Know your Benefits: Five Key Differences Between an EAP and a Resource Navigator

Posted on February 13, 2018

The WorkLab Innovations Sustainable Workforce Model introduces a new role to support the needs of frontline workers: Resource Navigator. Helping employees connect to solutions to solve the challenges that impact their financial stability, the Resource Navigator is a critical part of the employee support system.

This concept of a resource to support the needs of employees outside of the scope of their employment has similarities to the Employee Assistance Program (or EAP) construct that emerged as a common benefit in the 1970s. With EAPs, employers sought to do two things. First, they wanted to provide a systematic solution to reduce alcohol abuse by workers, a problem that had existed in the workplace since colonial times. Second, employers competing for top talent wanted to provide a more robust benefits package, going beyond healthcare and paid time off. Forward-thinking employers saw EAPs as a way of providing support for challenges that fell outside the scope of HR. While the Sustainable Workforce Model and the EAP model share similar goals, their approaches are different.

Adoption of EAPs rose from just a handful in the late 1960s, to 59% of Fortune500 employers by 1979. Today 97% of companies with more than 5,000 workers and 74% of all businesses in the US offer EAPs. EAPs vary from phone-based counseling programs to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and beyond.

As effective as EAPs have been in solving some challenges of employees, there are areas where they fail to address serious issues. These gaps have led to the rise of a new model of frontline employee assistance: the Sustainable Workforce Model, which defines the role of the Resource Navigator.

Here are some key differences between an EAP and a Navigator’s role and services:

  1. Location: Resource Navigators are onsite resources that are available to employees during working hours. One of the challenges with EAPs is that access is primarily initiated by the employee calling a resource hotline, rather than directly speaking with an individual.
  2. Timely Access: EAP resources often require the scheduling of future appointments in order to connect with solutions. Resource Navigators are available to help employees on their schedule.
  3. Local Expertise: EAPs provide resources on a national or global level as they provide services to a large portfolio of clients. Resource Navigators work directly with a single employer, within the local community. They have expertise in the issues, resources and solutions that are available at the local level.
  4. Financial Support: EAPs do not provide financial resources such as short-term loans or payments for services. While they may advise on financial resources, they have no access to the rich resources of the community. These resources include financial training, loan programs, advocacy and negotiation with creditors and more. The Navigator helps employees gain direct access to solutions that address their financial challenges.
  5. Individualized Solutions: Resource Navigators are able to create thoughtful, tactical individualized solutions for the challenges that frontline workers face. They integrate the benefits offered by employers, community support resources, government programs and other solutions. They are able to work with local vendors such as childcare services, auto repair shops and other providers to negotiate tailored solutions for each individual employee.

Resource Navigators are at the heart of the Sustainable Workforce Model pioneered by WorkLab Innovations—an innovative response to the limitations of EAP programs. Navigators provide tailored solutions through their connections to community resources, as well as their knowledge of organizational benefits, to create an efficient, customized intervention to support each individual’s needs. Navigators may refer an employee to an EAP to provide the elements of the solution that are most effectively delivered through that channel, but the Navigator has access to resources and support solutions that go far beyond what an EAP can provide.

**sources of data on EAP growth:

Topics: sustainable workforce model, resource navigator, innovative workplace benefits, workforce support,


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