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How to evaluate your employee assistance programme (EAP)

How to evaluate your EAP and check you’re getting value for money

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Why should you evaluate your employee assistance programme?How to evaluate your EAPs performanceEAP evaluation checklist for employersHow often should you review your EAP service?

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  • EAPs are often used for basic mental health support in large companies, but it's important to regularly review their effectiveness for both value and impact.
  • Evaluating an EAP can help companies address productivity, absenteeism, and team morale.
  • To evaluate EAP performance, employers should define key objectives, such as reducing absenteeism, and use measures like sick days or achieved KPIs to determine the EAP's return on investment.
  • Employers can use employee wellbeing surveys to track the overall team mood and impact of wellbeing initiatives, comparing data before and after the launch of an EAP.
  • An EAP evaluation checklist can help employers assess the most important aspects of an EAP, such as inclusivity, accessibility, therapy quality, availability of usage statistics, and their level of proactive support.

EAPs are a great way to implement basic mental health cover if you have thousands of employees. With tempting prices-per-employee but typically low uptake, we’ve talked about the pros and cons of employee assistance programmes before.

But what happens after you’ve signed on the dotted line? You’ll need a way to evaluate how effective an EAP’s mental health cover is for your team – and whether you’re getting the best value for money when it comes to boosting your employee wellbeing overall. 

Why should you evaluate your employee assistance programme?

Evaluating your employee assistance programme (EAP) is important for lots of reasons. A successful EAP can have a big impact on employee productivity, absenteeism and overall team morale. Regular reviews help to make sure that the EAP services are living up to expectations, that people are actually using it, and that it's providing fast and effective treatment for anyone who's struggling with their mental health.

However, despite EAPs being such a critical tool for employee wellbeing and business success, it seems that most employers are happy to take things at face value when it comes to usage and performance data. Only 31% of UK organisations have never evaluated the quality or impact of their EAP.

An infographic highlighting that 31% of UK organisations have never evaluated the quality or impact of their EAP.
Regularly evaluating your EAP ensures its services are living up to your team's expectations
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Download our free EAP evaluation checklist

Make sure you're asking the right questions when buying an EAP (or weighing up the one you already have)

How to evaluate your EAPs performance

As a starting point, it might be a good idea to think about what your objectives were when you agreed to implement your existing EAP. If you wanted a support system that would reduce absenteeism and boost performance at work, then those are fairly objective measurements, and your answers might be easy to find. Check on the number of sick days taken by your team, or take a look at the percentage of KPIs they’ve achieved. If you wanted your team to feel more engaged with their work, or just…happier, then you might need a more qualitative method. 

💡 Only 9% of UK employers currently measure the ROI from their EAP service

An employee wellbeing survey is a great tool to track the overall mood of your team. It’s useful to keep an eye on trends and to work out what impact any wellbeing initiatives have had. If you can compare your team’s wellbeing data before and after you got your EAP, then that should hold some clues to how effective it really is. (If you aren’t collecting this data yet, don’t panic! Find out how to create your own wellbeing survey today.)

Of course, you can also survey your team about your EAP specifically and see what they have to say. It’s well worth making the responses anonymous, to make sure everyone feels comfortable answering honestly.

📋 EAP survey questions to ask employees

An infographic showing examples of nine questions to ask employees about their EAP.
EAP survey questions to ask employees

The answers to these questions should give you some insight into the impact your EAP is having, over and above the usage figure they’ll furnish you with. Typical usage stats will include anybody who has accessed a resource provided by your EAP after logging in. That includes reading self-help resources online, which you might decide doesn’t represent brilliant value for money in terms of mental health support.

If nobody knows who your EAP provider is or how to access help, then the service might also need more cheerleading from your internal teams. It’s not in an EAP’s interests to boost uptake of 1-1 counselling, because it’s expensive to deliver – so they usually leave that job up to you.

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EAP evaluation checklist for employers

An infographic detailing six things to evaluate your EAP for: inclusivity, accessibility, quality of therapy, contracts, usage, and proactivity
What should you evaluate your EAP for?

There are a few other things to think about when you’re comparing EAP services, choosing a new EAP provider or renewing your contract. Here’s a handy checklist to evaluate your EAP:

Evaluate EAP inclusivity 🌎

  • Is everyone in your company covered by your EAP? 
  • Can you extend full coverage to contractors, freelancers and part-time staff?
  • Will your EAP triage and treat people who have been diagnosed with previous mental health conditions? (You might find the answer to this in the smallprint.)
  • Does your EAP provide training for your team leaders to recognise and manage employees with mental health concerns? 

Evaluate EAP accessibility 🚦

  • Is it easy to get help from your EAP? (How long does it take to get a response from them, and to book a counselling session?)
  • Is there a complicated login system or is it easy to use?
  • Has your team been able to access your EAP anonymously, or do they typically have to ask the People team for the contact details first? 

Evaluate EAP therapy 🗣

  • How qualified are the counsellors or therapists available for 1-1 mental health support? Are they registered with an accredited body, like the BACP or the NCS?
  • Can your team request an appropriate therapist for their clinical needs or personal preferences?
  • Are there limits on the number of therapy sessions a single employee can have? 

💡 Only 5% of employees typically phone their EAP's call centre, and 42% of callers who need therapy are rejected

Evaluate EAP contracts 📄

  • Are you tied into your EAP contract? How long for? 
  • Will the contract terms (and price) flex to cover a growing or shrinking number of employees in your team? 

Evaluate EAP usage 📈

  • Does your EAP give you regular, accurate statistics about employee usage? 
  • How easy is it for you to find out usage statistics yourself?
  • Does your EAP share qualitative or quantitative feedback on how useful your employees have found the service?

And finally, proactivity. This is a biggie, not only because it helps to reduce personal suffering, but also because – according to a huge Deloitte study on the topic – proactive mental health support means employees take less time off and generates a better return on investment for companies. 

Evaluate EAP proactivity 🧠

  • Does your EAP provide ways for your team to actively maintain and work on their mental health (not just react when there’s a problem)?

How often should you review your EAP service?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should evaluate your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This depends on the size of your company and number of employees, available resource in your HR and legal team, and any specific events that might bring employee mental health support even more of a priority.

Generally, we would recommend reviewing your EAP annually (at least) to score the overall effectiveness and usage of the programme, pinpoint areas for improvement, and agree changes to better meet the needs of your employees. Additional reviews should be arranged if:

The company's been through any big changes

If you've recently restructured the company or made layoffs, this can leave employees feeling unsettled and in need of additional emotional support. It's important to know that anyone who might be struggling to cope with the changes can get help from your EAP quickly.

You're changing EAP providers

If you switch EAP providers, or your existing EAP provider contract is ending, this is the perfect opportunity to compare and contract providers to make sure it meets the needs of your employees and aligns with your company's goals.

Any negative feedback has been reported

If you get any concerning feedback from employees about the EAP or if there is a critical incident in the workplace (e.g a traumatic event), this can also be a good time to look a little bit closer and make sure the quality of treatment is what you'd expect.

If you're currently reviewing your EAP service, it's always worth checking out the competition to see what you might be missing out on. See how Spill stacks up against EAPs and what kind of mental health support is the right fit for your team.

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Download our free EAP evaluation checklist

Make sure you're asking the right questions when buying an EAP (or weighing up the one you already have)

Spill is typically used by 50% of employees in a year. That means up to 10 times as many people get support vs. an EAP.

See how Spill stacks up against EAPs