Employer ROI for the Arete Employee Assistance Program

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In an earlier study on the value of the Arete Employee Assistance Program (EAP)[1], significant cost savings were observed for employers based on improved workplace outcomes in EAP counselling users, but at the time an ROI analysis was not conducted. Expanding upon these initial findings, this study provides a specific return on investment figure for employers based on workplace improvements observed after the use of Arete EAP services.

 

METHODOLOGY

This study used a pretest–posttest single-group evaluation design with a 6-month follow-up.

The Arete Employee Assistance Program

Arete EAP includes the following unique characteristics:

  • Focus on assisting clients to develop concrete solutions
  • Up to 12 hours of counselling available per year
  • Stay at work/return to work philosophy embedded in all programs
  • Custom solutions to best meet client needs
  • Unique individual/counsellor matching process

Participants and Procedure

Participants included a sample of eligible employees accessing the Arete 12 session EAP counselling service in 2017 and 2018 (N=300). Eligibility for voluntary participation in the program evaluation research activities included being a covered employee (not a dependent/family member), aged 19 years or older, and working a full-time or part-time job at the employer providing coverage. The sample of Canadian employees answered an online survey at time of clinical intake after initial access to Arete’s EAP services and another six months later.

Measures

Job performance was assessed with the productivity item from the WHO Health and Productivity (HPQ) short-form questionnaire as well as the work presenteeism subscale from the Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS) which was developed specifically for an EAP context and has also been used in industry reports for return on investment calculations.

 ROI Calculations

The ROI calculations were based on changes in the EAP user’s self-reported work performance and workplace absence as assessed with the measures employed above. The ROI formula divides the cost savings due to net gains in productive hours resulting from Arete EAP use by the average cost of an Arete EAP case. Productive hours include those based on work productivity/performance and absenteeism.

 

FINDINGS

The study found evidence of a positive ROI for the Arete EAP.

Statistically significant ROI, improvements in work productivity and reductions in work absences

The calculations estimated that every $1 invested in the Arete EAP provided up to 11 times the financial return on investment based on the combination of improved productivity and reduced absences from work for workers using the assistance program. The specific ROI was $10.9 (~$11) for every dollar invested by Arete-covered employers. The second ROI ratio calculated using more conservative methodology estimated a $4.2 to 1 return, thus in total this represents an average ROI of $7.5 to 1.

While a positive ROI is suggestive of improvements in work performance and reductions in work absences, additional analyses were conducted for confirmation purposes and to ascertain the degree of those improvements. The findings confirmed that improvements in work productivity (both on the WOS and HPQ items) and reductions in absenteeism from the time of initial EAP access to the 6-month follow-up period were statistically significant.

 

DISCUSSION

The findings of this study provided confirmation of the important financial benefit of the Arete EAP.

Considering the ROI for employers

Not only were statistically significant improvements in work performance and reductions in work absences observed, but this translated into a positive employer ROI. The observed improvements in work performance from before and after use of the Arete EAP and an important ROI might be expected from a 12-session model EAP and given the average number of counselling hours accessed per case (~7 hours). That said, a number of other Arete-specific EAP service delivery elements could produce such outcomes including the quality and comprehensiveness of clinical intake, counselor selection/match with client, client satisfaction/experiences with counselor, counselor availability, and counselor therapeutic approach and training.

The benefit for employees

In addition to the financial ROI provided by EAPs via improvements in workplace functioning, an important outcome to consider is the extent to which services can improve the well-being of employees. Based on a separate quasi-experimental study using a control group[2], in addition to improved work performance, Arete EAP users demonstrated significantly lower psychological distress, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to the control group of non-EAP users at follow-up.  Thus, not only does the Arete EAP provide an important employer ROI, it also provides significant personal benefit to users of our EAP services via improvements in well-being and psychological health.

Use of conservative assumptions

The ROI calculations in this report were based on estimated cost savings due to employee improvements in productivity and reductions in work absences, and did not include potential savings due to absence prevention, reductions in health benefits costs, reductions in turnover, increase in skill, knowledge and general functioning, among many other outcomes. Unlike some ROI studies, this study did not use productivity multipliers that artificially increase wages (thus productivity costs). Finally, the ROI was estimated using outcome data collected at 6-month follow-up—a relatively long-term—thus impacts of EAP counseling may have been underestimated for the many cases that were closed much earlier. The ROI reported in the study can consequently be considered conservative because of these and other reasons.

 

CONCLUSION

The findings of this study provided evidence of an important ROI for employers covered by the Arete assistance program.

 

For more information about this study, contact Arete at info@aretehr.com.

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[1] Investigating the global value of a Canadian Employee Assistance Program (2014)

[2] Milot, M. (2019). The impact of a Canadian external Employee Assistance Program on mental health and workplace functioning: Findings from a prospective quasi-experimental study. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 1-25.

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