New paper : How digital technologies modify the work characteristics?

New paper : How digital technologies modify the work characteristics?

One of our – dearest and talented – members of the research network Protehus, Léa Fréour (LF), has recently published a paper, joint to her doctoral supervisors Prof. Adalgisa Battistelli and Prof. Sabine Pohl, where they present their preliminary findings regarding how digital technologies modify the work characteristics.

Léa – on behalf of all the authors – agreed to answer some of our questions to share with you a little bit about her insightful paper: “How Digital Technologies Modify The Work Characteristics: A Preliminary Study“. Below her answers !!!

Léa Fréour
Léa Fréour

Protehus team: Hi Léa !! could you tell us a bit about yourself and the subject of your research?

LF: I’m Léa Fréour and I am currently a PhD student at Université de Bordeaux and Université Libre de Bruxelles. Since my master degree, I have been interested in new technologies and their impacts on work and on work context. Particularly, the interesting thing is not just how disruptive and brand-new they are but rather if and how they create unprecedent situations and experiences at work. For example, in the near future, what kind of jobs or tasks will be executed by humans? What kind of jobs or tasks will be devoted to technologies? Will we be working in close collaboration with technologies? What will this new collaboration look like? In my PhD, I focus on how the new technologies introduced today in organisations are modifying work activities (their content or their structure), relationships at work, employee role at work, work conditions and so on.

Protehus team: What are the main theoretical elements of your research?

LF: I am working on a conceptual model called job design or work design depending on author’s conception about it (Hackman & Oldham, 1976; Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006). This model captures the subjective perception of one’s own work through some characteristics (for instance, one’s level of autonomy, task variety or social support). It is a motivational model, as such the characteristics present in the model (called after work characteristics) have been selected for their motivational impact on employees. Our rationale in this research is that technologies may modify the content of work and in doing so, may modify employee perception of their work. Thus, we want to understand the modifications produced by the introduction of new technologies at work on the work characteristics.  

Protehus team: What are the most important results to remember from your research?

LF: Results were different between the two investigated technologies. It is normal as occupations, sectors and technological functionalities were very distinct. Building on a technological classification, we proposed different effects of these technologies regarding work characteristics. Some findings were already present in the literature like the rise of cognitive demands and consequently of knowledge characteristics. The most important result is the new relationship that employees may create at work with technologies. This new relationship suggests that technologies are not just media or platform through which we interact anymore but might also be more active at work and might be considered as non-human agents.

Protehus team: What are the implications for practitioners and organisations?

LF: Our results come from a preliminary study. It will be too soon to deduce some practical implications. However, it might be interesting for practitioners and organisations to note that technologies have not deterministic effects on work activities. In fact, managerial decisions have a great impact on the implementation of new technologies (Parker et al., 2017).

About the research paper:

Fréour, L., Pohl, S., & Battistelli, A. (2021). How Digital Technologies Modify The Work Characteristics: A Preliminary Study. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 24, E14. doi: 10.1017/SJP.2021.12

About the researchers:

  • Léa Fréour, PhD student, Université de Bordeaux, Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Sabine Pohl, Full Professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Adalgisa Battistelli, Full Professor, Université de Bordeaux

Related references:

  • Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance16(2), 250-279.
  • Morgeson, F. P., & Humphrey, S. E. (2006). The Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ): developing and validating a comprehensive measure for assessing job design and the nature of work. Journal of Applied Psychology91(6), 1321-1339.
  • Parker, S. K., Van den Broeck, A., & Holman, D. (2017). Work design influences: A synthesis of multilevel factors that affect the design of jobs. Academy of Management Annals11(1), 267-308.
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