Through a variety of employer, vendor and expert interviews, Global Business Group on HealthSM (GBGH) staff developed a list of “lessons learned” for employers who are considering purchasing a global employee assistance program (EAP). Some key issues to keep in mind include:
Many companies that have a decentralized structure may not have had a consistent way of reporting the available benefits in each of their locations. If this describes your organization, survey your country staff to determine where EAPs already exist. Use this opportunity to ask about location-specific drivers of employee absences and their health concerns to find out what interventions will be most helpful in filling the existing needs and gaps. Understanding your company’s current services will help you to have a clear vision of which services and/or capabilities are most important to you before you begin the RFP process.
Involving local staff in the selection of your EAP vendor can increase buy-in by providing them with a sense of ownership. Some employers who have successfully implemented global EAPs have established EAP committees, consisting of a medical professional, an operations or HR leader, and one or two employee representatives in each location. Having support from in-country leaders can help mitigate some of the skepticism that may surround an EAP in many locations and can potentially increase utilization.
Some employers choose to have one global provider of EAP services in order to ease the burden of administration and oversight of multiple vendors, as well as to allow for more consistent data collection among countries. Other employers prefer to use regional or local vendors that they believe can better serve each individual location, and may also want to have a greater line of sight to the program. Ultimately, each employer must decide which approach works best for their corporate and in-country staff based on their available financial and staffing resources, existing EAP vendor relationships and desire for global standards and services.
Make sure your RFP (and resulting conversations) reflect local needs. Look for subtle nuances that differentiate global vendors, and meet the vendors you are considering in person when possible. Prioritize and weigh your RFP answers based on what is most important to you. For example, employers with employees in more remote or under-developed locations might place the most emphasis on which vendor can best serve their entire population, or in technology capabilities that will enhance a remote counseling experience, or on willingness to fly providers in and out as necessary. Others may be most interested in critical incident support, wellness offerings, evaluation methods or price competitiveness. It may be helpful to develop both minimum standards (e.g., what each EAP vendor, whether global, regional or local must be able to provide in order to serve your employees) and ideal standards (what you would prefer that they be able to provide, but are negotiable).
In order to do a thorough review of the available vendors and gain buy-in from local staff, know that the process will take time and may require multiple visits. Don’t expect an international EAP to match your U.S. EAP exactly.
Learn more about employee assisstance programs at the 2017 Employers' Forum on Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being in San Francisco, California, January 25-26, 2017.