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Performance improvement in supervisory referrals.

The purpose of this article is to share the experiences of two employee assistance professionals who are not evaluators but who have managed to collect some evaluation data we think are significant.

When starting an internal EAP at a regional medical center in 1996, we made an effort to collect as much evaluation data as possible. Knowing the uncertain times within which internal programs exist, we realized that sooner or later we would be asked to justify our existence.

The medical center had 2,800 employees in 1996 and currently employs 4,700. The EAP also serves 12 external programs covering approximately 3,500 employees.

Early in the life of the EAR we implemented the standard evaluation mechanisms: customer satisfaction surveys, training evaluations, and annual surveys to measure employee perceptions of the EAP. In addition, we decided to measure the impact we were having on supervisory referrals in the area of job performance. The driving question was, "Does deficient job performance improve as a function of both the supervisory referral and the employee accessing the EAP?" Data showing a significant improvement in performance by those receiving our services would, we reasoned, help demonstrate the EAP's value to the organization.

On our supervisory referral form, there is a scale for rating baseline performance in areas such as attendance, co-worker relations, and quality of work (see Figure 1). At six-week and four-month intervals after each referral, a follow-up survey is sent to the referring supervisor asking for updated performance ratings in the areas that were previously deficient. The information received from the supervisor is then compared to the baseline information.


The two pairs of bar graphs in Figure 2 help clarify our methodology The first pair show the number of unacceptable performance ratings at referral compared to the performance ratings reported by supervisors at six weeks; the second pair show the number of unacceptable performance ratings at referral compared to the performance ratings reported by supervisors at four months.

The numbers on the graphs correspond to performance indicators, not employees. As EA professionals know, an employee referred by a supervisor may have any number of performance problems.


The data represent six years of collection and reflect return rates of 99 percent for the six-week survey and 81 percent for the four-month survey. The data indicate that at six weeks and even more so at four months, performance improves significantly. Performance areas that begin as "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" very often become "satisfactory," and some even reach the level of "role model."

Year after year, we are impressed by this performance improvement data. More importantly, however, management seems to be impressed as well. The survey findings have been so favorably received that we include them in sales proposals for external contracts.


Of course, we cannot say that the performance improvements exhibited by the survey findings are due solely to the EAR The data show what we continuously preach in employee assistance--that is, the parallel processes of supervisory discipline and EAP referrals constitute a partnership with a positive impact on the work organization. In fact, in a recent survey of department directors, the EAP received the highest satisfaction rating of any benefit the organization offers.

Although we see these efforts working well in tandem, it is impossible to know whether it is the EAP or the disciplinary process that promotes these improvements. Given our ethical responsibilities and commitment to confidentiality, a control group study is not practical. Without control group comparisons, we cannot claim a clear causative relationship between the variables.

We have considered how our findings compare to the experiences of other work organizations. Are we doing anything unique or different that might set us apart or skew our numbers? Although we have no conclusive answer to that question, we recognize there are some factors that may affect our data.

For example, during the first year of EAP operations, we were able to enroll a large majority of supervisors in the standard "Troubled Employee" training. Since then, the course has been offered quarterly as part of a general supervisory training module for new supervisors. Therefore, a high percentage of supervisors are very aware of the EAP as a resource, and supervisory consults with the EAP (both in person and by phone) are commonplace.

In addition, our EAP clinical staff are all licensed professionals with many years of collective experience. We think that having seasoned and highly qualified staff enhances our outcomes.

All EA professionals know we have a positive impact on work organizations. We also know that supervisory referrals are one of the foremost processes through which we can affect workplace productivity Collecting data that confirm positive outcomes has been an invaluable tool in our efforts to demonstrate value to the medical center.

Please rate using the
following scale (circle one):
(u) unsatisfactory (ni) needs improvement
(s) successful (r) role model

Absenteeism/tardiness u ni s r
Quality/quantity of work u ni s r
Co-worker relations u ni s r
Customer relations u ni s r
Meeting deadlines u ni s r
Error rate u ni s r
Safety record u ni s r
Work responsibility u ni s r
Cooperative u ni s r
Following orders u ni s r


Supervisor Survey Results--First Six Years

 Unsatisfactory Needs Improvement Successful Role Model

At Referral 145 195 0 0
6 Weeks 18 106 253 1
At Referral 101 194 0 0
4 Months 10 35 185 5

Jim Canup is the director and Janet Watt is an employee assistance consultant at the McLeod Employee Assistance Program in Florence, S.C. Both are licensed professional counselors, certified employee assistance professionals, and master addiction counselors.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:constructive intervention
Author:Watt, Janet
Publication:The Journal of Employee Assistance
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2003
Previous Article:Employee Assistance: a workplace best practice.
Next Article:California employers must provide health insurance.

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