Quote of the Day – Too Much of a Good Thing?

“Most HR professionals have little time, interest or tolerance for the more than 15,000 business and management articles that pour out of 1,900 academic English-language journals each year.” – Robert Grossman “Close the Gap Between Research and Practice” (HR Magazine November 2009)


Employee Assistance Programs – Costly or Priceless?

I have long thought of employee assistance programs (EAPs) as a costly luxury provided by only the most profitable businesses to their staffs. “The Integrated Employee Assistance Program” presented by Jeffery Christie (Global Manager, Halliburton EAP) at yesterday’s Montgomery County SHRM luncheon gave me a new perspective on EAPs.

According to Mr. Christie, the primary goal of an EAP should be to enhance productivity and safety in the workplace. Any subsequent benefits to the employees’ well-being are a consequence of meeting this goal.

Mr. Christie’s presentation shattered the myth of EAPs serving as little more than onsite counseling clinics. He proposed that, properly utilized, EAPs serve as multifaceted tools. The services they can provide an employer include:

  • Return to work evaluations determining whether an employee who has been on leave for a mental health issue is actually ready to return to work. Such determinations can be especially crucial for employees engaged in safety sensitive jobs.
  • Determining the need for any follow-up care required by employees returning from mental health related leaves.
  • Designing and implementing alcohol and substance abuse policies.
  • Designing and overseeing procedures for managing employees who test positive for drugs.
  • Participating in the organization’s response to large-scale disasters which impact its workforce.
  • Assisting employees following the death of a co-worker.
  • Designing mental health and substance abuse benefits

Mr. Christie underscored the value of having an Employee Assistance Program by identifying some of the returns on investment an organization may expect from a fully utilized EAP. These returns may include:

  • The retention of valuable employees going through a life crisis
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Developing competencies in managing workplace stress and team performance
  • Reducing healthcare costs by identifying and helping employees to work through depression which, untreated, often presents itself as medical maladies
  • Facilitating employees’ safe and timely return to work
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Reducing accidents

A big thank you to Mr. Christie for sharing with us how an EAP can serve as a cost-effective asset to an organization when it is integrated into various programs (such as benefit planning, risk management, and supervisor training) rather than relegated to a back room visited only by employees in crisis.

Card Carrying Parents Beware

Back in the dark days of Senator McCarthy, being a card carrying member of the Communist party could cost you your career. In these presumably more enlightened times, it may not be politics which get in the way of that job or promotion you are seeking, but your affiliation with your own children.

Despite laws requiring that all applicants and workers be treated equally, regardless of caregiver status, a study conducted by the American Journal of Sociology has revealed that a significant number of employers discriminated against applicants who mentioned, in cover letters, that they were officers in elementary school parent-teacher organizations.

According to H R Magazine‘s recent cover story “Handle with Care,” the study consisted of resumes and cover letters for fictitious job applicants being submitted to real employers. The resumes reflected comparable qualifications. However some cover letters were designed to represent the applicants as childless, while others were designed to represent the applicants as having children. The fictitious women who were represented as mothers (those who mentioned that they served as officers for parent teacher organizations) received half as many callbacks as the fictitious childless women (those who mentioned that they served as officers for college alumni associations). Men participating in parent teacher organizations likewise received fewer callbacks than those participating in alumni associations, but the degree of discrimination towards fathers was not as pronounced as it was towards mothers.

The moral of this immoral story is that if you do volunteer work for any parent organizations, you should avoid referring to those organizations in any cover letter or resume you send out or post online. Likewise, if you assisting someone else with his or her resume or cover letter, advise them to do the same.

Of course, if you work in human resources, now is a good time to remind anyone involved in the hiring, selection, recruiting, or promoting process that a person’s status as a parent or a caregiver must not be considered when making employment decisions.

Criminal Convictions – Easy as 1-2-3

According to Margaret Fiesters’s Solutions column in the latest issue of H R Magazine, the EEOC requires employers to consider three factors when making employment decisions based on criminal convictions.

  1. What was the nature and the gravity of the offense?
  2. How much time has passed since the offense?
  3. What is the nature of the job the person holds or is seeking?