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Impact of Employee Education and Supervisor Training is Far Reaching

(Spring 2016) “I remember the exact date you were here last year,” an employee told Karen Pierce, a trainer for Working Partners®, after a drug-free workplace (DFWP) education session. Turned out that was the date the employee, motivated by hearing “just the right thing at just the right time” at the company’s annual DFWP session, decided to stop drinking.

The Working Partners® training team hears lots of comments from employees as they are packing their bags following a drug-free workplace (DFWP) education and training sessions delivered at client locations. But this was a unique one.

Clouded by compliance and other “cross it off the list” objectives, it is easy to discount the impact engaging and relevant DFWP education and training can have on workplace culture, employee lives, the lives of their friends and family members, and the community as a whole.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 76% of binge or heavy alcohol users and 69% of illicit drug users are employed. Furthermore, treatment of work-related injuries can sometimes lead to prescription drug abuse, including overdose death.

At the same time, most adults do not have regular access to research-based information about substance abuse. They lack information from the definition of low-risk drinking and proper disposal of unused medication to research on marijuana and the latest synthetic drug trends. The workplace is a perfect venue to deliver this information. In no other formal setting are adults present in such numbers or similar frequency.

Allison Sharer, trainer for Working Partners®, connects the opportunity to reach adults with bottom-line benefits for the businesses she trains. “Every time I deliver a session,” she explained, “my hope is that there is a piece of information that moves someone to take care of something before it hits the workplace.”

Another member of the training team, Regina Bond, added, “The impact can be even more profound when we have young adults in our sessions.” Experts consider the 18 – 24 year-old demographic to be at high risk of developing substance abuse problems. Additionally, many high school and even some middle school students are employed, often in industries with high rates of substance abuse. The food service industry, for example, which employs over 25% of all youth workers, has the highest rate of illicit drug use and the third highest rate of past month heavy alcohol use. “If we can reach this population while they’re still young, a whole lifetime of problems can be prevented,” said Bond.

DFWP education also provides employees with information and support in dealing with friends and family members who are struggling with substance abuse issues. Working Partners® Senior Trainer Jim Ryan reported that the most frequent comments he receives after delivering employee education sessions are regarding employees’ family members. “We can put words to things they are dealing with and help break the stigma that surrounds these issues,” Ryan shared. “It may be the first time they’ve discussed it publicly. What a great opportunity to get some resources into their hands.”

Finally, one of the greatest opportunities in conducting effective DFWP education – for both the employee and the workplace – is the opportunity to touch parents and future employees. Over 87% of parents with children under the age of 18 are employed. Research has shown that parents have the greatest impact on a child’s decision whether to experiment with alcohol or other drugs; children of parents who talk about drugs are 50% less likely to use.

Effective DFWP employee education infuses relevant information into the curriculum that can be carried out of the workplace and into the home. “I had a dad share with me,” said Ryan, “that after learning in last year’s session that kids who abuse meds usually get them at home, he went home and moved his meds to a more secure location. Now that’s prevention!”

Companies who invest time and money in pulling their employees off the job for DFWP education and training get a business return on that investment. Whether it be toward a rebate on their workers’ compensation premiums or buffering liability in the event an employee causes a drug and/or alcohol hardship, it is worth it. But the real return might not even be seen at work. But it can be at home.

“If you’re going to take the time, don’t waste the time.”
Allison Sharer, Working Partners® trainer

DISCLAIMER: This publication is designed to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that those involved in the publication are not engaged in rendering legal counsel. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.