Our purpose in this book is to clarify the terms of this debate by providing guidance on how to understand changes in work and effectively assess their implications for the changing structure of occupations in the United States. To this end, we examine existing evidence on how the nature of work and the composition of the workforce are changing in both the civilian and the military sectors and review existing systems of occupational analysis and classification. We then delineate the implications of our findings about the changing nature of work for developing tools and approaches to occupational analysis and classification. Our intent is to sort through what is changing and what is not in order to provide an interpretive framework that will aid both organizational decision makers and members of the workforce as they contemplate decisions about career selection and progression. We suggest that by better understanding the full array of forces affecting work and further developing the occupational analysis tools to take account of these changes, decision makers may be better equipped to shape work, occupations, and organizations for generations to come. Indeed, a better understanding of how the forces driving change interact with labor market policies and institutions and with organizational and individual decisions can give decision makers greater control over the future of work and its consequences for individuals, organizations, and society.

Framework for Analyzing the Changing Nature of Work

To better describe and track the nature of work, and possibly to gain greater control over how people work, it is first necessary to understand and consider the full range of forces that shape work and how these forces are changing. Figure 1.1 lays out the framework we use to analyze these forces and their effects on work.

When people speak of "the nature of work," they usually refer to one or more of four tightly related aspects of a society's primary mode of production. The first is what people do for a living, the occupations or primary lines of work that characterize a society at a particular point in time. Second is the content of work or how people do what they do: the techniques, technologies,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement