From the December 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

By providing a program to help employees whose performances are being adversely affected by personal issues, you can increase productivity and reduce absenteeism and turnover. An employee assistance program can deliver a hefty ROI--but the wrong one can be a waste of time and money.

Some services EAPs provide include assessment and counseling, emergency intervention, referrals for long-term or specialized care, and substance abuse expertise. EAPs may also provide services to the company, such as employee orientation, policy development and management consultation.

"Your EAP should be customized to your company, and no two EAPs should be exactly alike," says John Maynard, CEO of the International EAP Association in Arlington, Virginia. "The EAP provider needs to understand your company, the issues you're facing and the culture of your organization."

Maynard recommends meeting with several providers. Ask them how you can benefit from what they provide. Review their answers, decide what services you want, and put out a request for that package. "Take charge of the process," Maynard says. "It's your program."

Most large EAP providers aren't interested in small companies, so Maynard suggests networking in your business community to find area EAPs willing to give you personal attention. Find additional resources at www.eapassn.org.

Jacquelyn Lynn is a freelance business writer in Orlando, Florida.