Defining Management Consulting in Employee Assistance

By Harris, Jeffrey | The Journal of Employee Assistance, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Defining Management Consulting in Employee Assistance


Harris, Jeffrey, The Journal of Employee Assistance


Imagine yourself getting on an elevator at work, heading for the top floor. Stepping into the elevator at the last minute is the director of the busiest department in the company. She asks you: "You have helped several of my employees find personal solutions to problems--but what can you do for me?" In this brief moment, how would you describe the management consulting services that you provide? Could you distinguish how this service provided by your EAP differs from the other sources of consulting offered to managers?

At The Bank of New York Mellon, sales professionals are encouraged to refine and practice their "30-second elevator speech" that helps them differentiate their product from competitors in the marketplace. Although it is rare to be constrained to such a short window of opportunity, the 30-second format provides a useful exercise in summarizing the basic elements of your services. Consequently, what does our collective experience and expertise in the field of employee assistance suggest as an effective "elevator speech"?

Vision for This Column

Several years ago, I asked 33 EA professionals to describe what they saw as the best practices in management consulting--the results of which were presented at the Annual World EAP Conference in San Diego in 2007. One of the conclusions of this survey was that EA professionals are experiencing great effectiveness in their consulting. However, they noted there was rarely a methodical and purposeful development of these abilities. Instead, this skill set occurred over time through "teachable moments" in the form of an oral history of EA consulting. Further exploration found that few books, articles, or guidelines were available to describe this type of work and convey the development of a plan to achieve competence and success.

Therefore, the goal of this column is to engage readers in a dialogue to shape and solidify a standardized definition of management consulting within employee assistance programs--and to construct a development plan to orient CEAP candidates and other professionals entering the EAP field.

Future columns will explore both the macro and micro aspects of management consulting. This will include the "DOs" and "DON'Ts" of consulting; essential skills for effective consulting; conducting a meaningful needs assessment; becoming more savvy about manager roles and the business of your organizational customer; tailoring your consulting to the abilities of the manager; coaching for struggling managers; consulting in an EAP call center; and more.

This initial column will begin the conversation about the previously mentioned "elevator speech" and refine the definition.

Differentiating Services From Other Consulting

It is not unusual for organizations to have multiple sources of consulting for managers. One example is the organizational development (OD) consultant. This person creates long-term, organization-wide plans, such as change management and employee satisfaction. Executive coaching describes another source of workplace consulting. This type tends to be reserved for senior leadership positions in organizations. The executive coach creates goals that are related to the development of the manager and the success of his/her career. Regrettably, first-level supervisors and middle management often aren't able to access these costly services.

With these brief comparisons established, what distinguishes the EA professional's role in consulting to managers? Roman and Blum's brilliant work in defining EAPA's Core Technology describes our consulting role in at least two of their eight components. …

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