3 Employer Approaches to Purchasing EAP Around the World
Typically, employers either prefer to implement a single global EAP supplier or utilize a variety of regional or local vendors around the world. The argument for a single vendor includes broad geographical coverage, ease of communication, centralized account management and standard data reporting. However, there is a lack of consensus on whether one global vendor can meet the needs of a multinational workforce and have sufficient knowledge of country-specific legal issues, cultural norms and local providers. Regardless of the model chosen, core services should include high-touch account management, legal compliance, quality local services that are culturally appropriate, quality and access as priority over cost, telephone-based and face-to-face service options, language- and culture-specific electronic services, robust websites and promotional materials and customized data reporting.
Organizations also differ as to whether they purchase an EAP on a centralized, decentralized or mixed basis:
- Centralized: Headquarters selects a program that covers all subsidiaries across the world. If global vendors aren’t viable, they might choose regional partners instead. However, headquarters may or may not actually fund the program globally. Strengths of this model include a simple sales process, the potential for lower rates because of more covered lives, standardized reporting and a consistent worldwide program. However, subsidiaries may feel like the program has been forced on them, which may affect local-buy in.
- Decentralized: Each subsidiary chooses an individual EAP vendor. Strengths of this model include the fact that locals may be more aware of their particular needs and a there is potential for greater buy-in and ownership over the program. Weaknesses include that in-country staff may not be familiar enough with EAP to either choose to have a program or to know what type of program to choose, and the sales process is more difficult and costs may be higher due to fewer employees covered. To mitigate those challenges, some multinationals offer corporate guidance to each location on procurement and provision standards.
- Mixed: Headquarters chooses a preferred supplier and negotiates rates. However, unlike the centralized model, local subsidiaries have the ability to choose whether they want to use the chosen provider or use a different one -- or not implement an EAP at all. Strengths of this model include lower costs due to increased employee size and local staff will still feel like they are given a choice. Weaknesses are that local subsidiaries may not buy into the program and if they do, the worldwide launch may be staggered.
Ultimately an employer needs to decide which method is most appropriate for the company given available resources.
For additional information on global EAP programs see the Full Toolkit for members of the Global Business Group on Health.