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4 Effects of Technological Charlge: The Quality of Employment - EMPLOYMENT QUALITY Early discussions of the impact of technological change focused primarily on the numbers and types of jobs that would be replaced or created (U. S. National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress, 19664. To- day the debate has expanded to consider the effects of the new technologies- particularly those that affect information on the quality of employment. Do the new information technologies lead to the fragmentation of work or to its integration? To the deskilling of work or to more highly skilled work? To elec- tronic monitoring of employees or to greater job autonomy? To the exploitation of workers with limited job opportunities or to the freedom to work at conve- nient times and places? These issues are especially germane to women, because as clerical workers, bookkeepers, nurses, librarians, and other direct users of information technology, they are likely to be affected in large numbers. In addition, their relative lack of power in the workplace suggests that if informa- tion technology has pernicious effects, they will bear its brunt. It would be desirable to establish whether information technology is used primarily to in- crease or decrease the quality of jobs and to determine the conditions under which it does one or the other. Two images regularly appear in the research literature and public debate on the effects of information technology on employment quality. Some commenta- tors, while acknowledging that technology can be used to improve job quality, believe that it has most often been used to undermine the quality of white-collar work. "Our recent research has, if anything, strengthened our earlier conclu- sions. More and more evidence . . . documents the deteriorating quality of 127

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128 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS office work.... [T]he introduction of automated office equipment has ex- tended management control over the work process to the detriment of workers' job satisfaction" (9-to-5, 1985:29~. In this pessimistic view, information tech- nology is associated with degraded, deskilled, and devalued jobs, stressful and dangerous work, employer monitoring of employees, and work speedups, in which workers are paid less for doing more. A case from the Project on Connecticut Workers and Technological Change, described by Westin (1985), typifies the pessimistic image. A small, metropolitan-area mail-order jewelry firm, selling low-cost rings, used com- puters for inventory and automatic billing through an on-line data base. Order division clerks used video display terminals (VDTs) exclusively for data entry and retrieval. The managers monitored workers through automated analysis of their daily computer output and through television cameras focused on their work space. One worker recalled that "they used the cameras to watch how hard you seemed to be working, when you got up to stretch or take a break, and your 'attitude' at work" (Westin, 1985:29-301. Management's objective was to run its business at the lowest cost possible. Both an abundant labor supply and the minimal training needed to operate the equipment and to perform the order- taking job helped keep labor costs low, despite substantial employee turnover. Management succeeded in running a profitable business but at high cost to its workers. The alternative image portrays information technology as a boon to both employers and employees: increasing workers' productivity, eliminating repet- itive or mindless work, providing better tools, and offering intellectual chal- lenge and possibilities for growth. Spinrad (1982) describes his office routine and illustrates with an almost science-fiction-like quality what life in the office of the future could be like. He flips a switch to read his messages on a screen. Communicating via computer mail with a colleague, who electronically for- wards an old report, Spinrad then incorporates the report into a message he is writing and sends it to its destination. He then settles into a morning's work of computer-aided hardware design. Poppel's analysis (1982) of the benefits of office automation for sales and information workers portrays a similar picture. After studying 15 large U.S. organizations, Poppet concluded that a salesperson's time is wasted on travel- ing, missing contacts, finding out information, and filling out forms, while the time of many managers and professionals is similarly wasted on meetings and clerical work. According to his analysis, office automation technology can rescue some of that wasted time and make jobs more rewarding. For example, he foresees that a salesperson equipped with a portable intelligent display termi- nal could compute an optimum route for sales contacts, display product and pending order information while at a client's office, calculate cost proposals, and keep in touch with headquarters through electronic mail.

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 129 Between the two extreme images of the effects of information technology are analysts who believe that it has had little effect on employment quality except by changing the occupational mix. For example, several years ago Simon (1977) concluded that, in the aggregate, job satisfaction had not decreased over the preceding 20 years, a time of rapid technological change, and that office automation in particular did "not appear to change the nature of work in a fundamental way." Moreover, since office automation consists of labor-saving devices that eliminate jobs that are already relatively routine, he expected to see a decline in the percentage of employees engaged in routine clerical work and a corresponding increase in more satisfying jobs in service, sales, professional, and technical work. ~ This section asks whether technology, in both its narrow sense of hardware and software and in the broader sense that includes the organizational arrange- ments through which it is implemented, has increased or decreased employ- ment quality in the aggregate. The focus is on the clerical work generally done by women, although many of the issues are similar for men and women in many kinds of jobs. Most of the available research to answer this question consists of studies of the introduction of technology in particular industries or particular films. While they provide rich detail about the mechanisms through which technology combines with the organization of work to influence the quality of jobs, they are not systematic samples of either workers or establishments and are thus not helpful in determining which tendency dominates (Attewell and Rule, 19841. In addition, at the present time technology and people's attitudes toward both technology and job design are changing rapidly. These changes are likely to be spreading unevenly across sectors of the economy, farther increas- ing uncertainty about prevailing tendencies. DEFINING EMPLOYMENT QUALITY Understanding how technology influences employment quality requires cn- tena for assessing employment quality. But the criteria depend on the perspec- tive from which one defines it. Employers, who may want to optimize produc- ~Simon's data may have been wrong or outdated. The Quality of Employment SuIvey (Quinn and Staines, 1977) found no change in overall job satisfaction between 1969 and 1973 but an appreciable drop between 1973 and 1977. The more specific the topic area being queried (e.g., satisfaction with comfort, challenge, financial rewards, or promotion), the larger the decline. Only one question failed to show a drop in job satisfaction: "All in all, how satisfied would you say you are with your job?" Unfortunately, this single item was the typical measure of job satisfaction used in the studies on which Simon based his conclusions (U.S. Department of Labor, 1974). It is not known whether the measured drop in job satisfaction in the 1970s reflected changed working conditions (including but not limited to the effects of automation), changes in expectations about work, or changes in the demography of the labor force.

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130 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS tivity, product quality, and worker dedication, undoubtedly have different criteria than employees, who may want to optimize intrinsically interesting work, compensation, job security, or pleasant working conditions. Among themselves, both employers and employees may also have different criteria, depending on their social and economic circumstances, group memberships, and individual preferences. To some degree employment quality is subjective and idiosyncratic and re- flects the fit between particular workers' needs and the characteristics of partic- ular jobs. Still, the literatures on job satisfaction, job performance, and job design suggest at least three broad factors that influence employment quality for most workers (Barnowe et al., 1973; Locke, 1976; Hackman and Oldham, 1980~: (l) job content; (2) working conditions, especially the social conditions, under which the job is done; and (3) economic considerations. Job content encompasses those attributes that are intrinsic parts of the work. There are a number of attributes summarized under the rubric of challenge, especially mental challenge (Locke, 1976) that increase employment quality. Learning, creativity, autonomy, responsibility, variety, and coping with diff~- culties exercise workers' conceptual faculties, while the lack of these qualities bores them. Job redesign programs try to infuse jobs with these qualities (e.g., Hackman and Oldham, 1980~. For example, if all else is equal, jobs with vari- ety tend to be more rewarding and better for many workers than those in which workers do repetitive work; autonomous jobs in which individuals can pace themselves and control what, how, and when to do their work are better than jobs in which all details are prescribed; integrated jobs in which an individual performs a range of tasks that produce a complete product are better than those in which an individual performs only one fragment of a task or performs a task that produces a fragment of a product. Finally, jobs with feedback, in which workers can evaluate their performance against some standard, are better than ones in which workers perform tasks without knowing how they are doing. When technology is introduced in ways that enhance these qualities, the jobs get better for most workers, as witnessed by an increase in their satisfaction with and commitment to their work (Hackman et al., 19781. Working conditions are both physical and social. The precise physical condi- tions that make a job dangerous or uncomfortable vary greatly: they may in- clude limb- or vision-threatening equipment as well as extremes of tempera- ture, noise, and lighting. In introducing technology into white-collar work, workstation and office design have been major concerns, ranging from fears of permanent vision damage and problem pregnancies to discomfort with seating position and vision (National Research Council, 1983; Westin et al., 19851. Social conditions that give workers satisfaction include being with other peo- ple on the job. On-thejob friendships are especially important sources of social satisfaction and support for white-collar workers because communication is

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 131 often an integral part of their jobs (Panko, 19841. Social satisfaction and sup- port from coworkers are among the reasons that people who are employed have better mental health than those who are not (e.g., Thoite, 1983~. To the extent that using new technology isolates workers, keeping them at terminals or at home away from others, it may disrupt this source of job satisfaction. On the other hand, like the telephone, it also opens up new occasions for and ways to communicate with others. Another aspect of social conditions on the job is supervision. Supervision can be more or less close, more or less confining, and more or less helpful with or without new information technologies. The new technologies do, however, facilitate more detailed electronic monitoring of keystrokes per minute, for example and may therefore contribute to closer, more onerous supervision. As noted above, autonomy and control over the pacing and methods of work are an important factor in job quality. Economic considerations include both the absolute level of wages and sal- a~y, fringe benefits, security, and promotion possibilities that a job offers, and the fairness of these factors compared with the norms of an occupation and industry and with the inputs, such as seniority, education, and skill, that a worker provides. As technology changes the occupational mix in an industry and the skills demanded by particular occupations, it is likely to have a direct effect on workers' perceptions of their job security. In addition, workers often believe that they should be compensated for the new skills they have acquired in using the new technology (Murphree, 1985~. How is information technology associated with these sources of employment quality? This section attempts an answer first by trying to assess workers' satis- faction with information technology and the jobs that use it and then by examin- ing the specific factors noted above: job content, especially job fragmentation and deskilling; working conditions, such as computer monitoring and work pacing, telecommuting and the electronic distribution of work, and ergonomic conditions (the interaction of equipment features and its use by humans); and economic considerations. WORKERS SATISFACTION AND ATTITUDES There is no research surveying a representative sample of workers in the United States about the technology they use to do their jobs and their percep- tions of the quality of their jobs. One of the most thorough sources of informa- tion about employment quality, the University of Michigan's Quality of Em- ployment Survey, conducted in 1969, 1973, and 1977, provides little infor- mation on technology, and in 1977 it explicitly dropped questions about the effects of automation (Quinn and Staines, 19774. There have been several large-scale surveys, but one should be cautious in generalizing from them be-

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132 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS cause of likely biases in their sampling procedures, their sketchy detail about how and how much technology is used in jobs, the retrospective nature of the questions they asked, and the vested interests of some of the sponsoring organi- zations. These surveys have been commissioned or conducted by manufactur- ers, employers, labor groups, and academic researchers. For example, the Honeywell Corporation, a vendor of office automation equipment, commis- sioned a survey comparing the reactions to office automation of 937 managers and 1,264 secretaries in a national random sample of 443 establishments in information-intensive industries. The Minolta Corporation, a copier manufac- turer, and Professional Secretaries International, a worker organization, com- missioned a similar survey of more than 2,000 secretaries and their managers in 22 cities. Kelly Services, a supplier of temporary clerical and other workers for business, commissioned a survey of 507 secretaries in more than 500 establish- ments, and 9-to-5, the National Association of Working Women, a labor group, conducted a large-scale questionnaire survey focusing on job stress among women. Kling (1978) surveyed 1,200 managers, data analysts, and clerks in 42 municipal governments. Bikson and Gutek surveyed and interviewed man- agers, professionals, and clerical workers in 26 manufacturing and service or- ganizations in California (Bikson and Gutek, 1983; Gutek et al., 1984; Bikson, 19861. Westin and his colleagues visited 110 business, government, and non- profit establishments, conducting more than 1,100 open-ended interviews with end-users of VDTs, primarily at the clerical, secretarial, and professional lev- els, and with more than 650 managers and executives (Westin, 1985; Westin et al., 19851. The major problem with most of these surveys is that their samples are not representative; and in no case did a survey provide a representative sample of a broad range of users of information technology. More importantly, because the researchers were haphazard in their respondent selection, because managers selected the workers to be interviewed, or because workers selected them- selves, in most cases the reader does not know to whom the conclusions apply. For example, the Honeywell survey used a representative sampling of business establishments but not of the employees within the establishments: the chief executive's secretary provided the names of secretaries and managers to be queried; the survey was limited to secretaries working for one or more man- agers; and secretaries who worked in secretarial pools were excluded. Uncon- trolled biases in these selections directly influence the portrait of office automa- tion that results from the survey. The Kelly Services survey had similar selection biases and restrictions. The 9-to-5 survey on women and stress is based on a self-selected sample of women who responded to a questionnaire printed in four monthly women's magazines. The ways in which these respondents differ from other working women who neither read the target magazines nor responded to the survey are unknown.

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 133 The Bikson and Gutek survey and the Westin survey used opportunity sam- ples the researchers talked to people in organizations in which they could most conveniently make the necessary contacts and get the necessary permis- sions. These organizations may be very different from less convenient or less forthcoming ones. In addition, Westin concentrated on visiting organizations with "reputations as 'advanced' and 'active' users of office systems technology . . . [with] 'good human resource policies"' (Westin, 1985:31. The second problem with these surveys is that the questionnaires may have introduced distortions because of the way some questions were asked. A num- ber of the surveys asked the same respondent to compare work before and after the introduction of information technology and to attribute job-enhancing or job-degrading effects to the technology (Kling, 1978; Honeywell Corporation, 1983; Minolta Corporation, 1983; Kelly Services, 1984; 9-to-5, 1984a). The problem is that people often have difficulty remembering attitudes and atmo- sphere from the past, even the recent past, and have even greater difficulty accurately attributing causes to the changes they perceive taking place (Bem and McConnell, 1970; Nisbett and Wilson, 1977~. Respondents are likely to reconstruct the past on the basis of their current environment and their theories of the impact of information technology, so workers may believe, for example: "I like my job now and everyone knows that word processors make jobs better, therefore before the technology my job must have been worse," or, "I have occasional headaches and everyone knows that staring at a screen makes head- aches worse, so I must have more now than I did before I got my terminal." In addition, the phrasing of some questions may have biased respondents' answers. For example, the phrasing of questions in the Honeywell survey prob- ably had the effect of portraying office automation equipment in a positive light: respondents were asked to agree or disagree with statements that auto- mated equipment made tasks easier, made tasks faster, improved work flow, made jobs more challenging, and improved the quality of work. But respon- dents were not given similar opportunities to indicate that automated equipment made jobs less interesting, increased stress, or made skills obsolete. This direct bias in question design, however, was surprisingly uncommon given the vested interests of some survey sponsors. For example, the Kelly Services survey (1984) allowed respondents to indicate that they loved or hated word-processing equipment, that information technology made theirjobs more or less stressful, and that they have had stress-related physical symptoms. Simi- larly, the 9-to-5 (1984a) survey allowed respondents to indicate that they were treated with respect or hostility by their managers, that the introduction of auto- mated equipment decreased or increased job stress, or that they had great or little job autonomy. The third problem with these surveys is that many factors that both influence the quality of employment and are associated with the use of information tech- nology have not been adequately controlled in data analysis. Thus, such factors

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134 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS as the industry in which employees work, the size of the establishment in which they work, their occupation, their seniority, and their age are rarely controlled for when examining the impact of information technology. In the insurance industry, for example, if it is true that a data-entry clerk has a worse job than does a claims adjuster and that, on average, a clerk uses information technology more than an adjuster does, an analysis that inadequately controls for occupa- tion might mistakenly conclude that use of information technology rather than other aspects of an occupation is associated with poor jobs. The fourth problem arises because large-scale surveys must generalize across different industries, occupations, technologies, and work arrangements; consequently, they lose qualitative detail about the processes through which information technology is introduced into the workplace and the effects it has. (This point is elaborated below.) Despite these limitations, however, these surveys provide a valuable source of information about the range of conditions under which information technol- ogy is introduced and the distribution of its effects. If they are considered with these methodological reservations in mind, they can provide suggestions about general tendencies that are not derivable from the case-study literature. Over- all, these surveys suggest that workers who use information technology are generally satisfied with it, because it allows them to do their work better and because it improves the jobs themselves or, at a minimum, does not degrade them significantly. For example, the Honeywell survey found that both man- agers and secretaries liked the technology, agreeing that it improved the quality of work, made routine tasks go faster, allowed more to get done each day, and freed time for more interesting and challenging work (Honeywell Corporation, 19831. The survey by the Minolta Corporation and Professional Secretaries International reported similar results: about 90 percent of the secretaries be- lieved that office automation had made them more efficient and productive, and about 70 percent believed that it made secretarial jobs more fulfilling, provid- ing more time to do challenging and interesting work (Minolta Corporation, 1983~. Bikson and Gutek (Bikson and Gutek, 1983; Gutek et al., 1984; Gutek and Bikson, 1985; Bikson, 1986) and Westin and his colleagues (Westin, 1985; Westin et al., 1985) report similar results. The survey of women and stress by 9-to-5 (1984a) collected extensive information from 5,000 women workers. The majority of the respondents reported that their jobs were more interesting and enjoyable after automation (68 percent) and less stressful and pressured (54 percent); these perceived benefits of office technology were stronger for mana- gerial and professional workers than they were for clerical workers. Health data, however, contrast with these attitudinal data: users of VDTs and micro- computers reported more frequent physical and psychological symptoms, such as eye strain, chest pain, tension, depression, and vision problems requiring a doctor's consultation, than did nonusers.

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 135 Kling's (1978) survey covered workers at different levels in municipal gov- ernments who used computer-based reports, not on-line VDTs. The respon- dents attributed broader job content to computer use. Respondents also at- tributed increases in job pressure, but not closeness of supervision, to computer use. These effects increased as the respondents used computers more. As in the 9-to-S survey, Kling found that computers enhanced the jobs of higher-level workers most. Kraemer and Danziger (1982) also analyzed survey data from the same large sample of municipal government employees and found that about half the workers experienced an increased sense of accomplishment from computerized work, while few experienced a decreased sense of accomplish- ment. One may distrust these studies and their generally sanguine conclusions be- cause of the level of detail that such surveys achieve as well as for the method- ological reservations listed above. By necessity, these studies asked questions at a very abstract level to generalize across different industries, occupations, technologies, and work arrangements. As a result, they have undoubtedly missed some of the behavioral changes in work caused by technological change and many of the mechanisms through which these changes occur. The changes in work caused by technology can be subtle, unanticipated, and difficult to derive from any general theory of technological change or any sur- vey of job satisfaction. For example, fears about the introduction of electronic cash registers in retail work center around the deskilling of sales workers, work speedup, and the continued growth of part-time, dead-end employment. Irre- spective of the validity of these fears, other consequences of electronic cash registers were not anticipated. A cash register's capacity to compute change determines the procedure cashiers use to return change to customers (and, as a likely consequence, their facility with mental arithmetic): with mechanical cash registers, cashiers often use a subtraction by addition rule, returning coins until an even dollar amount is reached and then returning bills; when the regis- ter computes the change, clerks return bills first (Fleming, 1985~. Some of these subtle changes have substantial impact on the quality of jobs for cashiers. On mechanical registers, cashiers often key in all the items for one customer and then turn to bag them in a separate operation. With faster electronic regis- ters, a "ring-and-bag" process is often used each item is keyed in and bagged immediately. This process, which is faster since each item is handled only once, leads to pain and health problems: cashiers stand off balance and bag goods with only the left hand, putting disproportionate strain on the left side of the body. The more extensive introduction of electronic scanners at the check- out counter may relieve these health problems, because the goods can be pulled over the scanner and bagged with two hands (Ontario Retail Council, 1981; Wallersteiner, 1981; White, 1985~. Zuboff (1982) offers additional observa- tions on the subtle effects of information technology.

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136 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS Aggregate studies may also generate misleading conclusions about the mechanisms by which technological effects occur. For example, commentators assume that if information technology increases management control of work- ers, it does so because managers use machines to gather more detailed informa- tionabouttheirsubordinates (9-to-5, 19851. However, KlingandIacono (1984) report that the need for accurate data to generate useful computerized reports redefines work activities, and subjects workers, regardless of their position in the corporate hierarchy, to tighter social controls. The many groups needing accurate information put pressure on those who generate it to work according to standard procedures (cf. Baran, 19854. When commentators discuss the changes in skill requirements associated with information technology, they often assume either that the technology sub- sumes substantive knowledge of a job and its procedures (e.g., Baran, 1985) or that it reintegrates jobs that had been previously fragmented for other reasons (e.g., Giuliano, 19821. But mastering the information technology may itself require skill, especially if the technology is powerful, complex, defective, or en imperfect fit to local conditions. For example, in his case study of the insurance industry, Attewell (1985) describes the emergence of an informal class of com- puter gurus or mavens noncomputer professionals who become local experts in beating the system, in circumventing its bugs, and in coercing it to respond appropriately to nonstandard local conditions. Managers provided these gurus with "nonproductive" time on the computer to learn its idiosyncrasies, and they, in turn, conducted informal seminars, translated headquarters' instruc- tions into understandable procedures, and invented procedures for getting around computer intransigence. As a result of their expertise, they gained sub- stantial job satisfaction and sense of mastery and skill and substantial informal power in the organization. JOB CONTENT: JOB FRAGMENTATION AND THE DESKILLING DEBATE Braverman's seminal work (1974) has shaped the terms of the debate about the effects of information technology on the content of jobs. He argued that the introduction of technology into the office is a mechanism to rationalize and fragment office work. As in a factory, office work is broken into many sub- tasks, each performed by a "detail" worker, who loses the integrative contact with the total product and who loses variety in the job. The consequences from the employer's perspective are to reduce the skill requirements of office work- that is, the average employment experience and education needed to adequately perform the job and therefore to reduce labor costs. The consequences from the employee's perspective are to reduce the quality of the job by reducing the

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 137 variety of tasks performed, the mental challenge, and job autonomy and re- sponsibility. Studies have documented many episodes in which the introduction of new information technology coincided with a fragmentation of jobs and a decrease in the skill levels required to do them. For example, Murphree ~ 1984) describes the fragmentation of the job of legal secretary in the large firm she studied. The fragmentation was not necessarily caused by the new technology, but it facili- tated an ongoing process of routinizing work. The variety of tasks that made the job of legal secretary both interesting and highly paid were assigned to other workers: paralegal aides composed first drafts of simple contracts, specialized legal librarians searched for legal citations, and messenger services hand-deliv- ered urgent documents. With word-processing equipment, even the task of producing a manuscript was divided into an initial data-entry stage and a later proofreading and editing one, with different personnel performing each func- tion. Relieved of many of their duties, the legal secretaries found themselves doubled up, working for more than one lawyer, primarily in a gatekeeping role. In this case, new technology was a concomitant of decreased variety, less chal- lenge, and less responsibility. Researchers have also identified cases in which information technology in- corporated substantive knowledge of a job and its procedures, an establish- ment, or an industry, leaving less for a worker to know. In the insurance indus- try, the skilled work of assigning risks or assessing claims has increasingly been codified into computer software, so that less skilled, less experienced, and less educated clerks can perform the work once performed by skilled clerks and professionals (Baran, 1985~. In social science, sophisticated statistical analyses that once were done only by professionals are now performed by undergradu- ates or research assistants using a statistical analysis computer program. In supermarkets, knowledge of brands, in-store promotions, and arithmetic is less necessary to a checkout clerk using a bar-code reader and an intelligent cash register: for example, when produce is coded, the clerk need not know the difference between root parsley and horseradish. In these cases the uses of information technology have led to the creation of more routine jobs. In contrast to these cases in which technology is a tool to restructure work and fragment jobs, other researchers have argued that new office technologies can reintegrate jobs that had been previously fragmented for other reasons (Matteis, 1979; Strassman, 1980; Giuliano, 1982) and require more skill and responsibil- ity of workers (e.g., Attewell, 1985; Baran, 19851. At the clerical level, for example, by using centralized data bases, customer service representatives can handle all of the transactions associated with a client's account, taking orders, entering data, making adjustments, and answering inquiries (Baran and Teegar- den, 1984; Baran, 1985; Feldberg, 19861. At a more professional level, using new workstations managers can have greater control over more stages of their

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156 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS vances: the development of microcomputers, decreases in computer-memory prices, increased transmission speeds between video displays and central pro- cessing units, and refinements in software. The recent changes in clerical work in the insurance industries depend on hardware and software improvements that allow integration of formerly separate data bases (Baran, 1985~. Improvements in technology are not necessarily technologically determined, however. The most effective designs are likely to have been informed by inter- actions with potential users of the product (e.g., Maidique and Hayes, 1984; Maidique and Zirger, 19841. This interaction often occurs through usefulness and usability testing in developers' laboratories, through consultation with cli- ents for whom a system is being developed, through the involvement of users in the development process, and through market feedback some designs sell well and others do not. It is also possible for potential purchasers and users to influence design more directly. Large purchasers have enough purchasing power to set requirements on manufacturers for their automated equipment. Smaller purchasers and worker organizations can share evaluations of auto- mated systems, as the National Education Association does for educational software and 9-to-5 does for VDTs. In addition, some hardware and software have been designed to allow flexi- bility for the end-user. For example, some computer displays have adjustable character sizes and fonts as well as screens that rotate to reduce glare, and some computer programs adjust to the expertise of the user and allow the user to create new commands or to redefine old ones. Such flexibility is important to accommodate the personal preferences of individual users. Constituent Conflicts and Value Contradictions It is inevitable that the in- terests of parties involved in the introduction of technology into the workplace will differ. As stressed above, the decision of top managers to invest in technol- ogy often stems from a desire to reduce labor costs or to increase market share or product quality. Westin (1985) notes that, in the sites he visited, managers saw the balance between needs for cost control and needs for an effective work force as crucial. When vast sums are at stake, one can imagine that employment quality may take a back seat to more immediate economic concerns. For exam- ple, in 1983 the Bell operating companies employed approximately 35,000 directory or information assistance operators, who handled approximately 5 billion calls per year. In deciding to invest in new technology, the telephone companies use as a rule of thumb that a second of an operator's time costs 1.1 cents, which translates to $55 million per second for all directory assistance calls. These figures provided managers with powerful motivations to adopt technology and work procedures that reduce the time operators spend per call. The recent introduction of machine-generated reporting of telephone numbers

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 157 to customers saves on average seven seconds per call; the dollar savings if this were introduced in all telephone companies would be more than one-third of a billion dollars per year. These potential savings, of course, must be weighed against increases in capital expenses and technical support; and, as Iacono and Kling (1986) note, technology has traditionally been touted for potential labor savings that are often not realized. Even when the motivation for adopting technology is improved product or service quality rather than labor savings, effective use of technology may con- flict with improved employment quality. For example, in the early 1980s the U.S. Social Security Administration changed the computer support for some of its claims representatives from a batch-oriented system, in which claims repre- sentatives entered a request and received a response approximately four hours later, to an on-line system, in which the response came within four minutes. With the on-line system, claims representatives could do a much better job of interviewing clients and establishing their entitlement to social security benefits in a timely way. But, as a result of the system, the claims representatives han- dled more cases per day, had more mental strain symptoms, and greater absen- teeism (Turner, 1984~. In this case it appears that better tools made worse jobs; increased interaction with clients and their problems and the difficulty of mak- ing decisions about them decreased job quality. Of course as the urban banking example of worker participation in implementation pointed out (Center for Ca- reer Research and Human Resources Management, 1985; reported in Chapter 2, this volume), the trade-off between improved productivity and improved employment quality is not inevitable. But even this generally favorable intro- duction of information technology was perceived as benefiting clerical staff more than it benefited the managerial staff, demonstrating the difficulty in mak- ing changes that have uniform benefits for everyone affected. THE ROLE OF WORKERS Although there is much that employers can do to implement technology in ways that preserve or enhance job quality, many factors constrain the ways in which computer and telecommunications technologies are introduced. In addi- tion, as noted above, the goals that even the best-intentioned managers attempt to achieve are not necessarily compatible. Productivity, service quality, and employment quality do not necessarily go together. All of this implies that workers cannot simply rely on the goodwill of employers to ensure that technol- ogy is used humanely. Given the potential conflict between implementers of technology (usually managers) and workers, especially women workers, who use it on a day-to-day basis, workers need mechanisms to represent their inter- ests in decisions affecting employment quality. This section first describes

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158 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS types of worker participation in the design and implementation of technologies, then considers their general effectiveness, and finally provides some detailed examples of participation by organized workers. Worker Participation in Technology Design and Implementation The long tradition in American management from the early joint employer/ employee committees in the 1820s and 1830s (Guzda, 1984), to the Morse and Reimer (1956) study in the 1950s, to the present day (e.g., Katzell and Guzzo, 1983) has documented that worker participation in what are traditionally thought to be managerial decisions (including work scheduling and the design of job activities) can lead to increases in workers' satisfaction with their jobs and to increases in organizational effectiveness. Worker participation affects employment quality and job satisfaction in two ways. First, it changes the contents of the decisions, because it provides a mechanism through which workers' interests are represented. Workers who will use information technol- ogy are often the only ones in a position to know enough about their jobs to design technology that articulates with those jobs; thus, their participation en- hances the effectiveness of the new technology. Participation also helps ensure that information technology is not used in ways that decrease employment qual- ity. Second, participation in decision making is intrinsically satisfying for many people and leads to increased commitment to decisions simply as a result of the process by which they were reached. Because worker participation generally has had positive effects in other contexts, it is likely to have positive effects when applied to technology as well. Workers' participation can take two basic forms: informal participatory practices, which are the constantly evolving activities, knowledge, and exper- tise that workers bring to bear on many workplace policies; and formal rights giving workers an explicit role to play in company decision making concerning new technology (Howard and Schneider, 19851. The two forms are comple- mentary. Without formal rights, informal participatory practices can be under- mined or ignored when workers' interests collide with those of managers or technology designers. Without informal participatory practices, formal rights are rarely fully realized. Many mechanisms exist for involving workers in design and implementation decisions. One of the most effective has been for workers to actively propose designs at both the research and development stages and then iteratively pro- vide feedback for modifying the design of new generations of hardware and software products. This often happens in the professions, where workers have more control over the development of technology because of their status and expertise. As described in Chapter 2, such involvement is one route through which nurses have influenced the design of information technology in the medi-

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 159 cat professions. They communicated with each other about the technological possibilities, consulted with technology vendors, and became developers of technology themselves. It has also happened among craft workers where, for example, printers have joined with computer scientists to design an integrated text-and-image processing system for newspaper text entry, image enhance- ment, pagination, and layout (Howard, 1985~. It is instructive to consider the way in which computer programs that aid decision making about clients or patients have been used in different occupa- tions and so have had different influences on the design and implementation process. For example, for physicians a program might accept as data a patient's symptoms and risk factors and the probability of a disease in the relevant popu- lation to categorize a patient as diseased or not. For a customer service repre- sentative in a utility company, the program might accept as data a customer's payment history with the company, the size of the current bill, and the probabil- ity of nonpayment in the general population to categorize the credit risk of a customer. While software for disease and credit-risk assessment could be very similar, they are in fact very different. Physicians' software is generally not used to make diagnosis but to train medical students in diagnosis (Richer, 1986), to provide them with graphics tools allowing them to see the implica- tions of their tests (Cole, 1986), and to offer a system that provides a second opinion with explanations of discrepancies between a physician's judgment and that of the software (Langlotz and Shortliffe, 19831. In all of this software, the physician has access to the data and the rules that the software uses in ways that allow the physician to understand and challenge its assumptions and conclu- sions. In contrast, for a customer service representative in telephone companies (Dumais et al., 1986), the software schedules a service representative's tele- phone contacts with customers based on such data as the size of the current bill, the length of time that a bill has been overdue, and the action to be taken- without providing the representative fast access to either the data, the schedul- ing rules, or the application of the rules to a particular customer. Appelbaum (1984) and Baran (1985) find a similar lack of access to the software's decision- making rules in the insurance industry: the software makes decisions on whether to insure and at what rate based on data the insurance clerk enters. The clerk has very limited ability to interact with the software in understanding how decisions are made. There are many reasons for the differences in these systems, but one is that physicians have been more involved in the design of the software as designers, consultants, and research funders. In addition, since physicians are generally discretionary users of computer software, they can limit their use to systems that aid them without usurping what they consider to be their responsibilities, autonomy, and expertise. Thus, to gain physicians as clients, software devel- opers provided systems that do not impinge on physicians' autonomy.

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160 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS Other mechanisms for increasing workers' influence include legislation and regulation, for example, codetermination legislation that requires employers to inform workers about plans for future developments and to initiate discussions and negotiations on new technology before the changes or final decisions take place (e.g., 1977 Swedish Act of Codetermination); negotiated collective agreements about technology on national, corporate, or establishment levels (e.g., the 1984 typographers' contract discussed in Chapter 2~; and more infor- mal discussion and influence, both in the context of worker representation on implementation committees (e.g., Yin and Moore, 1984) and the normal infor- mal consultation between managers and other workers that is common in small offices (Evans, 1983~. The Effectiveness of Worker Participation Evaluations of the effectiveness of user involvement in the design of infor- mation technology are sparse. They suggest that users' involvement in the de- sign and implementation of information technology can be a mechanism to improve its effectiveness and to improve the jobs in which it is used. For exam- ple, in her study of the design and implementation of computer systems in six British organizations, Mumford (1981) notes that effort is expended on human goals such as job satisfaction during the system design and implementation processes only if they are explicit design goals. Those who participate directly in the early stages of the system design process are able to influence the nature of the goals set and hence the way in which the system ultimately operates. If users participate in or control the design of the system, the goals that are impor- tant to users, such as job satisfaction, are more likely to be attained. In several ofthe organizations that she studied, however, managers and system designers, not users, were responsible for trying to design information systems that would meet users' needs. The effectiveness of worker involvement in information system design and implementation depends vitally on the organizational context in which partici- pation takes place and on the procedures through which it is accomplished. Mechanisms for worker participation vary in the scope of workers' interests that are represented and the degree of influence that workers have. The Com- mission of the European Communities (1984) reports on the concept of "design space" developed by J. Bessant to help understand the range of issues open for negotiation when implementing technology; the concept has been elaborated by a group of researchers investigating worker involvement in five European countries (Commission of the European Communities, 19841. Design space can be thought of as the range of choices about technology, work, and work organization that are possible. Constraints that limit the choices include the available technology, the regulation of industrial relations, company character-

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 161 istics such as industrial sector, size, type of production process, and such envi- ronmental determinants as economic climate, competitors' behavior, state of the market, and availability of resources. It is important to note that the range of available choices is itself a point for negotiation. The range of issues that can be included in the design space is broad. Analysis of European cases shows that it includes at least the following (Commission of the European Communities, 19841: changes in the organiza- tion of the firm and its investment in automation (e.g., company organization, degree and timing of automation), changes in the organization of work (e.g., division of labor, job composition and skill requirements, job autonomy and cooperation, pace of work, training, recruitment and promotion, grading and pay), and the actual hardware and software technology. Decisions made early in the implementation process constrain the choices that can be made later (Mumford, 19811. For example, a decision to hire spe- cialists to perform data-base searches in a law office constrains the work organi- zation of legal secretaries and, therefore, the nature of the technology they use. This funnel of choice implies that if worker involvement in technological change is to be effective, it must include involvement at early stages. Because users of computerized information systems are sources of expert information about the jobs that are to be automated, political actors whose acceptance of or resistance to information systems can determine their success, and workers whose knowledge, training, and skill in actually operating a sys- tem will determine if it.is used effectively, a number of developers of informa- tion technology have involved potential users of their systems in design, imple- mentation, and training. They have solicited their opinions during the design of the systems, informed and involved them during the implementation process, and provided them adequate training after the systems have been installed. The Digital Equipment Corporation, for example, advocates a user participation methodology developed with Enid Mumford and known as ETHICS Effec- tive Technical and Human Implementation of Computer-Based Systems (Mumford and Weir, 1979; Bancroft, 1982; Bancroft et al., node. Once an office is slated for automation, a broad-based design group of workers analyzes their own workplace, proposes alternative ways of organizing work tasks, and helps select appropriate technology. This design group works in consultation with technical experts and under the guidance of a management steering com- mittee that sets the design group's charter. But as Howard and Schneider (1985) note, these approaches are often ineffective in representing workers' interests because they are often used as marketing tools by vendors to sell products to skeptical buyers, rasher then as genuine mechanisms to solicit information from users. Second, the "users" who are consulted are often first-line managers, that is, users' supervisors, rather than the day-to-day users of the technology. Third, the scope of what user groups are allowed to consider is constrained by manage-

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162 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS ment oversight, and many of the crucial decisions about need for technology, spending levels, personnel requirements, layoffs, and job design are made without users' input or influence. Fourth, user groups that operate at the level of an establishment or even a firm have limited scope for influence and can rarely enlarge the set of technological alternatives available in the marketplace from which they must select. Finally, because such user groups operate at the conve- nience of management, they have no formal rights in corporate decision making to rely on if the informal consultation arrangements founder. Organized Worker Involvement A number of techniques have been used in the United States to generally increase workers' involvement in managerial decision making. These include, among others, problem-solving groups and quality circles, whose purpose is to identify and analyze workplace problems and present solutions and implemen- tation plans to management for approval; autonomous work groups, which collaborate in the completion of work tasks and have responsibility for imple- menting solutions and controlling the day-to-day scheduling, standards, and flow of their own work; and business teams, in which workers participate with managers in decisions affecting product development (Gorlin and Schein, 19841. Worker participation programs have been used primarily in manufactur- ing companies, generally with union representation. They have rarely dealt with technology design, often focusing on local quality-of-work-life issues, including employee morale, safety and environmental health, scheduling ar- rangements, absenteeism, overtime, bonus payments, job alignment, and, oc- casionally, product quality. Both in the United States and in Europe, unionized workers have negotiated technology agreements that provide mechanisms for union involvement in the implementation of technology in their industries (see Chapter 2~. Both proce- dural provisions about the manner in which technological change should occur and substantive provisions about the content of technological change are often included in these agreements. Typical agreements include the following (Evans, 19831: Management provides workers advance information about plans for tech- nological change. Joint management/union committees discuss, monitor, and negotiate change at the corporate and establishment level. Unions have access to outside expertise to guide their technological deci- s~ons. Employers provide employment security following the introduction of new technology.

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT . 163 Employers provide adequate retraining to workers whose jobs are changed or eliminated. Joint management/union committees monitor the impact of new technol- ogy on the quality of working life. For example, in the United States the 1980 contract between the Communi- cations Workers of America (CWA) and AT&T set up shop-floor committees on the quality of work life, which could address local technology issues, and higher-level technology change committees, in which, according to the lan- guage of the formal letter of agreement, the unions could "discuss major tech- nological changes with management before they were introduced" (reported in Howard and Schneider, 19851. The quality circles in the Bell system, like many others, have dealt primarily with matters affecting the immediate workplace environment, such as scheduling, management attitudes, and office environ- ment, and, according to Howard and Schneider (1985:14), "have been an im- portant vehicle for building workers' informal participatory practice at the local level." Technological change, however, has generally not been addressed. The technology change committees, intended to be a forum for discussing broad policy issues about technology, have been generally ineffective: a 1983 study (reported in Howard and Schneider, 1985) found that during the first three years of the program nearly two-thirds of the committees had yet to meet. The agreement by AT&T to provide the unions with six months' advance notice of all major technological changes provided insufficient time for union influence on technologies that often required years between planning and implementa- tion. In addition, the notification agreement gave unions no formal rights to participate in the conception, design, or testing of new technological systems. Finally, neither the union nor corporate representatives on the committees had timely information about the types of systems that were being developed. The corporate representatives were typically labor relations personnel with exper- tise in dealing with unions, not technology. Engineers, systems designers, and technical managers were rarely committee members. European, especially Scandinavian, countries have higher levels of union- ization than the United States; relatively homogeneous societies (compared with the United States); a tradition of industrial democracy, with a 20-year history of worker participation in many aspects of workplace decision making; and the reinforcement of contract provisions by parallel provisions in laws and regulations. As a result, technology agreements in Europe have been more elaborated and much more effective than in the United States. In contrast to the relatively limited and unsuccessful U. S. experiences in worker participation in technological change, many European examples show that worker participa- tion can have substantial impact on how technology and work is designed. Much of the evidence about participation in the design of technology comes

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164 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS from the Scandinavian factory experiments of the 1970s (Norstedt and Aguren, 1973; Aguren et al., 1976; Thorsrud et al., 19761. In these projects, factory workers, both directly and through union representation, participated along with management and staff groups in the design of the workplace, the design and selection of the technology used to do jobs, and the design of jobs. They also made many of the day-to-day decisions about how tasks are organized and work is scheduled. For example, in the Volvo factory at Kalmar, Sweden, so- cial goals were identified early (Pehr Gyllenhammar, quoted in Aguren et al., 1976:5~: to organize automobile production in such a way that employees can find meaning and satisfaction in their work . . . [to] give employees the opportunity to work in groups, to communicate freely, to shift among work assignments, to be conscious of responsibility for quality, and to influence their own work environment. These goals led groups of foremen, technicians, architects, and trade union- ists to emphasize team assembly when they designed conveyance and assembly equipment, its controlling software, and work organizations. Within the con- straints of the installed equipment, the teams could decide how assembly would be done. Evaluations suggest that by conventional criteria of quantity, quality, and costs, the new methods are acceptable, equaling conventional assembly methods. Some of the traditional problems of assembly work absence and turnoverare reduced. In addition, the new methods changed the content of work, giving workers longer work cycles, job rotation, and more control over task allocation, for example. As a result, workers were very satisfied. The involvement of the Norwegian Bank Employees Union (BNF) in the banking industry provides an example more relevant to women and information technology (Howard and Schneider, 19851. Women make up about one-half of the union membership. They generally hold the lowest-paying jobs, 68 percent have no professional training, and nearly 70 percent work part time. To ensure that these women would not be trapped in low-wage, dead-end jobs as technol- ogy transformed the banking industry, the union emphasized access to training in its technology policy. Union and management set aside 40 percent of the places at their joint industry training center for women, and the union negoti- ated special arrangements for training working mothers. The BNF developed elaborate structures to guarantee workers' participation in technological development, and union representatives participated actively in the design of new computer-based systems. For example, in 1982, 80 bank employees, working in 10-person groups, developed the preliminary software specifications for a $70 million computer system for savings banks. When sys- tem designers proposed a new automated loan processing system, a union- management team evaluated its consistency with organization goals. They sug- gested such changes as retaining decision-making power to grant or withhold

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THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT 165 loans with loan officers rather than delegating these decisions to a computer algorithm. In addition, union representatives maintained informal relationships with bank technical personnel, both to educate them about the union's social goals and to influence the design process. Similar strategies are reported for female-dominated workplaces in Norway, such as the postal services and pub- lic libraries (Bermann, 19851. These examples show that union involvement can be a mechanism for worker participation in technological design and implementation. However, given the large differences between European and U.S. societies, one might be skeptical about the applicability of the European experience to our own (but see Mumford and Weir, 1979, and Mumford, 1983, for a counterargument). Dif- ferent mechanisms for worker involvement may be necessary in the United States, especially to ensure worker involvement among the highly nonun- ionized female labor force in service industries. CONCLUSION In the United States managers are generally responsible for decisions to in- troduce information technology. While there is much that enlightened man- agers can do to ensure that information technology is used in ways that enhance jobs, most managers do not include users of the technology in the decision- making process and rarely treat employment quality as an explicit and impor- tant determinant of their decisions. Women clerical workers in particular have little direct influence in implementation decisions, because of their position at the lower end of the organizational hierarchy, their lack of collective represen- tation, and their generally lesser technical knowledge. The inevitable differ- ences in interests between managers and workers suggest that workers need mechanisms to participate in technological design and implementation. Worker participation programs in both the United States and Europe have been used to improve both general organizational effectiveness and employment quality. Worker involvement in the design and implementation of technology in gen- eral, and union involvement in particular, are not panaceas, however. Unions can be as autocratic and unrepresentative of their members as managers are of workers (Lipset et al., 19561. Direct participation by individual workers in the technological decisions that will affect their own jobs implies a limited scope for their influence, limited to the establishment in which they work and to technology already developed. If participation is to be effective, it must be involving, not merely formal, and strong ties between representatives and their constituencies must be maintained (Katz and Kahn, 1978~. Managers, with their superior power and resources, can often manipulate workers while provid- ing a facade of participation. These asymmetries in power may be especially important during a period of rapid technological change.

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166 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS However it is done, true participation is very difficult to achieve. As Katz and Kahn (1978:767) conclude: Research, experience, and experimentation agree that participation in organizations can be increased substantially over conventional bureaucratic practice, with positive effects. The data also agree that the process of attaining such increases is not easy, that it implies changes beyond what most organization leaders are prepared to initiate spontaneously, and that some conventional positions of supervision and technical specialization are explicitly threatened by the participative process. Whatever mechanisms for participation are developed, they must, in the long run, contribute to economic viability. Worker participation, management inter- ests, employment quality, productivity improvement, and competitiveness are all factors that enter into the long term viability of economic activity.