Protecting the Bottom Line

Publication Date01 July 1990
Date01 July 1990
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/02635579010140764
Pages24-28
AuthorPeter Steddon
SubjectEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
24 INDUSTRIAL MANAGEMENT & DATA SYSTEMS 90,7
Protecting the
Bottom Line
Peter Steddon
H
ow Employee Assistance Programmes
can boost productivity and cut costs.
Introduction
"Find
a
need, then
fill
it" is a favourite marketing adage,
but identifying a real unmet need can still be a long way
from establishing
a
demand:
any salesman
will
tell you that
you cannot sell a solution until the prospective client can
see that he has a problem which needs solving.
There may have been an unmet need in Britain for
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) for
many
years,
but
in
fact the concept only crossed the Atlantic from the
USA in
the early
1980s,
and at first selling
EAPs
to British
employers has been rather
like
trying to explain electricity
in a town lit by oil-lamps: even the terminology was
unfamiliar.
This situation is rapidly changing: the arrival of a new
decade has seen a sharp upturn in awareness of and
demand for
EAPs:
the UK marketplace has seen almost
as much activity
in
the past eight months as
in
the previous
eight years, and as consultants we have been receiving
enquiries and requests for information and co-operation
from organisations in a number of European countries,
and from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and South
Africa
even the USSR.
Who Uses Employee Assistance Programmes?
So what differentiates the employers who see a problem
which needs solving, from those who do not? Interested
organisations usually fall into one of four categories, but
it is possible to be too rigid about pigeonholing
them:
many
of our clients fit into two or three categories at once.
First, there are the multinationals with
a US
parent, who
have an established Employee Assistance Programme in
the States and want to extend the same benefits to, and
enjoy the same payoffs from, their operations in Europe.
Second, there are industries, companies and operations
within companies, where safety is of paramount
importance, and an employee wandering about the
workplace with half
of his
mind
on his
domestic problems
could be a lethal hazard to
himself,
his workmates and
members of the public.
The
oil
industry,
for
example,
is
a
rich source of situations
in refineries, on ships, on offshore platforms and the
helicopters which serve them where a moment of
inattention or error by a single human being can have
dramatic, tragic and costly
consequences.
Other examples
are plentiful
in
the field of public transport: fatal accidents
in the air, at sea, on the roads and railways, provide
evidence of the responsibility carried by ships' captains,
helmsmen and airline pilots, bus, truck and train drivers.
Third, there are industries and professions where the
rapid pace of change and growth can eventually lead to
key players failing to adapt, becoming overstressed and
burning out, breaking down or walking out. One
environment where this syndrome can be seen
is
the City
of
London
since the Big Bang of
1987,
where the abolition
of old restrictive practices and the introduction of new
hours of work, new technologies and working methods
combined with a major increase in the level of
acquisitions and mergers leading
in
turn to rationalisations
and job losses have taken highly-trained, expensive
people to the limit of their personal stress-elasticity and
beyond.
It is very possible that the legal, accountancy and other
professions also now face changes of comparable
magnitude in the run up to, and in the wake of, 1992 and
the advent of the single European market.
Finally, there are areas of the country where high levels
of employment, skill shortages and a predicted drop in
the numbers of
school leavers
prior
to 1997
create a sellers'
labour market in which local employers are in intense
competition, not only for their
customers'
expenditure but
for the skills of the local workforce. Employers in such
areas see a need to retain their own "low-fliers" as well
as their star performers; to attract the best of the job
seekers in their travel-to-work area, and to persuade
mothers returning to work, mid-career
job
changers, or
second-career men, to apply to join.
The Thames Valley is one area where many new
companies are moving in, bringing ever more jobs in
electronics, banking and finance: consequently, annual staff
turnover for some employers is unacceptably high at over
50 per cent.

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