Posted by Rupa Sehgal on May 10, 2022
Rupa Sehgal

Often part of a larger corporate wellness plan, an employee assistance program (EAP) provides benefits funded and implemented by employers to help employees or organizational members navigate personal and work-related difficulties. But while many organizations have opted in to these services since the 1940s, EAPs have lacked adequate innovation to reflect the needs of their members, often resulting in an employee experience that is clumsy, slow, and outdated.

EAPs should be an investment that pays off in the long run: employees who use the program’s resources tend to be more motivated at work, and employers benefit from the resulting workplace productivity.1 If you’re in the market for a new employee assistance program or your current solution is underperforming, we’ve provided some evaluation criteria and questions to help you find a best-in-class EAP that fits the needs of your business.


EAP checklist


How to ensure employees will love their virtual EAP experience

When it comes to seeking health and wellness support, a leading source of frustration is extended wait times. Leading EAPs should guarantee appointments within 24 hours, providing employees with the support they need when they need it. If an employee is distressed, receiving a consultation from wherever they are as soon as possible is key to a memorable, positive experience.

All employee assistance programs tend to provide similar counselling services (mental health, family & relationships, child & elder care, financial & legal services, work & career, and critical incident response). What differentiates a modern program from a traditional one is how your employees access it. Support should be available at their fingertips: virtual access to resources (through a mobile app or website) optimizes efficiency and convenience, helping members connect to a case manager virtually within minutes. Traditional EAPs tend to favour in-person counselling or offer support through a 1-800 number, inconvenient options when immediate support is being sought.


Canadian employees and HR leaders are looking: 

  • For improved access to in-house care professionals across the wellness spectrum, resulting in consistent quality and seamless handoffs when necessary

  • For guaranteed appointments within 24 hours instead of days or even weeks

  • To become more proactive about their health and well-being

  • To spend more time on the things that matter most (and less time away from the office, commuting to an appointment or sitting in a waiting room)

  • For virtual solutions that meet a variety of wellness needs


Some questions to ask your provider:

  • How fast can employees get personalized support?

  • What is the process to follow for employees to access your services and consult?

  • What modalities will members use to consult (e.g., video, chat, etc.)?

  • Do you use an external network of service providers or an in-house multidisciplinary team?

  • What is your scope of practice?

  • How are the care professionals trained and evaluated?


How to boost employee utilization and engagement with your EAP 

Historically, EAPs have been plagued by low utilization rates and high costs. To see a return on your investment, your EAP should reflect your members’ needs and be available to them in the most accessible way possible. 

Internal EAP promotion campaigns could also boost engagement and utilization, but the onus shouldn’t only be on you. The most effective way to increase visibility on the solutions available to plan members is through regular communication: customized emails, webinars, or ongoing educational content. A great provider will assist you in getting your new EAP up and running quickly, and deploy employee campaigns, while providing assistance and training over the long term. Your EAP and its benefits should be broadly and regularly communicated to your employees to remind them of the resources available. 


Canadian employees and HR leaders are looking for: 

  • Clear information about what EAP benefits are available and how to access them

  • A virtual solution with access to services via a mobile or web app, any time of the day

  • All services centralized in a single access point on a digital platform, reducing confusion

  • Proactive outreach through a solution that seamlessly integrates with other wellness programs

  • Flexible in-app booking options, offering date and time slots convenient to members

  • Regular communications that educate members on their EAP benefits and new program announcements


 Questions to ask your provider:

  • How do you promote utilization?

  • Is member eligibility automated?

  • Do you follow up with the employees who have recently used your services?

  • Do you offer a robust employee onboarding plan?

  • Do you offer assistance with promoting services or program training to employees?


How an outcomes-focused EAP keeps both your and your employees’ interests top of mind

A digital-first platform gives HR leaders like you a significantly more accurate and in-depth picture of key reporting metrics, revealing more meaningful, actionable insights, while maintaining 100% member confidentiality. Measurable results include employee satisfaction, program utilization rate, return on investment, and changes in absenteeism and presenteeism. Transparent reporting will not only allow you to see which services are being used, but also gives you the opportunity to keep tabs on your employees’ health and well-being, and communicate trends to your fellow organizational leaders.

EAP providers that offer a dedicated account manager can follow up on the employee benefits that are most (or least) used by your workforce. Constantly improving the offering should be top of mind: implementing an ongoing employee feedback system to monitor satisfaction will keep your workforce educated and engaged.


Canadian employees and HR leaders are looking for: 

  • Transparent reporting on program adoption, member satisfaction, and other key metrics

  • Virtual solutions that facilitate scalability and better response times, even during spikes

  • Services that members will actually use that are proven to get them back on their feet quickly

  • An evaluation of the results associated with what’s on offer today, and the potential for new, forward-facing offerings in the future


 Questions to ask your provider:

  • How do you measure member satisfaction?

  • Do you provide a dedicated account manager that drives business and health outcomes?

  • Do you provide transparent reporting for insights on key program metrics? 

  • Do you integrate employee and organizational feedback to constantly improve your offering?


Find the best EAP for your needs

While quick consultations, accessible services, and positive outcomes are considerable drivers, there is so much more to consider. At Dialogue, we created an EAP that was based on employees’ and HR leaders’ needs, with access to the services that matter the most. After all, an employee assistance program is intended to help employees, not frustrate them. Download our list of additional questions to consider iin your search for a new EAP provider.


Get your EAP checklist



A Manager’s Guide to EAPs: Employee Assistance Programs

Topics: For Organizations

About the author

Rupa is the Product Marketing Manager at Dialogue. For 10+ years, she's worked with innovative technology companies to tell their product story, one feature at a time. Her current goal is to share how virtual healthcare has a real impact in people’s lives, by highlighting the amazing efforts of the primary & mental health care product teams at Dialogue.