Employee Assistance Programmes for a Global Workforce | EAPA-SA

Today, organisations have a greater than ever facility to expand business beyond their own borders.  However, as organisations grow to become multi-national, so does the potential for complex workforce challenges.  As organisations become increasingly global, employers continue to search for ways to improve the health and productivity of their employees across the entire organisation. One way in which employers are working towards this goal is by making EAPs available to their global workforce; to provide the seamless delivery of counselling, work-life services, management referrals, crisis response, seminars & training, as well as wellness-support to help employees to be more effective and productive, wherever they may be located.1

EAP vendor models with a global reach

Purchasers of global EAP products generally fall into two camps:

  1. Organisations who seek to implement a single global EAP model.
  2. Organisations who wish to manage a series of regional or local vendors around the world.

Some employers choose to have one global provider of EAP services. The benefit of this approach is that it eliminates the burden of sourcing and overseeing multiple vendors – who may be scarce in developing economies. It also allows for more consistent data collection across the board. Other employers prefer to use local vendors, per region. The benefit of this option is that local vendors can better serve each distinctive location, and may offer greater line-of-sight to EAP programmes. Ultimately, each employer must decide which approach works best for both their head office and regional staff, based on their financial and staffing resources and existing EAP vendor relationships, as well as their requirement for universal services and standards to be met. 2

Global EAPs for a diverse world

Every country has its own societal and work cultures and this makes it tricky to offer a one-size-fits-all approach to keeping employees accountable, productive and engaged. Herein lies one of the main challenges in identifying a global EAP model that can deliver much-needed resources to a diverse workforce, while demonstrating real value for the organisation.

“In theory, a single vendor model for global EAP is ideal in its promise of broad geographical coverage, ease of communication, centralized account management, and standard data reporting. The disagreement is over whether multinational EAP vendors can deliver a globally scaled program that meets multinational employers’ complex needs. There are doubts that a single vendor can manage complex contractual and legal issues across international lines, and scepticism that a single central vendor can have strong knowledge of local providers, approaches to mental health care and work cultures.”

Source: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/globaleaps.aspx

Lack of availability of qualified EAP personnel and service providers

On the other hand, in some economically developing regions, despite overall low labour costs, EAP providers may charge a premium due to the scarcity of professional resources. In such areas, EAPs may comprise a larger relative percentage of total personnel costs.

“To counter [global EAP] limitations, decentralised EAPs are organized around many local and regional agreements with [local organisations] perceived as the best indigenous providers. However, those favouring a single global provider claim this “multi-local” approach is too cumbersome and difficult to manage by a central process owner. Multiple contracts across many vendors leave room for inconsistent and inefficient global programming. Communication and coordination of services when a multinational response is needed can create problems.”

Source: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/globaleaps.aspx

EAPs for multi-national organisations in Africa

Many companies are taking their products and businesses into Africa as a continent, only to realise that they do not have sufficient resources and infrastructure to support the needs of the company and their employees in those countries.  Workplace services in African countries – in the context of wellness and Employee Assistance Programmes – also lack being able to support and provide EAP education to practicing psychologists, social workers and other related professions in many African regions.

Overview of the EAP FOR AFRICA project

The EAP FOR AFRICA project, managed by the EAPA-SA Board, was commissioned by Chevron in 2010 in an attempt to address the above needs and to challenge other multinationals to sponsor the growth of EAPs into Africa.

As a result, the EAP FOR AFRICA project was launched with the creation of an EAP for Africa Workgroup in April 2010, created under the auspices of the EAPA-SA Board, after the Board at the time agreed in principle to take up the challenge of committing itself to the Chevron’s vision regarding ‘Expanding EAP into Africa’ though:

  • identification of an existing EAP structure to lead the project; and
  • identification of other role-players, i.e. businesses with interests in Africa, to become partners in the envisaged project.

Today, the EAP FOR AFRICA committee is made up of EAPA-SA Board members, EAP service providers and companies, taking business into more than twelve countries in Africa. The intention is to continue to grow links in Africa in order to build a burgeoning network of practitioners in each country. Having team members that travel into Africa for their own business reasons has already yielded dividends, assisting with keeping the costs of outreach and training to a minimum.  EAPA-SA has also forged links with several academics and academic institutions in Southern Africa, resulting in the co-authoring of white papers and the sharing of knowledge pertinent to the delivery of EAP in an African cultural context.

1 https://ceoworld.biz/2019/02/25/5-challenges-ceos-face-when-building-a-global-workforce-and-how-to-solve-them/

2 https://blog.businessgrouphealth.org/blog/top-5-lessons-learned-from-purchasing-a-global-eap/