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Making Good Employees Become Better

If one of your key New Year’s resolutions was to enable your business to become more competitive, more efficient, and more innovative in 2021, please read on. Naturally, when thinking of competitiveness, efficiency, and innovation you’ve certainly considered your most valuable asset- your employees. What you might not have thought of is how you already have a tool that can help make good employees become better employees. That tool? Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). That’s right and here’s why I say that.

The Role of An EAP

Business leaders sometime think of their assistance program primarily as an easy to use, no-cost (no-cost for the employee, little cost for the employer) resource for “troubled” employees. They believe it makes good business sense to provide troubled employees with an easy avenue to get an assessment (the assessment may be in-person, via convenient telemental health or other technology-enabled methods) of their mental health or substance misuse issue. Then to get those employees professional guidance and advocacy by accessing the treatment services to remediate the issue through their employer-sponsored healthcare plan.  For some employees who have access to a robust EAP in terms of sessions permitted (some EAPs offer 6, 8 or even 12 sessions per issue, per year) they might even get their issue addressed within the EAP.  By not accessing their healthcare benefits, those troubled employees can avoid expensive deductibles or out-of-pocket co-payments, which often become obstacles to treatment.

Helping An Employee Early Can Avoid Unnecessary Expense Later

Business leaders understand that despite the growing acceptance of discussing mental health issues, there is still evidence of mental health stigma and employees may fear possible negative effects on their career when using mental health services.  However, business leaders know that it’s in their business interest to help employees early on before problems become more complex and costly to treat. And before such employees become ineffective, unsafe, or a risk to business operations, teamwork, and morale.  This line of thought is valid and addresses one aspect of an assistance program – what clinicians might call early case finding.  Public health professionals might call this Secondary Prevention, meaning activities that screen and identify illness in its earliest stages.

I know that employees assisted in this way are “good” employees.  These employees will become better employees because of the assistance their employer provided.  We hear this at Espyr from our clients every day.  We see it too in the information and feedback we receive from their counselors and treatment teams.

Mental Heath Issues Are More Common Than You Might Think

These employees, whether assisted by an EAP or not, represent a sizeable portion of any workforce. The U.S. Surgeon General’s reports and others have indicated for a generation that somewhere around 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 Americans experience some type of diagnoseable mental health or substance misuse issue annually. Many epidemiologists think the current coronavirus pandemic has greatly escalated these numbers.

How Your EAP Can Make Good Employees Become Better Employees

But what about the other 75% or so of your other “good” employees?  They aren’t experiencing a mental health or substance misuse problem.  But they are not immune to any of the issues that cause distress and distraction that impacts their occupational life. How can your EAP make them better employees? Let’s look at just one example.

EAPs And Employee Engagement

Let’s think about the concept of “employee engagement”- meaning the level of an employee’s commitment and connection to a work organization. High levels of engagement, as all HR leaders and CEOs know, help organizations build customer loyalty, retain talent, improve organizational performance, and increase stakeholder value. Surveys of CEOs around the world indicate they believe increasing and maintaining employee engagement is one of the keys to organizational success.

Now ask a manager if one of their good employees, for example, one that has disclosed they are experiencing a serious marital problem, is fully engaged at work.  Your manager is likely to say that their engagement has diminished- its not what it was.  This is very understandable. Marital or relationship problems are common.  They can be very painful, distressing and distracting. They are also in Espyr’s experience one the most common reasons employees use their assistance program. (By the way, do you know that most healthcare plans do not cover marital discord because its treatment is deemed not medically necessary.)  Ask your manager who referred such an employee to your EAP if afterward the employee is more engaged.  The likely answer will be a resounding “yes”. The EAP has helped a good employee (one without a mental health diagnosis) become a better employee and a more engaged employee.

As a business leader, you may not regularly hear about your employees’ use of their assistance program to address sensitive personal issues. But they happen every day, and your employees are grateful for the assistance. Good employees quietly becoming better, more engaged employees.  There are many more examples, but that is for another post!

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr. For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change.  For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.


US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Prevention: Quick Facts


US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General

Mental Health Reports and Publications


Society for Human Resource Management

Developing and Sustaining Employee Engagement