8 Tips for Finding the Best Employee Assistance Program

June 07, 2023

Employee Assistance Programs are one of the most effective benefits for supporting employees’ mental health and total well-being. EAPs are also a key component to building organizational health, as they help address workforce challenge, performance issues, crisis response and creating a ‘great place to work’ culture.

8 Tips for Finding the Best Employee Assistance Program

When it comes to selecting the best employee assistance program for your organizational needs and goals, it helps to take a closer look at the program offerings, access options, pricing structure and ultimate vision. Here are 8 tips for finding the best employee assistance program:

1. Conduct an EAP needs assessment.

Finding the right EAP partner begins with a clear understanding of what you’re looking for, and what support services will make the biggest impact at your organization. Think about the whole health of your employees and your organization, including mental health, physical health, financial wellness, work-life and family care, lifestyle support and organizational health. What issues are affecting your people and teams the most, what are your current gaps in benefit coverage, and where do you hope the EAP can deliver the strongest support? Our “EAP Program Guide: Everything You Need to Know” is a great place to get started. 

2. Define your EAP goals.

For example, are your top goals to provide improved access to mental health support, strengthen employee engagement, or create a ‘great place to work’ environment that supports the whole employee–these are just some of the overarching goals to consider. If there are specific financial goals or KPIs, like reducing absenteeism, health care costs, or retention and turnover costs, clearly outline specific goals you’re hoping a strong EAP partner can help address.

3. Evaluate the full scope of EAP services available.

Some EAPs may only offer mental health counseling, while other more comprehensive EAPs offer life coaching, financial consultation, legal consultation, work-life and caregiving referrals, medical advocacy, personal assistant and concierge referrals, management consultation and referrals, crisis response, and training. High-quality EAPs also offer integrated wellness and health coaching, as well as robust organizational development solutions.  

4. Verify if in-the-moment support available in the EAP.

One of the most important aspects of an employee assistance program is providing access to in-the-moment support to speak with a counselor for urgent mental health needs. Make sure that immediate access to in-the-moment counseling is included in the program.

5. Review virtual care and in-person counseling options.

Virtual care options, especially for mental health sessions, allow for employees to access services from any location, at convenient times; while in-person sessions with licensed clinicians are also important and highly-effective in providing quality mental health care. The member experience should prioritize ease of access and multiple modality options for counseling and support.

6. Confirm your EAP account manager will always be accessible.

In times of crisis or urgent need, having an account manager on-call is critical. The best employee assistance programs make sure dedicated account managers are always available to respond, accessible by phone (you can always talk to a real person), and highly-responsive all year long to support your organizational goals and needs. From providing immediate crisis consultation in the event of a workplace tragedy to walking you through how to refer an employee who may be dealing with personal challenges to the EAP for professional support, your account manager should be your trusted partner, and always available.

7. Take a close look at EAP confidentiality and data security.

Many virtual and mental health care platforms have varying privacy and data sharing practices, some even sharing information with third-parties. It is crucial to ask the right questions up front and read the fine print, to ensure your employees’ information is never used for data mining or data sharing in any capacity, and prevent any liability issues. Confirm that all contact with the employee assistance program is private, in compliance with HIPAA and other regulations. Trust is essential, and the best employee assistance programs ensure the highest standards of confidentiality.

8. Ask for information on EAP program promotion and member engagement.

The key to driving EAP awareness, engagement and utilization is effective communication and program promotion practices. This may include a program kick-off announcement campaign, monthly newsletters, orientation and training, video promotion, social media marketing and ongoing awareness campaigns–especially for special observances like Mental Health Awareness month.

Each organization is unique, with specific goals for finding the best employee assistance program that will help address top concerns and priorities. Each EAP is also unique in its scope of services and program offerings. Identifying your organizational needs up front, understanding what’s included in the program and what’s at an additional cost, and comparing various EAP program components and service models will help in finding the perfect-fit employee assistance program for your organization.