tools of occupational analysis shape how people work—what we label in Figure 1.1 the content of work. The content and structure of jobs, in turn, dictate the kinds of knowledge, skills, and abilities that employees are likely to require and also affect important outcomes, such as the quantity, quality, and efficiency of work; the performance of organizations; and the psychological, social, and economic rewards people achieve through work.
Although it is possible to draw conclusions about why the nature of work and occupations are changing, it is difficult to say with certainty what the changes imply. First, data on the way in which work is changing are ambiguous. For instance, one can point simultaneously to studies that suggest that the new world of work will require greater cognitive and interpersonal skills and to other studies that suggest that fewer such skills will be needed than in the past. Frequently, these conflicting images arise because researchers have used different methods or have studied different types of work (Spenner, 1990, 1995), but in some cases researchers have reached conflicting conclusions after studying similar occupations using similar methods (Kuhn, 1989). Similarly, researchers who have studied changing organizational practices differ over whether the use of teams and advanced technologies universally increases (Mankin et al., 1996; Cotton, 1993; Cohen and Bailey, 1997) or decreases (Babson, 1995; Barker, 1993; Graham, 1995) workers' skills and autonomy, or whether the outcomes are contingent on organizational context (Adler, 1993; Appelbaum and Batt, 1994; Berggren, 1992; Klein, 1989).
Second, studies that examine what workers actually do and how they do it are surprisingly rare. Most studies that pass as investigations of the changing nature of work actually examine changing organizational or employment practices; although these certainly affect work, they are not the same as work content or practices. For example, studies of the replacement of full-time employees by temporary employees tell us nothing about what full-time and temporary employees do at work. Although situated studies of work have a venerable history in sociology, the number of sociologists who currently study work activities in de-