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October 13, 2021 Amelia Wilcox

Your Guide to the EAP Implementation and Search Process

How to find and launch an Employee Assistance Program for your company

EAP implementation and purchasing is one of the most challenging projects in an HR leader’s career. It is daunting, overwhelming, complicated. There may be hundreds, even thousands, of employees that need support. How can one EAP possibly address all of their needs?

You’ve come to the right place. This is where you can get a breakdown of EAPs – how to choose one, launch one, and manage one.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to start finding the best EAP for your team!

The world of EAPs and employee benefits is changing rapidly. Traditional EAPs have long waits for mental health care and provide gym passes that employees don’t want. Culture benefits and perks like ping-pong tables and beer fridges aren’t desirable – let alone applicable – in the world of remote work.

Employees want flexibility, easy access to care, and the choice to choose the care they need – anytime, anywhere. The innovative EAPs of today meet those needs. They are wellness benefits that are a breeze to use, easy to access, and simple to understand.

With the rise in mental health issues and awareness, EAPs now address an even more comprehensive range of employee challenges, including but not limited to:

  • Mental health and employee counseling
  • Physical health and exercise
  • Financial challenges
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Parenting
  • Burnout and stress
  • Career transitions
  • Nutrition
  • Life coaching
  • Sleep

Today’s EAPs drop absenteeism rates by 25%!

Related Reading: The New Top Workplace Perk – Workforce Wellness Programs

How to start the EAP implementation process

So – how in the world does one choose an EAP?

Here are the main steps to the EAP implementation and search process:

  1. Know what your employees need
  2. Determine your goals
  3. Set a budget
  4. Research the top EAPs
  5. Weigh your options and choose and EAP
  6. Tell the team about your EAP
  7. Measure progress

1. Know what your employees need

First step: lay it all out there. Write down all the problems that employees have been facing at your company right now.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Has our business gone through any significant changes or challenges in the past year?
  • What are some common complaints from employees?
  • What are the most common employee challenges at our company? (stress, absenteeism, retention, recruitment)
  • What benefits do we currently provide?
  • If you are already using an EAP, are employees using it?

It doesn’t hurt to check in with your workforce and gather anonymous feedback on how they are doing and how you can better support them. Here are some questions to ask employees:

  • How many days of the week do you feel stressed, on average?
  • How stressed do you feel on an average workday?
  • How many hours do you work per week, on average?
  • How many hours of work did you miss this quarter due to mental health struggles or physical illness?
  • Which of the following benefits would you like our company to roll out, in order of preference?

For instance, if employees miss many days per quarter due to mental health, it would make sense to implement an EAP that provides easy access to employee counseling.

2. Determine your goals

Now that you have a better idea of your employees’ needs, it’s time to determine your EAP goals.

Here are some EAP goal examples:

  • Achieve employee EAP utilization of 20%
  • Reduce absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Increase productivity
  • Increase employee morale
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Attract and retain top talent
  • Improve company culture
  • Improve employee mental health
  • Reduce stress and burnout
  • Improve work-life balance

If it is possible, put a number on those goals. This will help you track your progress. The best EAPs are transparent about usage data. Push them to give you data and reports on EAP utilization and EAP implementation.

Related Reading: Employee Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions

3. Set a budget

Most EAPs cost between $12 and $40 per employee every year. This should help you determine a rough estimate for how much your new EAP should cost.

It is typical for an EAP or wellness program to charge you based on how many employees you have – per employee per month (PEPM).

Some EAPs will charge you more the more employees use it – others will charge you less. The latter is generally a better option. Choose a wellness benefits provider that puts your employees’ well-being first.

Other EAP providers will charge you per therapy visit. Others will charge a flat rate, regardless of how employees interact with the program.

Some EAPs provide multiple plan types. If you are low on budget, consider trying out a simple plan before jumping into a more costly one. For instance, with Nivati, you can opt to have access to virtual therapy, our video library, or both. Many EAPs offer a free trial.

Create a budget and present it to other decision-makers at your company. If you’re having trouble convincing your company leaders to implement the EAP or wellness program, check out this article on 5 Ways HR Leaders Can Get Executive Team Support.

For more in-depth information on how much EAPs cost and the different pricing models, check out: How Much Do EAP Programs Cost?

4. Research the top EAPs

What do the best EAPs do? They:

  • Are scalable
  • Are easy to use
  • Provide quick access to care
  • Provide utilization and progress data
  • Offer a variety of care options and languages to meet everyone’s needs
  • Provide services to employees regardless of their location

Here’s some advice I gave to HR leaders at an conference recently: When looking for an EAP, you need to ask: What are their utilization rates? How many of our employees can we expect to use this resource? The traditional EAP utilization is 4.5 to 5.5%.

Using the Nivati platform, we are looking at between 20 and 30% of employees who will use our therapy services.

You’ll want to see case studies and ask for a couple of references – look at the data.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting employee mental health at work, check out the Manager Training Handbook.

two men smiling and looking at laptop - EAP implementation and how to launch an employee wellness program

5. Weigh your options and choose an EAP

Now that you know your options, it’s time to choose!

Here are some things to keep in mind at this stage in the process:

  • Will the EAP provider work with our team to provide the support our employees need?
  • Will the EAP provider give in-depth utilization data?
  • Do the EAP’s specialties align with what our employees need?

You will want to get buy-in from the executive team at your company before following through.

6. Tell the team about your EAP

Congrats! Your company is now a part of the mental health solution!

EAP implementation starts with telling your team about it.

The best EAP providers help increase utilization for your team. Traditional EAPs are incentivized to reduce utilization to save cash. Your EAP provider should work with you to get as many employees on your team using the EAP as possible.

On your end, make sure the team knows EAP usage is confidential and will not impact how you are evaluated in any way. Update your company policy and onboarding materials accordingly. Make sure employees know what they have access to!

You can start by announcing the EAP launch during your next company-wide meeting. At Nivati, we lead a kick-off call with every new client to walk them through the platform, why it’s valuable, and how to use it. If your new EAP provider doesn’t provide this, ask them to. Ask them for their advice on how to get employees to use their specific wellness platform.

One of the best ways to increase EAP utilization is to get your company leaders and CEO on board. Encourage company leadership to use the EAP themselves and talk about their experiences. Sharing mental health stories will help fight the mental health stigma in your workplace and encourage more people to sign up.

Also, remind your employees to use the EAP at least once per quarter via email. You can also do this during a company-wide meeting.

The key to implementing an EAP well is to weave it into your company culture. You can do this by having an open dialogue about mental health in the workplace and training your managers to direct people to use the EAP if they need it.

7. Measure progress

There are many ways an EAP should help your business.

A couple of months after the launch date, revisit those goals you set back in Step #2. What is the utilization rate? What are employees saying about the EAP? Are employees feeling better? Are they more productive? What do job candidates have to say about the EAP option?

Check-in with your EAP Client Success Manager (or equivalent) at this time as well. Meeting with your EAP point of contact is a great time to brainstorm how to improve the EAP experience even more for your team. Ask them for help with increasing utilization. You could ask them to:

  • Email your employees more about updates to the platform and tips for coping with stress
  • Bring a counselor in to talk to your team about mental health
  • Facilitate a group meditation or yoga session

Next quarter, send another survey to your team – perhaps even the same one as before – and see if their stress, work-life balance, or mental health has improved.

Keep these things up, and you’re well on your way to better well-being for all in your workplace! You now have a roadmap in your mind of how to find and implement an EAP for your business.

For 41-pages of data-packed insights for HR leaders, check out The State of Employee Health and Well-being Report.

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Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati (formerly Zenovate) a leader in corporate massage since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company who’s platform provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)  

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