Helping Employees In Financial Hardship
In late 2008, the U.S. economy was in freefall and organizations
across the country were trying to stabilize their businesses to
prevent further profit and job losses. A midsize community bank in
Chicago realized that its employees, much like the community, were
being heavily impacted by the recession.
"We started hearing stories of employees in need," said the Senior
Vice President of Human Resources for the bank. "It was
becoming clear that several employees who previously had two-
or three- income households where having hours and jobs cut
down to one. So, we started thinking about what we could do to
provide resources to them and how to communicate about those
The answer was not far from reach.
The bank had a well established community effort dedicated
to addressing housing, food, school, and welfare needs throughout
the year. They immediately chose to extend their community
programs to employees in need.
That decision led to several efforts to help employees
experiencing an unanticipated acute need or personal financial
hardship (often due to unexpected changes in family
circumstances, like significant medical expenses or spouse's job
loss.) Programs included:
• Food Assistance. Jewel/Osco gift
cards for Summer, Thanksgiving & Christmas
• Financial Assistance. One paycheck
amount, up to $1000, in a 1-year period
• Holiday Toy Drive. Boy/girl age
appropriate gifts for children of families in need
• School Supply Drive. Age appropriate
supplies at the start of the school year
But a challenge remained: How to determine the criteria for
eligibility, and manage the programs in a way that treated
employees with respect and made them feel comfortable accepting
LEVERAGE PERSPECTIVES EAP TO MANAGE PROGRAMS AND MAINTAIN EMPLOYEE
Perspectives Ltd, a provider of high-touch employee assistance
program (EAP) and workplace resources, had been the bank's EAP
since 2001, but use of the benefit by the bank's employees had not
"There wasn't a general understanding of EAP before this
effort," said the SVP of HR.
But because Perspectives' high-touch EAP is also an employee
relations partner for HR, the SVP tapped his Perspectives Account
Manager for advice. "Perspectives was great," he
said. "They brainstormed with us and made recommendations
about eligibility criteria, how to communicate about the programs
and how they could help manage access to the assistance."
It was determined that the financial assistance program would be
managed by the bank, but employees would be encouraged to call
Perspectives EAP as part of the agreement. Perspectives EAP
Counselors were then able to assess any additional issues
contributing to, or resulting from, financial stress and offer help
and resources for those issues.
The food and toy assistance programs were more heavily managed
by the EAP.
Perspectives EAP was promoted in communications about the
programs and employees were encouraged to call the EAP if they were
interested in the assistance. Perspectives EAP then assessed
each caller's needs and made sure that they met the eligibility
requirements - such as having been employed with the bank for 90
In addition, Perspectives EAP coordinated the delivery of food
gift cards, and ensured that the proper toys were selected for
children - all with 100% confidentiality.
"Now employees get it," said the SVP. "There is a comfort
level that the EAP is confidential."
EMPLOYEES GET ASSISTANCE FROM THEIR EMPLOYER, NO STIGMA
More than 200 examples of employees taking advantage of the
programs and receiving assistance were recorded. No employee
names were ever disclosed to the bank, but Perspectives was able to
report on the number of employees that used each program and
provided feedback on what was working well and/or concerns that
were being voiced.
"Was it a success? Absolutely," said the SVP. "My guess
is that we'll do this again now that we want an employee component
to each of our community efforts. We may not do the same
thing each time, but we will likely build on what we've done and
The bank intends to review what they will do with EAP each
"One of our goals is to continually strengthen trust with our
employees and our community. Perspectives EAP was an
important part of this effort because it allowed us to maintain
that wall of confidentiality while delivering services to people
who needed them," he said.
EAP CAN TRIAGE NEEDS, DESIGN PROGRAMS, MANAGE ROLL-OUT, AND
Although the company already had a history of success delivering
community programs, Perspectives EAP helped the organization extend
those programs to employees facing hardship, in a confidential
"We wanted the EAP involved to help us better understand what
resources people needed, to triage when a financial situation was a
symptom of something else, and to enable us to help employees while
respecting their pride and privacy," said the SVP.
"Perspectives EAP helped us make these programs a success."