Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The end of conventional employee assistance programmes?

The end of conventional employee assistance programmes?

Domination of Uk employee assistance programme provision by large companies challenged by low cost, instantly accessible net based enterprises.

(PRWEB) May 28, 2004

Frank Clune CEO SoChoose Services Limited is predicting a radical shake up of employee assistance programme delivery in the UK over the next five years.

“Large players have dominated the UK eap marketplace for the past 25 years, offering high-value, high-cost services to companies and their employees. There has been little so far to criticise in the model. Company A needs a service, Company B provides it.

However, the structure of UK eap provision makes it difficult for small companies to buy into the model at a reasonable cost. They want to provide caring services for staff, they want to reduce absenteeism and they want to get involved in risk mitigation. Unfortunately the “big boys” aren’t really interested in Companies with fewer than 750 employees.

The other major problem with the current model is that of take up. Most eap providers are very cagey when it comes to the number of employees of any given company taking up eap services during any one year. Our best guess is that a 6% take-up represents an industry target. In other words, 94% of employees donÂ’t use their Company eap in any one year.

These problems are inherent in an industry committed to maintaining a very high profit margin. We were told some time ago by an employee of one of the big players that they calculated that for every session of counselling serviced there was a £100 profit margin. That may, or may not, be true. The point of course was that margins of this sort were seen as realisable in the long-term.

Recently some of the big healthcare providers have moved into the eap arena in what can only be described as an aggressive move to corner the market. It is too early to say whether their tactics are correct. Certainly, by the standards of the past few years they are adopting an aggressive pricing policy. Presumably they are also utilising spare capacity from within their existing healthcare organisation.

Our view is that this strategy is still flawed. There needs to be a commitment to high-value/reasonable cost services that meets the needs of all uk companies.”

The challenge facing SoChoose was therefore to create an eap offering that represented something new in the marketplace. The eap had to meet certain very clear criteria. Firstly, it had to appeal, as a service, to companies in the SME sector. Secondly, it had to be available across British industry with no significant price penalty based on size. Lastly, it needed to appeal to staff in such a way that it became a resource for all, rather than the 6% of people currently accessing their conventional eap.

This is where the Internet comes in. Employee assistance programme services are tailor-made for the net. At itÂ’s best the Internet is a benign delivery system, providing informed customer choice and discreet delivery.

Email, chat, voice-to-voice and webcam have been around for some time. SoChoose utilises all of them as part of its eap offering. Delivery is simple efficient and secure.

A study by the University of Maryland (March 2002) concluded that “employees are highly motivated to use an online, integrated work-life and employee assistance program”. The study dealt only with information and self help services, SoChoose takes this a stage further by actually delivering caring services online, person-to person. The offering includes advice (counselling, debt & welfare, medical, health and fitness, coaching) - delivered by fully qualified professionals - online testing and information services. Truly a service for all, from BMI testing, through information about sex, to work-life advice.

Frank Clune believes the SoChoose eap offering is uniquely attractive regardless of customer size.

“We have taken great care to create a truly scaleable solution. Our costs are managed by utilising “slack time” in the schedules of busy professionals to answer email requests for advice and by using the net effectively as a recruiting tool with professional advisors spread throughout the country. SoChoose has recruited a team of dedicated, high quality counsellors for live services.

There is a broad commitment to making our services available to everyone who wants them. We keep the costs of promotional materials - and therefore a significant proportion of the cost of owning an eap - low by utilising employee email to promote services.

All SoChoose services are available on an unlimited basis. There are no session restrictions and our standard eap scheme includes family access at no additional cost. Visit the site at www. sochoose. com.”

Phone +44 (0) 23 92295260