5 attributes for employee assistance program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a program that an organization implements to ease some of the personal problems faced by its employees. An employee assistance program is largely voluntary, in that it is not mandatory either for organizations to implement it, or for very employee to avail it.

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According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, here’s what to look for:

  1. 24/7 phone response. Seek out providers that have trained counselors on duty answering a toll-free phone line at all times. Avoid EAPs that require users to navigate an elaborate phone tree before reaching a counselor.
  2. Confidential services. Licensed, professional counselors should deliver assessments and face-to-face counseling sessions in safe, private and confidential offices. Make sure there are enough counselors in your area to deliver timely services in both urgent and nonurgent cases.
  3. Referral support and follow-up. The EAP should assist employees by providing referrals for long-term or specialized care based on assessed needs, recommended treatment and employees’ financial resources. The EAP should provide follow-up and ongoing support for employees.
  4. Crisis intervention. Will EAP counselors come to your facility if there’s an emergency, such as an incident of workplace violence? Good EAPs can provide counseling for traumatized employees. They can also help management coordinate emergency-response plans.
  5. Substance abuse expertise. Given their disproportionately great impact on the workplace, drug and alcohol abuse problems often represent the bulk of EAP cases.

Mental disorders and the workplace

Mental disorders are varied and complex. Symptoms of several kinds of mental disorder don’t usually show up easily. Many others are more overt. A person with a mental disorder may have the care and affection of the family; but when it comes to the workplace, it is a difficult luxury to get, because the workplace is not the family! It has invested on that person to get tangible and definite results from him. To discover that the person they found was perfect at the time of the interview and the selection process has a mental disorder can be galling for everyone.

Finger usually points to HR

The HR of the organization would feel doubly embarrassed, because it is the one that is the prime mover of the selection process. It is one thing for a person to develop a mental condition after taking up a job and being in it for many years. This means that at least at the time of the selection, he was fine. Now that the mental disorder would have developed due to some situations at work or at home; it is some kind of consolation for HR. But what kind of consolation is this! Irrespective of the time at which the mental disorder set in; the person needs attending to, and this is one of the prime responsibilities an organization’s HR needs to discharge.

They need support, not sympathy

While this is true largely, we don’t have to worry too much about fixing the blame. A mental disorder can be something that the person hides at the time of the selection process. This being the case; it is difficult to say whether it is HR or other managers that need to be blamed for selecting such a person. First of all, we need to understand that people having mental disorders are not scary. Most of them are people like you and me, it is just that there are a few who get disturbed and behave irrationally or erratically during times. People with this condition need support, and everyone in the organization has a role in making a person come to grips with his condition.

What is the result of having people with mental disorders?

First, let us get an understanding of what can happen at the workplace that has people with mental disorder.

There are many kinds of mental disorders that people suffer from. Many have conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the like. It is highly unlikely that a person could have more than one of these at the same time.

One of the most common behaviors of these people is that they find it difficult to concentrate at work for long hours; they are restless, nervous or irritable; they can sometimes be short tempered or eccentric. Some people have sleeping difficulties, because of which they find it difficult to concentrate at work. These result in loss of productivity.

Behaviors are different at different times

People with such conditions and disorders behave differently at home and at the workplace. They are usually subdued at the workplace, but are more vocal and sometimes aggressive at home and other places other than the workplace. Many people with mental disorders would be under treatment at the time of taking up their jobs. When they come out openly about their illness at the time of selection; it becomes easier for HR to deal with the problem. But most people hold this information back; for fear that it could come in the way of their selection, or the fear that they could lose their jobs once they are diagnosed with it after taking up their jobs.

How are people with mental disorders identified?

Every person has symptoms that are strongly rooted and displayed in people with mental disorders. How many of us do not exhibit traits like restlessness, shouting out loudly at colleagues, feeling listless and down, and restless and hyperactive? The difference though, is that people with mental disorders do this very often during their working time, and many times are obsessed with this kind of behavior.

Ways of dealing with them

HR has a very important role to play in dealing with people with mental disorders. It is true that everyone, especially teammates, have to help in identifying the problem, but it is HR that plays the role of facilitator in resolving the issue.

The simplest and most effective of remedies HR can bring about is to seek medical attention for the employee with a mental disorder. If the employee has been showing signs for the first time; he needs to be counseled to seek medical advice.

Take colleagues into confidence

Once the problem has been diagnosed, HR has to take such an employee’s colleagues into confidence and apprise them of the situation. It should ideally speak to the doctor and get tips on how to educate colleagues who work with that employee about ways of dealing with such a person. It should first of all make sure that colleagues cooperate with such an employee and not deride or stigmatize him.

Mental disorders are neither wished for, nor do they appear in people who will it. A mental disorder is a complex phenomenon that happens due to factors that science is yet to fully understand. HR has to approach it in a sensible and sane manner, without hurting the diagnosed employee further. It should make sure it handles these cases with utmost dedication, just as if it were a caregiver. If it could help put the person back on track; it is some kind of justified triumph for those in HR.

References:

http://www.reintegration.com/reint/employment/workplace.asp

http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/mental-illness-in-the-workplace/#.URsImme2pDI

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2010/February/mental-health-problems-in-the-workplace

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Identifying employees that have leadership mettle

Identifying people with leadership skills is perhaps the most important task for an organization that has its eyes on the future. Every organization has employees from across the rank and file with leadership capabilities that can take the organization forward. It is just that many of them never get to the limelight, as a result of which they leave out of frustration. In many organizations, even after such employees have left; the impact is never realized fully, because the reason for which they left was something the organization created in the first place.

Put a system in place

To avoid such a situation, the organization has to have an efficient system of identifying leadership skills in an employee. There are various ways by which this is done. The nearest and easiest person to identify a tyro with leadership potential is the manager to whom he reports. He is the most vital source for spotting and nurturing leadership skills. Rookies who have just begun their career will report to a manager who has no idea at the beginning about the new recruit’s potential.

The manager is the ideal person

This manager should be the first contact through whom the leadership skill is recognized and given shape to. With no prejudice towards that employee, the manager should make an objective assessment of such skills. The manager should try out by giving assignments and challenges in a graded manner. Since the novice is at the manager’s total disposal; he can try out various combinations and permutations of identifying skills.

Test the beginner in a variety of ways

He can start by allotting simple tasks. If the new recruit achieves the task with ease, he can be tried for greater roles, all of which demand good leadership skills. A good candidate is one who takes every task as a challenge and gets fuelled by greater complexity levels. Doing this consistently should be easy for the manager to locate and then if need be, refine these skills.

There are a few drawbacks

Often, the flip side of this exercise is that the manager could end up overrating an employee in whom he subconsciously sees a reflection of his own management style, which may be far from perfect. Spotting leadership mettle can suffer other drawbacks, too. There are innumerable instances in which a manager’s blue-eyed body is the one who is most favored for promotions.

Dealing with experienced employees

If this is the case of handling rookies, there are other occasions on which people with leadership potential are gifted to an organization on a platter. When employees are consistently denied leadership growth, one organization’s loss is another’s gain. All that an organization needs to do is to recruit the frustrated employee. Once he has been recruited, a simple thing the new organization can do is to give him opportunities of the kind he was missing earlier on. This will bring about many benefits by bringing the best out of him.

It will motivate the employee highly, because he is freshly out of the old organization. He will show the enthusiasm of a proselyte and work in the new organization till he drops dead. The other major benefit is that such an employee will be easy to retain.

Manager is important here too

Here too, the manager is the most important person in identifying leadership potential. Of course, since this kind of employee is not raw and carries some experience; it calls for different dynamics. The experienced employee may have ego issues with the new manager. Or he could have other issues like reluctance to carry out instructions. These factors have to be taken into account in such situations. It calls for handling such persons with suave. They would not like to be shouted at, which is a small luxury for a manager dealing with a greenhorn.

HR can help

For these bottlenecks to be overcome, HR has to step in. It can, in fact, initiate the entire process. To make sure that spotting leadership in the organization is a collective process and one that is free of errors of the type we saw; irrespective of the experience of the employee that joins the organization, HR can start identifying leadership potential from day one of the employee’s tenure.

It can interact with the manager on a regular basis and keep itself updated on the progress the employee that the manager has identified as one with leadership potential, is making. It could keep a close watch on this employee’s attitude towards work and life. It could be a good point of contact between this employee’s manager and the top management.

Ensure objectivity

Another important way by which HR can play an active role in the process is by placing or being a filter in the selection of the employee with leadership potential. We saw that there are a few drawbacks in the method of identifying leadership skills. HR is the best suited department to ensure that the manager does not show favoritism or is not erring in his judgment. It can use its own assessment skills to cross check and reinforce the manager’s choice. This will ensure that the organization reaps the best out of the employee with leadership potential.

There is one point that HR needs to address when it is doing this. HR itself has to be completely free of prejudice. If it is assigned the task of verifying the manager’s choice and carries a bad memory of the manager, it is likely to mar a bright prospect.

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Work-Life Balance is a prime factor in helping employees become productive

Although its origin in its rudimentary form, it dates to the Industrial Revolution; there is now an added, growing importance of work-life balance. During those early days, its focus was different, and was concerned primarily with the impact child labor had on the family’s future. Even though this focal point or reason changed over time to women and then men; work-life balance has been an indispensable factor in labor relations through time.

Why the growing importance of work-life balance?

Work life balance is to be seen as something that is as important and critical as work itself. This is because it is proven consistently, especially in the West that one of the main reasons for family breakups is the long hours of work of either one or both the parents. When parents stay away from families for long hours because of work, they end up getting disconnected from them. The result is the loss of ability to provide the much needed emotional support for children.

Not only has the growing importance of work-life balance been attributed to divorces; there is a clear connection between broken families and violence. Studies have consistently shown that one of the strongest common factors among youths who resort to violence and drugs is their background of having come from broken or disrupted families.

Situational and contemporary factors

While these factors have for long been a staple for the western society; there are some circumstantial factors that have led to the growing importance of work-life balance. One of these is the recent economic slowdown. The importance of work life balance in situations of economic slowdown can be understood from the fact that in a survey of over 50,000 global employees done around the time of the height of the recession in 2009; work life balance accounted as the second most important factor that employees attached importance to, next only to wages.

Work life balance and productivity

The growing importance of work-life balance has an important spinoff: the more the balance between work and life, the more productive employees are likely to be. This is plain and simple, and is self-explanatory.  Employees will be under less stress to manage life and work when they are convinced that there is no conflict between the two. Organizations that promote a healthy work life balance are more likely to not only have productive employees, but also to retain them over the longer run. This accounts as yet another factor for the growing importance of work-life balance.

References:

http://pendientedemigracion.ucm.es/info/Psyap/enop/guest.htm

https://www.boundless.com/management/human-resource-management–2/current-topics-in-human-resource-management/growing-importance-of-work-life-balance/

http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/mar2009/ca20090327_734197.htm

 

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Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), as the term suggests, are programs or initiatives undertaken by the employer to assist an employee in bettering her work. This is why Employee Assistance Programs are important for an organization to put in place. Employee Assistance Programs are helpful for both the employee and the organization.

How are Employee Assistance Programs helpful?

Let us examine how Employee Assistance Programs are a very useful tool towards improving productivity. Say, the employer allows an employee flexible working hours. This will mean less stress for the employee who now longer has to battle her way through the traffic leaving home at a time when her kid needs her attention. Isn’t this a great benefit to the employee? When employees are offered benefits like this, they are certain to be star performers. This is simple again, because the ball is now in their court.

When the employer has provided them the benefit or convenience they were seeking, they have no reason not to perform. In fact, it is a double edged sword for the employer, because it can now get the best out of the employee. It can even dangle the stick of blackmail! Employees will treasure their relationship with the organization and will have very remote thoughts of leaving for another employment. This way, Employee Assistance Programs are very powerful tools in facilitating a high degree of loyalty and productivity.

The dynamics of Employee Assistance Programs

A few things need to be understood when an organization decides to implement Employee Assistance Programs.

  1. Employee Assistance Programs are not for everyone: Firstly, these are not suited for everyone and for every kind of work. They are good for some kinds of work in the New Economy. Let us say a retail salesman wants to telecommute. How is this ever possible?
  2. A high degree of trust is required: Many a time, many organizations entrust confidential work to some of their employees. When employees who are given such work want to work remotely, organizations will need to put some checks and surveillances in place, which could defeat the purpose of the concept of Employee Assistance Programs.
  3. No program lasts forever: Another important element of Employee Assistance Programs is that these keep changing over time. A program that is good for implementation at one point of time may not be so a few years down the line. HR has to be discrete in deciding on this from time to time. Overall, Employee Assistance Programs need to be exercised with tact and have to be reviewed from time to time.

References:

http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/employee-assistance-program

http://www.dhrm.virginia.gov/genlbenefits/employeeassistance.html

 

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Crowdsourcing is here to stay

One of the trends emerging from the IT industry, or for that matter business generally is crowdsourcing. Although the core of the concept is more or less the same as freelancing; the term has some important differences. While freelancing need not be sourced to many people; crowdsourcing is necessarily so. That is what justifies its name.

Crowdsourcing branched out as a unique system less than a decade back. Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson of Wired Magazine are credited with having coined this term.

What can be sourced?

Crowdsourcing as a term is quite self-explanatory. It means sourcing from many sources, or what is called the crowd. So, what is sourced from the crowd? Let us examine some of them.

Like in conventional outsourcing or freelancing, just about any aspect or work of an organization can be crowdsourced. So long as there are clearly stated terms and references, crowdsourcing many of the organization’s work is possible.

Pluses and minuses of crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing, like all other concepts before it, has its unique pros and cons.

One major advantage of crowdsourcing is that it helps the producer or creator of a project to get the best minds to work in tandem, thus exponentially raising quality. It is saner and more practical to get many people working on a single project, technological or creative, than to get only one person to do it. This removes the monotony that might creep into an individual’s work, no matter how talented she may be.

The one big disadvantage is that in this globalized world, work can be done from different parts of the world without any geographical barriers. This has its unique advantages, but coordination across cultures, times zones and other factors is quite a challenge. To get people from across the world to work harmoniously and systematically towards a goal is quite difficult, all the more in case of creative crowdsourcing projects.

 References:

http://dailycrowdsource.com/crowdsourcing-basics/what-is-crowdsourcing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing

 

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Cross training is a good tool to implement

When someone uses the phrase, “jack of all”, it may not go down well with many people, because of the words that follow the opener –“master of none”. However, in an organization, having someone who is a jack of all could be just the right formula for success. So, who is a “jack of all”, and why are such people important for organizations?

In organizations, people who are otherwise rather contemptuously termed “jack of all” are those who have undergone what is called “cross training”, to use corporate parlance. What is cross training, why is it required, and how is it useful for the employee and the employer?

Understanding cross training

Cross training is quite a self-explanatory term. It means training given to all employees to know their colleague’s work, which enables each to handle not only their own work; but their colleagues’ as well. Is it possible to implement such a training program in which most or many employees are specialists in their profession? To answer this question, we have to understand one central aspect of cross training very clearly. It is that not everyone needs to know everything of the other colleague’s work. There should be just about enough familiarity to help the organization carry on work unhindered in a key employee’s absence.

It is not necessary for all employees to know every other’s work in all its detail. It is not possible too, to do this. Even if one spends considerable time understanding the work of a colleague which may be quite unrelated to his own; the organization cannot expect too much finesse. Obviously, we are all good at the work we have chosen and one which gives us joy in doing. The cross training should be just about to the extent that familiarizes the other employee with that work. These skills can be used during contingencies.

How do employees benefit?

Although we all love doing what we do best; an occasional diversion is always welcome. A research person may not like marketing, but doing it once in a while is actually a good thing for him, because it helps him defeat the monotony of his own job. Having said this; it is possible that some employees could become quite interested in the other’s work and start taking a deeper interest in it. This could open up a parallel career option in many. If the employee likes doing this, nothing is better for him and the organization. Convincing employee to understand the fun of variety at work is management’s responsibility.

How do organizations benefit?

This is a very potent tool for organizations that don’t want to lose customers because the specialist who was handling one type of work is not available at important times. Suppose an important mail needs to be spent on an important matter, and if the content writer is absent for some reason; the work need not get held up.

The important aspect here is that management has to decide whom to train in which areas. Not everyone could be adept at doing everything else. It can choose select employees for select tasks. It could pair different employees for this. Cross training is more of a standby plan for the organization to help it carry on its important work in the absence of an important resource.

Downside

Cross training can be very potent tool in ensuring that organizations do not fail to deliver when it matters. It helps them build customer satisfaction by staying up to date with their requirements and delivering on time, all the time. However, even what seems a very practical tool can have its drawbacks. One of the most powerful obstacles to putting cross training in place is employee resistance to come out of their comfort zones. How would cross training benefit an organization in which a 45-year old writer doesn’t want to do SEO work because it is not his specialization?

Convincing people with resistance to new learning to come up with something that is out of their area of specialization for no immediate or tangible benefit could be quite difficult. Organizations can only persuade its employees to undergo cross training and not really coerce them into it. The greater the force applied by managements to apply cross training, the greater will become the resistance.

Some employees could even carry the grouse that they are being asked or forced to do something against their willingness, going to the extent of thinking that they are being given work that is outside their area of specialization by managements which in their perception is trying to downplay their skills. When it comes across such employees; what an organization can do is to make it beneficial in financial and other terms to cross train employees. When incentives are given for expanding their areas of work; employees could become more interested. They should be made to realize that their laggardness could be a major obstacle to their growth.

References:

http://www.andrewjensen.net/increase-moral-and-productivity-by-cross-training-your-employees/

 

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