Training Bundled With Employee Health Insurance Isn’t Really Free

EAP training, insurance, seminar

Would you pick your company’s primary law firm because it came in a bundle from your cafeteria’s food service vendor?

Of course not. You would want the legal representation that best meets your needs. You’d likely interview prospective law firms, negotiate terms, and eventually pick the one with whom you want to do business.

So why would an employer settle for management training services bundled with its health plan? Instead of choosing just the right approach and trainer, an employer takes what its health plan offers as “free” extras, and hopes for the best.

It should come as no surprise when a difficult problem such as employee infighting isn’t solved by a prepackaged seminar.

How the Insurance/EAP Bundle Works

When you get training as part of your insurance/EAP bundle, it often works like this:

  1. The insurance company partners with an employee assistance program (EAP) provider, and offers you the services as a bundle.
  2. The EAP creates a catalog of standardized, short seminars that are available as part of the package.
  3. The trainer, usually an independent contractor, delivers the workshop, using the materials provided by the EAP.

The Bundle Comes with Limitations

Buying employee development services this way comes with serious limitations:

  • Your options are limited to what’s in the catalog, rather than working with someone who could customize the perfect solution. The standardized seminars may include content that isn’t needed or leave out content that is needed for your specific situation. Often, the set length doesn’t match your requirements.
  • The seminars are rarely updated. Participants sense the material is old, which diminishes the desired outcomes.
  • If your need would be better served by a non-training solution, the EAP has few options for meeting that need. This creates an incentive for doing the wrong thing because it’s part of the package, rather than doing the right thing because it seems to cost more.
  • You are assigned a trainer that the EAP sends, rather than the one who would be the best fit.
  • You may be allotted a certain number of annual training hours. In some cases, this could be more than you’d ever need or use.

Free Isn’t Free

I understand the appeal of bundled service. It appears to be free. It’s a value-added service tossed in with your enormous health insurance expense.

I could imagine myself comparing health plans and thinking: This plan comes with training. If I sign up for it and only use the training from the EAP, I’ll save money. 

Of course, we both know the cost of those services are included in the health premiums. The questions you should ask are:

  • Exactly what do these training services cost?
  • What could I buy on the open market with those same dollars?”

Unbundle the Bundle

To get the employee development services you need, ask your insurance provider to pull apart the insurance/EAP/training bundle.

Worst case, they say “No,” to which you can respond that you will need to find a provider that offers lower-priced options that don’t include training.

Once that’s done, you can decide how to strategically apply your employee development funds to best meet your goals.

These days, bundling services seems to be all the rage. I know my cable and phone companies both want to sell me additional services as part of their bundles. They are making it harder to get exactly what I want.

Here’s a better idea. Insurance companies provide insurance. EAPs provide phone consultations and referrals. Training companies provide employee development services.

Companies all have that thing they do best. By finding them and working separately with each company, you can be assured you are not only getting a good deal, but also top-notch services.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce owns LaForce Teamwork Services, a Minneapolis-based consulting company. He's on a mission to create better results through teamwork. He wrote Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings.