations lacked cost and benefit measurement systems for EAPs. The lack of precision in cost/benefit data and the subjective nature of some responses favored questions that asked for ranges rather than single figures.

Characteristics of Respondents

Responses were received from 377 (18.9 percent) of the 2,000 organizations on the ASPA list. A preliminary analysis of the data indicated that the respondents came disproportionately from organizations having 25,000 or fewer employees and total annual sales of the respondents was less than $500 million. These responses were inconsistent with the findings of an earlier study which cited a higher rate of questionnaire return can be expected from much larger organizations. The basis for this assumption was that in larger organizations there was a greater likelihood that the data necessary to answere questions regarding costs and benefits of EAPs would have been collected and analyzed by computerized information systems. …

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