Defining disruptive innovation
Investopedia defines the term “disruptive innovation” as follows:
“Disruptive Innovation refers to a technology whose application significantly affects the way a market or industry functions. An example of a modern disruptive innovation is the internet, which significantly altered the way companies did business and which negatively impacted companies that were unwilling to adopt it. A disruptive innovation is differentiated from a disruptive technology in that it focuses on the use of the technology rather than the technology itself.”1
The post-modern working environment, with new disruptive technology as its change driver (i.e. the technologies that have heralded the Fourth Industrial Revolution and are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds), is typified by ‘work-life blending’ and being ‘always on’. It is one where employees expect far more than just a pay cheque from their employers. Today’s employers are seen as obligated to recognise the needs of their workforce, and support them both professionally and personally, by a generation of workers who are far more open and inclined to seek assistance than their predecessors were.
Disruptive technology has provided the tools for disruptive innovation in EAP
Harnessing the advances in disruptive technology – particularly digital technology and the widespread uptake of smart phones – the EAP industry in South Africa has been given the wherewithal to put technology to good use, and in some instances has leapfrogged EAP advances made in other countries, to meet the rapidly changing needs of the current workforce.
The outcome is that contemporary EAPs have been enabled to progress well beyond the traditional scope of EAP services, at the heart of which is short-term, face-to-face counselling leading to the possible referring-on of an employee with a substance abuse or mental health issue. Technology has brought EA practitioners the latitude to broaden their service offering; to support employees and their family members in multiple aspects of their life. In certain quarters this has allowed EA professionals to become strategic partners, working in collaboration with organisations’ human resources professionals and management teams to proactively promote a happier and healthier labour force.
In what ways has disruptive innovation in EAPs been valuable?
Through advances in digital and mobile technology employee assistance programs are able to be made increasingly more accessible. They have become preventative rather than reactive. They are more private and they have the tools to offer preventative measures and ongoing help to local and remote employees rather than just short-term help to workers who are close at hand. Digital EAPs have some of the following benefits:
- Digitally based programmes can offer preventative mental resilience training
- They are a tool in identifying employees suffering from stress, early; and to prevent crises from happening, helping to maintain employees’ good mental health and work productivity.
- EAPs have become mobile, providing access via phone, text, email and chat
- Face-to-face counselling sessions can be conducted online
- Employee engagement is served through blogs, monthly newsletters and social media posts
- Crisis outreach and the rallying of a community can be supported by WhatsApp groups and social media
The added value of digital EAPs to employers
There is value to be found for employers in digital EAPs – particularly in terms of time saving and efficiency – as well as the fact that they are cost effective.
- The advent of digital EAPs has made it easy and convenient for employees to reach out for counselling support, via an online EAP to suit their work schedule, helping to alleviate the need for an employee to take time out during critical work hours.
- Digital EAPs have made training formats and hours flexible to suit work schedules (not to mention the different pace at which people learn) with the added benefit of tutorial content on YouTube.
- While it is difficult to measure the effectiveness and outcomes of traditional EAPs as they are physical in nature, a key benefit of digital EAP is the capacity to measure their effectiveness and programme outcomes.
All in all, the value brought by being able to put technology to good use in advancing EAP programmes is seen in the EAP industry in South Africa keeping pace with the country’s changing workforce and in meeting the needs of today’s employees.