Employee assistance plan managers, also often referred to as employee welfare managers and work-life managers, are the human resources (HR) professionals responsible for enhancing employee safety and wellness through the organization and maintenance of employee assistance plans (EAPs). Most often found in larger companies, organizations, and corporations, employee assistance plan managers ensure that the work-life balance of a company’s employees is optimized.
Today’s employee assistance plans often include perks and benefits that are designed to attract and retain top talent. From counseling programs that address issues such as substance abuse and occupational stress to wellness initiatives that help employees reach and maintain their health goals, employee assistance plans are designed to address the needs and desires of a company’s employees.
What are Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs)?
Employee assistance plans are proactive, preventive efforts that companies offer their employees. The programs and services offered through a company’s EAP are designed to contribute to:
- Decreased absenteeism
- Fewer labor disputes
- Greater employee retention
- Reduce accidents and workers compensation claims
- Reduce medical costs through the early identification and treatment of physical and mental health and substance abuse issues
Employee assistance plans often include a broad array of programs and services, such as:
- Occupational health and safety programs/practices
- Health and physical fitness plans/programs
- Medical examinations
- Mental health-related services and referrals
- Drug and alcohol-related services and referrals
- Flextime programs
- Transportation (carpooling, reduced transit costs, etc.)
- Food service
- Recreational activities
- Childcare/eldercare services
- Wellness and health promotion services, such as smoking cessation and weight reduction
- Counseling services for personal issues, such as divorce and parenting
- Work-related support services, such as career counseling
EAPs also often address a number of important workplace issues, such as:
- Workplace violence
- Safety and emergency preparedness
- Major changes, such as mergers and layoffs
- Absence management
In addition to serving as an important retention tool, employee assistance programs also benefit companies because they include services designed to help employees perform their best at work. For example, childcare services may eliminate the stress of finding quality daycare, while health and wellness plans may keep workers healthier and therefore result in fewer missed days of work throughout the year.
It is important to note that in some companies, EAPs include a wide host of employee services and programs that promote health and wellness. In other cases, EAPs deal only with more serious personal and emotional problems (marital difficulties, substance abuse issues, legal matters, etc.), with wellness programs considered independent from EAPs.
A Day in the Life of an Employee Assistance Plan Manager
Employee assistance plan managers, through the integration of EAPs, help their organization address productivity issues by providing employees with programs and services that address personal issues that may affect job performance.
The work of employee assistance plan managers involves identifying issues, finding resolutions to these issues, and implementing programs and services that enhance employee and workplace effectiveness.
The overreaching goals of employee assistance plan managers is to implement programs and services that:
- Maintain and improve worker health and productivity
- Attract and retain valued employees
- Return employees to work after illnesses or injuries
Employee assistance plan managers develop new strategies and strengthen partnerships to link employees’ work and personal lives. Their focus is on helping employees become productive, satisfied workers.
Employee assistance plan managers, as key members of the human resources team, are required to understand the needs of the workforce and meet these needs through services and programs. These HR professionals spend much of their time understanding the needs of their employees, often by listening to concerns and requesting suggestions or ideas from employees.
The changes implemented by employee assistance plan managers may result in everything from increased employee satisfaction and retention to structural changes in company leadership as to accommodate employee and organizational preferences and needs.
The work of employee assistance plan managers often involves utilizing third-party professionals to execute their plans. For example, these HR professionals may negotiate an employee fitness plan with a local fitness center, or they may work with medical professionals and counselors to provide outside services to their employees.
Employee assistance plan managers, in addition to serving as points of contact for employees seeking programs and services, often participate in a number of activities, such as:
- Employer-sponsored health or benefits fairs
- Supervisor training to familiarize supervisors of the range of EAPs the company has to offer
- New employee orientation to familiarize new workers with the company’s EAP services and programs
- Mediation and conflict-resolution services between employees or employees and managers
Degree Programs and Certification Options for Employee Assistance Plan Managers
The career path for employee assistance plan managers may vary somewhat from one professional to the next, although many come from a background in human resource management.
In addition to an undergraduate degree in an area such as human resources or business administration, employee assistance plan managers are often required to possess a graduate degree, as well. An advanced education lends itself well to the unique level of expertise necessary to promote the health and welfare of an organization’s most important asset: its workforce
For example, a master’s degree in human resource management, such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resource Management, is designed to prepare students to serve as HR leaders and administrators, which includes overseeing the many programs and services found within the employee assistance plans that larger corporations offer.
An MBA in HR Management provides not only a solid foundation in the study of human resources, but in business as well, thereby allowing graduates of these programs to serve as strategic business leaders in human resources.
Professional certification is also a common pursuit among employee assistance plan managers. Employee assistance plan managers with a desire to serve as leaders in their field often pursue professional certification that is unique to their HR role:
- International Employee Assistance Professionals Association
- Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP)