As protests against racism continue around the world, many workplaces are finally trying to challenge – and dismantle – their own systems that defend racist views and policies. For many businesses, well-positioned Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that nurture strong relationships with workplace leaders can be part of the solution. The author recommends six actions for EAP professionals, the programs, and the workplaces they support.
It may surprise some employers to know that when employees experience racism and / or other forms of discrimination and oppression, one of the places they can turn to for help is their Employee Assistance Program. or PAE. Although EAPs are more often used by employees for short-term counseling and referrals to help employees manage their personal issues so that they do not interfere with job performance and productivity, it is important to remember that EAPs providing services to workplaces including organizational assessment, management consulting and strategic crisis prevention and response. It is precisely because of this mix of individual and organizational service levels that EAPs are in a unique position to help employees overcome the trauma of racism and to provide workplace leaders with an invaluable insider perspective. complex workplace issues, including racism.
As a professor and chair of the only Master of Social Work (MSW) program focused on preparing graduates for careers in employee assistance, I have received many calls over the past few months of employers asking for advice and consultation on how they can work to challenge – and dismantle – their own systems that champion racist views and policies.
Additionally, I have heard many EAP managers and advisors ask me how their EAPs can play a greater role in helping workplaces respond to systemic racism. On more than one occasion, EAP professionals have shared that they felt helpless after working one-on-one with a racially-raced employee. Simply offering stress management support did not seem adequate, and they lacked a line of communication with management to signal the need for systemic change.
Likewise, EAP managers receive calls from managers and supervisors whose employees request workplace meetings to discuss issues or race and racism. And workplace leaders are asking how their EAPs can play a bigger role in helping to influence system-level change to tackle racism.
In response, I have put together a list of six things employers need to do to establish a more effective partnership with their EAPs that will not only support individual employees during this time. massive social change, but also support managers and supervisors and help ensure meaningful and sustained long-term reform.
1. Encourage a data-driven approach to personalized EAP services.
A data-driven approach to diversity, equity and inclusion within our EAPs and our workplaces in general is essential if we are to have a real impact on dismantling systemic racism. You need to know who is using – and not using – your EAP. You cannot identify service usage gaps without data. Does your EAP collect data on race, ethnicity, income and gender identity? How are Blacks, Aboriginals and People of Color (BIPOC) who have requested EAP services helped? What are the results ? Data can be transmitted to the workplace as a whole so that demographics and employee identities are protected and anonymous to employers.
2. Support an EAP advisor and network of affiliates that fit your workplace.
Employers should encourage EAPs to audit their staff and advisers, not only to see if they accept certain health insurance plans, but to see who is providing the services. EAPs often ask if clients have a preference for the counselor’s gender and language, but does your EAP ask clients for a preference based on race and / or ethnicity? And if they asked, could the EAP realistically meet their preference? Are EAP counselors trained to provide culturally appropriate and culturally relevant services?
In addition to auditing the EAP advisor / affiliate network, carefully review EAP marketing and promotional materials that are shared with your employees. Are these materials inclusive and do they accurately reflect the racial demographics of your workplace, in addition to other characteristics? Otherwise, work in partnership with your EAP to support the review of the material, both in print and online, to better align it with your employee demographics.
3. Encourage managers and other leaders to use the EAP for themselves.
Many managers and supervisors are eager to learn more about racism and implicit bias, but fear admitting what they don’t know or making a mistake. Suppose they would all benefit from education and counseling. EAPs can play a role in empowering leaders to do their own learning and soul-searching, and feel more competent in their abilities to lead difficult conversations about race. Encourage managers and workplace leaders who have used EAP services in the past to share their stories. Demonstrating leadership buy-in and commitment is one of the best ways to increase EAP use within a work organization.
4. Create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee that understands your EAP.
A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) advisory committee can help companies take into account their public position against racism and how it helps – or hurts – employees. The EAP should work in partnership with this committee to assess needs and help leaders create responses without placing an unfair burden on BIPOC. Additionally, the EAP can provide anonymized examples of first-hand employee accounts of racism to help workplace leaders understand the profound impact of racism in a workplace and potential points in the organization. work for support, intervention and change.
5. Recognize racism as trauma.
Racism is a form of trauma, and EAPs must apply a trauma-informed approach to all of their work, actively working to resist re-trauma to an individual or community when providing culturally appropriate support and counseling and support to people who have been traumatized by racism. PsychHub has created a resource list that serve as a starting point for educating workplaces on how to provide employees with more trauma-informed and culturally appropriate care. Share this list with your EAP and ask what type of advanced training have providers taken in anti-racism clinical practice? Encourage, and even support financially by increasing service reimbursement rates, where possible, this type of training for your EAPs and other providers in the workplace.
6. Establish a continuous feedback plan to support this important work.
Create or reactivate an EAP Advisory Committee within each workplace to meet regularly with the EAP and communicate on workplace trends, gaps in service needs and the overall response to the EAP and related program. Informed and active EAP advisory boards can help EAPs stay abreast of upcoming changes, and board members can help promote and minimize stigma around the use of EAPs and related services when they understand. really their potential value. Make sure that the members of this board represent different departments, but also represent the demographics of the workplace. Make sure these panels provide a safe and possibly a “courageous spaceâWhere Whites and BIPOC can speak out on challenges and injustices that will not be denied or dismissed. Design these spaces so that when the hashtags and protests of the current movement end, the work will continue and EAPs and their corporate clients will be held accountable for meaningful change and reform.
With protests against racism continues in the worldWell-positioned, well-supported EAPs that have strong relationships with workplace leaders can be part of the solution. But EAPs and workplaces must work in partnership to support these goals and visions of organizational change. This list is not exhaustive, but the recommendations serve as a starting point for how EAPs can play an even greater role in helping workplaces be more anti-racist.
Dr Kyla Liggett-Creel, PhD, LCSW-C, University of Maryland, School of Social Work contributed to this article.