Health and Productivity Management: Market Opportunities for EAPs: By Integrating with Health and Wellness and Disease Management Programs, EAPs Can Offer Employers a Powerful Workforce Productivity Tool

By Kramer, Robert M.; Rickert, Shannon | The Journal of Employee Assistance, January-March 2006 | Go to article overview

Health and Productivity Management: Market Opportunities for EAPs: By Integrating with Health and Wellness and Disease Management Programs, EAPs Can Offer Employers a Powerful Workforce Productivity Tool


Kramer, Robert M., Rickert, Shannon, The Journal of Employee Assistance


Ask any employer today to name his or her most significant expense, and the answer inevitably will be, "Salaries and wages." Most important asset? "Our employees." Most pressing concerns? "Employee productivity and health care cost containment."

Employers probably have been seeking effective solutions to maximizing employee productivity since the building of the pyramids. In the United States, workforce productivity became a focus of employers during the industrial age. But productivity has never been a more central area of concern than it is today, with a global economy pressuring U.S. employers to get as much output as possible from each and every worker.

THE SATURATION POINT

Focused efforts by U.S. employers to address workforce productivity issues date back to at least the early 1900s. Henry Ford, founder of the automotive manufacturing company that bears his name, may not have been the first U.S. employer to identify employee productivity as an essential ingredient in a successful business, but he was certainly a pioneer in introducing solutions. Though many questioned his sanity, Ford introduced novel concepts such as paying generous wages to attract and retain good workers. He also set high expectations for his workers, including maintaining sobriety and good health and embodying positive family values.

Ford considered his employees his greatest asset and invested substantially in them, gambling that his commitment to his workers' well-being would pay significant dividends in terms of increased production, revenue, and profits. The results of his decision speak for themselves. But despite Ford's positive return on workforce investment, it would be another 40 to 50 years before a productivity-focused workplace service, the employee assistance program, became formalized.

By the early 1960s, EAPs were becoming hugely popular and had begun spreading throughout the U.S. business community As the programs matured and the market for them became saturated, growth slowed. Typically, when this happens to a product, it is either replaced or its scope is expanded or refined.

For EAPs, the market solution has been expansion. In the latter half of the 20th century, EAPs expanded their services into managed behavioral health care, thereby shifting their focus partly to health care cost containment. With health care costs rising during much of the 1980s and 1990s, EAPs saw dramatic growth.

In the mid- and late 1990s, employees' lives grew more complex and the demands of balancing work and family became more arduous. Work-life programs emerged in response, and employers soon recognized the advantage of integrating them with traditional employee assistance services, thus presenting EAPs with another opportunity for significant growth.

Now that integrated EAP/MBH (managed behavioral health) and EAP/work-life products have matured and demand for them has reached the saturation point, the time is ripe to develop and market the next generation of workplace productivity services. Employers are anxious for new solutions to their age-old problem. But what is the next logical direction?

STRONG GROWTH PRODUCT

Over the past two decades, two products have emerged that have enjoyed substantial growth: health and wellness programs and disease management services. These products target productivity by seeking to help employees better manage their health through preventive measures (health and wellness initiatives) and through improved control of chronic illnesses (disease management programs).

Both types of initiatives have demonstrated sufficient return on investment to keep employers interested. A June 2005 survey of 365 companies by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions revealed that 62 percent of the employers polled had implemented health and wellness programs, while another 33 percent were considering doing so (Snowbeck 2005). These findings reflect employers' growing understanding that healthy employees cost fewer health care dollars and are likely to be happier and more productive in the workplace. …

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