Assistance Programs Ease Staff Stress

By Hellan, Richard T. | American Banker, March 15, 1985 | Go to article overview

Assistance Programs Ease Staff Stress


Hellan, Richard T., American Banker


Financial institutions are finding employee assistance programs significantly helpful in coping with the industry's current dramatic state of flux. Mergers and acquisitions, attitude changes, high technology equipment, and a new breed of fast-track middle managers have introduced new stresses and have sparked questions of competence, confidence, and career direction in the minds of bank tellers and bank presidents alike.

Through employee assistance programs (EAPs), many financial organizations are providing prepaid psychological counseling for employees facing these and other personal problems that affect corporate productivity.

The EAP field is growing as quickly as banking is changing. In the past 10 years, EAPs have grown 900% with 60% of the major corporations in the United States now providing some type of EAP.

The need for industry to attack a productivity killer, alcoholism, gave birth to corporate-sponsored occupational alcoholism programs shortly after World War II. Corporations like Du-Pont and Eastman Kodak led the way by experimenting with ways to identify and treat the alcoholic employee. The success of these efforts, the American Medical Association's recognition of alcholism as a "disease," and the positive results of government-sponsored demonstration projects encouraged other employers to establish more formalized programs of assistance for troubled employees.

During the early 1970s, the "broad brush" program, formally referred to as a "employee assistance program," started to be recognized as the most effective vehicle to reach persons affected by alcoholism or any of a wide spectrum of other personal problems as well. Employers who had developed these broad brush systems were reporting significant corporate savings in decreased absenteeism, reduced accidents, lowered medical claims, reduced turnover, etc. -- up to a $10 return for every dollar invested was reported by the National Council on Alcoholism.

By the late '70s, the roots of today's systematic, professionally administered employee assistance program had started to become intertwined with other human resource development programs. Employee assistance programming had started on a path to becoming a stardard part of operating procedures in companies of all types and sizes throughout the country -- an integral part of the corporate human resources development function.

The employee assistance program of today is a comprehensive management support system that elicits praise from employees, making it a valuable employee relations program as well. Policy and procedure development, comprehensive employee communications, management training, professional and confidential counseling and referral services, and ongoing reporting and evaluation are standard elements in a results-oriented program.

Assistance for a full range of psychological problems -- in addition to alcoholism, drug abuse, financial, and legal concerns -- is available through the EAPs. All employees are encouraged to take advantage of the help available through the EAP prior to having a personal problem affect job performance. Refer Worker To EAP

Managers are encouraged to focus their attention on performance and to refer employees with patterns of declining performance to the EAP to get the help they need to resolve any problem that is keeping them from performing up to par. Managers are relieved from the need to play psychologist or social worker.

Personal Performance Consultants, Inc. (PPC) finds a wide range of managerial motivations for the development of EAPs. In the banking industry, the desire to beef up employee benefits and to demonstrate concern for the employees by responding to individual personal concerns is one motivation.

The desire to develop or consistent approach to the supervision of employees affected by personal problems, an interest in establishing a tool to assist women and minorities in assimilating into management positions, and an interest in applying systematic efforts to control health care costs are all reasons for establishing an EAP, as reported by the banks PPC serves. …

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