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Measuring returns on EAP investment

EAPs are becoming natural for employers, but how can you measure their impact? Research attempts to find out

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are now widespread in the UK, with nearly half the UK working population having access to one. The number of programmes on offer has tripled since 2005, according to 2013 research from the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA).

EAPs are becoming a natural choice for employers who want to support employee health and wellbeing. Their focus on early intervention and enabling workers to resolve issues that can affect their productivity and performance has helped to cement this role, but the exact return on investment for EAPs seems difficult to answer.

For individual employers the critical issue when it comes to measuring ROI of EAPs is understanding the measures and evaluating processes used by your provider for your programme. What were the performance targets you set for your EAP when you commissioned the service?

The answer here probably depends on the type of EAP model you have adopted: you may have selected a ‘full EAP’ model that combines 24-hour telephone support, assessment and counselling (which is most likely conducted face-to-face), account management and online services. Or you may have commissioned a telephone and online service where face-to-face counselling is not incorporated. Alternatively, your EAP may be ‘embedded’ within another service or insurance policy.

While each EAP offers different advantages for employers and individual employees, the way that a programme is structured and promoted will affect the return it offers.

The uncertainty that exists with regard to measuring and understanding the impact of EAPs is one reason the UK EAPA has partnered with Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation. The partnership aims to investigate the role and use of EAPs in organisations and the experience of HR teams when purchasing, rolling out and evaluating EAPs.

The study will address many of the questions raised by those commissioning and purchasing EAPs and will attempt to answer the elusive question of what the return on investment is. Alongside this the research will include a ‘state of the market’ analysis into employee assistance offerings in the UK.

You can get involved in the study by completing a short survey that asks about your experience of EAPs in your organisation. Your insights are just as valuable if you have decided not to purchase an EAP and you are most welcome to get involved.

The research results will be available to HR readers later this year and will, we hope, take employers and the employee assistance industry one step closer to defining the ROI of this increasingly popular solution to improving employee health, wellbeing, performance and productivity.

Zofia Bajorek is a researcher at The Work Foundation; Andrew Kinder is chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association