Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 30, Jun2y 29th, 2018
The presented article provide valuable initial information on how digital technologies influence the requirements profiles of employees. Quantifying the findings, and analyzing the precise scope of the cooperation between labor and machinery, as well as their degree of substitution offer a highly interesting field for future research.
The predominant assumption in the relevant literature is that in future new digital technologies and media will be increasingly able to replace human workers in the execution of repetitive tasks that are easily programmable. Because the programmability of tasks which require skill, the handling of “irregular objects” as well as social and creative intelligence is limited, such activities should grow in importance in the wake of the technological shift.
Many studies are currently examining this approach by looking at the potential substitutability of humans by machines. Despite technological progress, no massive collapse in employment has been discernible thus far. Studies explain this by stating that machines complement human tasks in a wide variety of ways rather than merely replacing them.
Technology is making work more complex. The long-term forecasts that have emerged qualifications and occupational field projections also indicate that digitalization will exert a relatively small effect on employment development in purely quantitative terms however labor demand will shift towards more complex tasks.
In a study carried out with a survey of the BIBB Establishment-Panel on Qualification and Competence Development. The study looked at the use of digital technologies in companies. The survey included questions about the types of digital technologies they deploy.
Require Cognitive and Manual Skills
The results show that computer-assisted tools, technologies for networking with customers, technologies for human resources and work organization and technologies for processing of large amounts of data all significantly increase requirements for employees from companies’ point of view. In this context, this indicates that fewer repetitive routine tasks, more manual tasks, and in particular more interactive and knowledge-intensive tasks, are performed by employees in companies at which such technologies are deployed. Although technologies such as computer-assisted tools facilitate work, by the same token they require higher cognitive and manual skills to control the machines. The existence of an internet presence with product listings and ordering or reservation systems also places higher cognitive demands on employees.
The use of social media opens up new opportunities for customer communication, which brings about an increase in interactive tasks. Technologies for HR and work organization and for the processing of large quantities of data simplify administration and the handling of available data. Notwithstanding this, their evaluation and interpretation of such data present employees with new tasks that require relevant cognitive skills.
Because there is a decrease in administrative tasks, more time is created for interaction with other employees and/ or customers, thus placing a greater focus on interpersonal activities. Computer and smartphone use and the use of network technologies such as internet access or email do not exert any significant influence on the task requirements. The reason for this is that these technologies are already present in 95 percent of the companies, and their use is no longer perceived to be special or demanding.
This high degree of penetration is also an explanation for the fact that technologies for data security and data protection do not exhibit any significant effect because they are already deployed in 88 percent of the companies. Nevertheless, data security is at the same time one of the major issues of the “Smart Industry” because new networking technologies may also offer new points of attack for the circumvention of security measures.
This means that in future the focus will be on the degree of security provided by the relevant technologies rather than merely on their presence. This should be a relevant topic of further research.
Surprisingly, networking with suppliers do not have any significant effect on the requirements level. There are indications that these technologies frequently appear in typical combinations with other technologies, meaning that their separate effect is not measurable by means of this analysis. With the exception of the technologies for data security and for networking with suppliers, all Smart Industry technologies, thus, exert a significant positive influence on employees. A continuous rise in requirements is, therefore, to be expected should the degree of use and influence of these technologies be further expanded in the wake of digitalization.
Requirements for Employees will Increase
In summary, the analysis described enables us to confirm that, from the companies’ perspective requirements for employees will increase as a result of digitalization. If computer-assisted tools and technologies for networking with customers, for human resources and work for an organization and for the processing of large amounts of data are deployed in the company, employees on average carry out more demanding tasks.
In individual terms, this means that employees at such companies perform fewer repetitive routine tasks and more manual, knowledge-intensive and subject-related tasks. Because the use of digital technology already correlates with higher requirements, the expectation is that dealing with complexity will become increasingly important for employees in the wake of digitalization.
Photo: Karl Skaar
Increasing complexity primarily means that greater significance will be attached to the social and creative intelligence of employees. This concerns tasks in which machines act as tools because, in contrast to repetitive tasks, such activities cannot (according to the current status of technology) be fully taken over by machines. The consequence of this for the debate on digitalization would be that the complementarity of human and machine should be of focus rather than their substitutability.
*The text in this article is from a chapter “Digital technologies make work more demanding” written by FELIX LUKOWSKI and CAROLINE NEUBER-POHL in the book “Vet trends 2018”(BIBB BWP SPECIAL EDITION 2017)
(Photo on top: Pixabay)