Conclusions and Implications
As noted in Chapter 1, the nature of work and its role in society are changing in ways that have sparked considerable debate among social critics and scholars from multiple disciplines who study work. In this book we have analyzed how the nature of work and the occupational structure in the United States are changing and discussed the implications of these changes for how the tools of occupational analysis and classification can be used to bundle jobs together into work structures. We have attempted to sort out what is changing and what is not and to provide an interpretative framework that will aid organizational decision makers and members of the workforce as they go about making choices that will not only shape the world of work but also the future of numerous stakeholders. In this final chapter, we present our key findings, discuss their implications for decision makers in both the civilian and military sectors, and suggest directions for future research.
Our analysis has been guided by the following four broad themes: (1) there is increased diversity in the workforce and within occupations, (2) traditional occupational boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred, (3) the range of choices open to human resources managers and other decision makers about how to structure work appears to be increasing, and (4) there is a need
for occupational analysts to think systematically about the range of forces influencing how work is structured. We start by summarizing the major findings underlying these themes, then we present implications for occupational analysis, for the military, and for policy and research.
Throughout this volume we have presented evidence that work is changing; that occupational analysis and classification systems such as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles are backward-looking and do not accurately represent the structure of work today; and that a better system is needed that adequately describes the current status of work, takes into account the forces that influence the nature of work, and can be easily and frequently updated as changes occur. A logical but more speculative extension of our analysis of the role of occupational analysis systems is the vision that, if these tools can be designed to be forward-looking, they can serve as analytic aids to decision makers in designing jobs and in creating human resource management policies. In the view of the committee, this is an area in which future research and experimentation should be vigorously pursued.
Summary of the Evidence on the Changing Nature of Work
Some of the changes in work documented in this volume are long-term and evolutionary in nature and some are of more recent origin. The most visible long-term changes can be seen in the evolution of the overall structure of occupations. The past several decades have witnessed a gradual expansion of technical and professional occupations, as blue-collar and farming occupations have declined. Managerial employment has remained relatively constant, although the work traditionally thought to be the province of managers is now being shared with employees across different levels of the occupational hierarchy, especially in cases in which high-performance work systems are being used. Both lower-level and professional service occupations are expanding.
These trends are likely to continue, although the pace of change will be gradual and evolutionary.
The cumulative effects of changes in the occupational structure should change the images of work that have been carried over from the days when industrial work was dominant. Yet old images, and the institutions and policies they fostered, may still too often dominate analysis and actions that affect work. Distinctions between blue-collar and managerial work and exempt and nonexempt employees continue to influence the characterizations of occupations and the policies and practices that govern work. These images and categories are no longer as useful as they once were for describing what workers actually do. Many rest on the cultural dichotomy between mental and manual work and on the notion that those who do the former rarely do the latter and vice versa. Although the distinction may have always been easier to make in theory than in practice, studies of work indicate that the distinction is less viable than ever. For instance, technicians' work is almost always marked by a fusion of sensorimotor skills and extensive knowledge of body of a scientific or technical knowledge. The diffusion of advanced information and control technologies and quality control techniques into factories has brought a significant amount of analytic and symbolic work onto the factory floor. As professionals and managers join the ranks of contingent employees, many shift from being paid salaries to being paid by the hour. Rethinking outmoded images and categories and their implications for how work is structured is critical to creating a more accurate and useful map for job designers, personnel managers, career counselors, and employers.
The demographic characteristics of the labor force continue to evolve and change. The dominant effect of these trends is to increase the diversity of the labor force, particularly with respect to age, education, race, sex, and marital status. For our purposes, the key feature of this increased diversity is that much of it is occurring within occupational groups and therefore may have significant implications for occupational analysis systems. Occupations are more likely than in the past to have a mix of workers of
various tenures and workers earning different wages. This internal variation provides prima facie evidence that the correspondence between the jobs these workers are performing and the occupational classifications used to label them may be breaking down. Jobs are shaped by the interactive effect of (1) managerial and engineering choices with respect to work design and technology and (2) the knowledge, skills, abilities, and outlooks that individuals bring to the job. The increased variation in demographics that we are witnessing within any one occupation suggests the prospect of broader variation in job content. Going beyond this suggestive evidence, however, requires more intensive and direct analysis of the tasks workers are actually performing.
Changes in product and financial markets are producing changes in the nature of work. Product market forces are having two different effects. Increased domestic and global price competition has put pressure on labor costs. As a result, jobs that in the past paid high premiums but that can be supplied more cheaply in other countries or in domestic enterprises that pay competitive market rates are moving to these lower-cost environments and organizations. This is particularly true of semiskilled blue-collar work in both manufacturing and services. Wage competition is one cause of the restructuring experienced in American industry in recent years.
Along with increased price competition, markets have changed in ways that require increased capacity and speed in developing and introducing new and more varied products. This in turn increases pressures within organizations for flexibility in work organization and sets off an interrelated set of changes in organizational structures and human resource practices: specifically, flatter hierarchies, greater horizontal or cross-functional coordination through teams, and personnel policies designed to support increased flexibility and adaptability. The rapid change in product and service markets and product life cycles suggests that there is more rapid churning in the knowledge base required of employees who design and produce these goods and services.
Knowledge and skill obsolescence is likely to be of growing concern for occupational analysis.
Financial market pressures appear to have exerted an increased role in the structure of work in recent years. Increased shareholder activism has disciplined managers to be more efficient in the use of physical, financial, and human assets. Sometimes this has led to the shedding of operations and employees not central to the core competencies of the firm. Managerial compensation has been tied more tightly to firm performance, and downsizing (typically without success) has been used as a preemptive strategy to improve financial performance rather than as a last resort in response to financial crises (Cappelli, 1999; Cascio, 1993). As a result, employees across the occupational spectrum, from entry-level workers to top executives, have been exposed to risks of restructuring and downsizing. The increased volume and volatility of global capital also contributes to uncertainty. The effects of these financial forces have not, however, been well researched but represent another potentially important factor that should be brought into the analysis of how work is structured and changing in today's organizations. Deepening understanding of how financial markets and institutions affect the context and content of work and their consequences for firms, employees, and other stakeholders represents an important research priority for the future.
Digitization: A New Technical Infrastructure
Changes in technology serve as another strong external influence on the structure of work and content of jobs. Innovations in digital technologies are clearly the most important technical developments of our time and are leading some to suggest that their ultimate effects will be equivalent to those of the first and second industrial revolutions. Although there is insufficient evidence to describe digitization as the kind of technological infrastructure that will produce a third industrial revolution, digital technologies are exerting profound effects on both the content of jobs and the occupational structure.
Like other major technical developments of the past, digital technologies are having at least three effects. First, they are chang-
ing the mix of jobs. New jobs such as computer scientists, programmers, and technicians have arisen while printing press operators, telephone and telegraphic operators, bank tellers, and other occupations that revolved around manual or mechanical means of processing information have declined. Second, by increasing the number of people across the occupational structure whose jobs involve the use of information processing technologies, the skills required to do many jobs have either increased or decreased. On balance, the evidence suggests that more workers are experiencing an increase than a decrease in skills as a result of digitization. Third, digitization is changing the types of skills needed, particularly by reducing some of the manual and sensory-based skills and increasing the analytic and information processing requirements of many production jobs and shifting the emphasis from mechanical manipulation to use of digital symbols and information.
If, as some believe, digitization represents a new technological infrastructure equivalent to the first and second industrial revolution, then the pace of technological change and its impacts on work and occupations may only be in its early stages and will probably accelerate in future years. Historians will have to make the judgment on this issue many years hence. In the meantime, to serve those who design occupational analysis systems and other decision makers, we require more direct observation and systematic sampling of the broad range of jobs affected by these technologies. We stress particularly the need to go beyond the debate over up- or down-skilling and to consider the extent of the reconfiguration of skills and the rapidity of change in the knowledge and skill content of jobs, both of which have important implications for occupational analysis and the design of education and training systems. Capturing the changes in the skill mix involves analysis of the changing analytical, interactive aspects of work as well as the degree of control or discretion associated with a change in technology.
All of these external forces—changes in demographics, markets, and technologies—both partially cause and interact with the
significant amount of organizational restructuring that has occurred in the past two decades. Restructuring has taken a variety of forms, but three are most salient in their effects on work structures and occupations: (1) downsizing, (2) flattening organizational hierarchies and greater reliance on teams for both vertical and horizontal coordination, and (3) changing employment practices and relations.
Downsizing has led to increased job insecurity, particularly for managerial employees. When evaluating the evidence on changes in job security, it is important to differentiate changes in job stability from job displacement. Stability, as measured by average tenure, is a function of both voluntary and involuntary quits. The best evidence from national samples indicates that at best there has been only a rather small decline in overall job stability in the 1990s. Job displacement, (i.e., involuntary quits or terminations) however, shows a decline from a peak in the recession years of 1981–1983 but then an increase again in the early 1990s. Perceptions of job security, as reported in survey data from nationally representative samples in 1985 and 1995, also declined. Consistent with the evidence from the other surveys discussed above, the declines in job security have been greater for managerial employees than for others. For example, over two-thirds (68 percent) of employers reported in one survey that they provided employment security for managerial employees in the past but no longer do so.
Thus, changes in employment stability and security might be summarized as follows: (1) involuntary separations have increased, particularly for managerial employees in large firms, (2) voluntary quits have declined, and (3) perceptions of job security have declined. This does not, however, add up to a picture of the disappearance of all long-term jobs, as some popular reports on downsizing and restructuring suggest. It does, however, mean that the employment relationship has become more uncertain. At the same time that firms were downsizing, many were also hiring. This was particularly true of smaller firms. This high level of
job churning increases the importance of having information about jobs across firm boundaries.
The flattening of hierarchies not only reduces the number of managerial employees but also delegates greater authority to lower-level employees. Middle managers have been among the hardest hit from both layoffs and the redefinition of work roles. Yet, surprisingly, few researchers have directly observed and reported on the actual nature of contemporary middle management work. (An exception is the work of Floyd and Wooldridge, 1996.) Instead, most of the studies we have used to assess the effects of restructuring on managerial work focus on the changes in employment conditions. These indeed are quite significant and visible. Job security—actual and perceived—has declined. Promotion opportunities appear to be limited and more open to competition from external candidates. Managerial compensation has been put at risk with higher percentages of pay coming in the form of performance bonuses. Use of outside contractors or consultants for specialized managerial tasks appears to have increased.
Increased Use of Teams
Among the most visible changes in the structure of work is the increased use of teams. The use of teams reflects both a desire to move discretion to lower organizational levels and the need to enhance horizontal communications, coordination, and problem solving across traditional job and organizational boundaries. Because the use of teams has such a profound effect on how work is done, we discuss their role in greater detail below in the section devoted to changes in the content of work.
Changing Employment Relations
Taken together, the changes in demographics, markets, technologies, and organizational structures and processes have exerted a profound effect on implicit and explicit employment
contracts and conditions of employment in the civilian sector. Some of these effects were discussed earlier, and it is worth summarizing the key changes identified in previous chapters that bear on the nature of work and occupational structures. Wage inequality has increased and, for our purposes, it is important to note that a considerable portion of the increase is observed within occupations. Although job security and job stability have declined, the decline in job stability in recent years has been relatively slightly increased because of hiring by smaller firms and the reduction in voluntary quits. Union membership, particularly among blue-collar workers, continued its long-term decline simultaneously with significant innovation within union-management relations. Nonstandard employment, particularly with respect to the use of temporary workers and independent contractors, has increased.
Changes in Content of Work
Whether the trends observed within organizations continue into the future, stabilize at their current levels, or reverse directions cannot be easily predicted since the direction and interaction of the forces acting on these trends (both exogenous and internal to the organization) are not easily predicted. However, taken together, the changes in the external and organizational contexts of work are having significant effects on the content of work. Indeed, the changes in work content summarized below are most profound in settings that are heavily exposed to or affected by the confluence of external and organizational contextual forces discussed above.
No single trend captures the changes in how work is done today. We characterize the dominant patterns observed by examining four aspects of work that are changing in significant ways in response to the changing contexts of work described above.
Control and Discretion
The vertical division of labor is changing in organizations that have flattened their hierarchies, turned to team forms of work organization, and adopted human resource policies often de-
scribed as "high-performance work systems." Moreover, in these settings blue-collar and managerial jobs are undergoing significant changes that are blurring the traditional lines of demarcation that separated these traditional categories. The autonomy of blue-collar workers has increased and some of the responsibilities traditionally reserved for supervisors, such as quality control, scheduling, and other operational responsibilities, have been delegated to nonsupervisory workers. This does not mean that blue-collar workers have gained significant control over what work is to be performed. Instead, their new authority involves greater discretion over how to do their work.
Although the trend in organizations that have adopted high-performance work systems is toward greater operational discretion, the trend is not universal. Discretion has been reduced in some service and manufacturing jobs that are designed to serve mass markets using more rational processes and information systems that management uses to monitor and control the pace and quality of work.
Because of the foregoing changes associated with increasingly decentralized autonomy and control, the scope of blue-collar jobs is expanding, particularly in settings that make use of teams or other high-performance features to improve quality, innovation, and customer responsiveness. At the same time, the growth of specialized scientific knowledge has increased demand for specialists with state-of-the-art technical knowledge. Furthermore, professionals and technicians with specialized knowledge are more frequently working in interdependent, multidisciplinary, and cross-functional teams.
The cognitive complexity of work appears to be increasing for blue-collar and service workers as a result of the technical and the organizational changes discussed above. The dominant trend is toward work that mixes physical and sensory skills with higher-level cognitive skills required by information processing technolo-
gies. Technical, professional, and managerial work has always entailed high cognitive content. Although there is no clear evidence to suggest that the cognitive levels of these jobs are changing in a significant way, the types of cognitive skills that are required may be changing, as we discuss below.
Interactive and Relationship Requirements
Interpersonal interactions are becoming more important in many jobs. Interdependence and more direct interactions with other employees, customers, clients, and patients increase the importance of both substantive and emotional interactions that require skills in communications, problem solving, and negotiations.
The Broader Debates About Jobs and Work
One purpose of this study was to clarify, with the best evidence available, some of the popular debates about the future of work and provide a richer interpretive framework for tracking changes in work in the future. We summarize our judgments on these issues here.
Singular Trends Versus Constrained Choices
The evidence cautions us against making definitive statements about unidirectional trends. Although some trends do appear to be dominant, too much emphasis has heretofore been placed on identifying single trajectories and grand predictions regarding the future of work. Instead, we see increased variance within occupations and multiple options for shaping jobs and for grouping them into occupations. Thus the future of jobs will not be determined solely by the forces of technology, demographics, or markets but by the interaction of these forces with the strategies, missions, organizational structures, and employment policies that decision makers implement in specific settings. Choice remains important even when options are constrained by external events and when consequences for organizations, individuals, and society are imperfectly predictable.
For example, especially in settings in which markets are un-
certain and goals are unclear, it is critical for people to coordinate with each other and communicate with clients, even though it might be possible to use information technology to support and rationalize work. Work in such settings is likely to be more productive if it allows high discretion, flexibility, and the opportunity to work in teams to solve problems, analyze data, and negotiate over courses of action or the meaning of information. In such environments, failing to structure work in this way will likely result in lower levels of workers' performance and a less rewarding experience for the individuals involved. Changing some but not all of these features may produce mixed results and perhaps unstable arrangements.
The available evidence on the effects of high-performance work systems illustrates this point. Numerous quantitative studies from different industries suggest that when work practices and human resource policies are combined in ways that complement each other, the bundling of tasks has significant, positive effects on productivity, quality, and profitability. Although the evidence is less substantial, proper bundling also appears to result in higher levels of job satisfaction, more employee learning, and higher wages for blue-collar workers. But since these high-performance work systems shift responsibilities formerly held by supervisors and middle managers to teams of lower-level workers, they are likely to reduce the number of middle management jobs and change the nature of supervisory duties. This, in turn, renders obsolete public policy doctrines that depend on a clear line of demarcation between the duties of managers and workers. The adoption of these systems is most likely in firms that are under competitive pressures to produce high productivity and quality.
Thus, although firms do exercise discretion over the decision to implement a high-performance work system, their choice has predictable (although not certain) consequences for at least three stakeholders: the firm and its shareholders, the employees who are affected by the shift to these systems, and public policy makers who are responsible for laws and regulations governing employment relations. Only by considering the full range of factors in the framework presented early in this volume (Figure 1.1) can the consequences of the relationship between driving forces and choices about work content be understood. We caution, however,
that research that examines a full range of forces, choices, and consequences is still in an early developmental stage. Most of the evidence to date comes from a rather narrow range of industries and lower-level occupations. Strengthening the understanding of these issues and the confidence of the direction and magnitudes of these effects across a broader range of occupations and industries is an important priority for future research.
The End of Jobs?
Nothing in the data we have examined would support the conclusion that all the changes in today's workplace add up to "the end of jobs" in any sense of this term. The conditions and content of work are certainly changing in sometimes dramatic ways, but the vast majority of people in America who want or need to work remain employed. Employment, labor force participation rates, and hours of work have either increased or remained stable in recent years. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that this will change in the future. Moreover, the history of technology repeatedly shows that, even when large numbers of individual workers are driven from particular jobs as a result of a shift in the demand for labor, aggregate demand for workers does not decline because of technical change.
Although claims about the end of work can be dismissed as hyperbole, the various voices debating this issue may signal a deeper phenomenon. Their concerns may be a symptom of the general perception that we are in the midst of a third industrial revolution driven by a change in technical infrastructure associated with digitization. Historians will eventually decide whether or not the changes in work opened up by digital technologies warrant the label of an industrial revolution, but the evidence that we have summarized is sufficient to suggest that microelectronic technologies are having profound effects on work and occupational structures. Their full effects are felt when they are combined with changes in organizational strategies and employment practices. The potential magnitude and importance of these changes make it essential that occupational analysis systems be both comprehensive and flexible enough to track these changes and provide decision makers with the information they need to
mesh technical changes with work structures that meet the needs of the various stakeholders involved.
A Transformation of Work?
Taken alone, none of the changes or trends we have discussed in this book constitutes anything that could be characterized as a transformation of work. But when combined, as we have seen in some settings, they may lead to new conditions and possibilities that some might characterize as a transformation. Indeed, one of our objectives has been to develop a framework that researchers, organizational decision makers, advisers, occupational analysts, and individuals can use as they experiment with designing work, occupational structures, and employment policies. The absence of a clearly articulated framework that includes the full range of forces shown in Figure 1.1 has limited our ability to assess the combined effects of various changes on individuals, organizations, and society itself. We believe that the social and organizational implications of the combination of changes that we identified need to be examined more fully and systematically by decision makers in both the civilian and military sectors. By explicitly taking into account the full range of factors that shape how work is done, we believe that decision makers have the opportunity to develop more effective alternative work structures that could potentially meet a broad range of needs and interests.
Implications for Systems of Occupational Analysis and Classification
To adequately track the changing nature of work, occupational analysis and classification systems must take into account the attributes of the persons who perform work, the processes by which they perform it, the outputs they produce within the dynamic economic, demographic, technological, and the organizational contexts that affect all three. To achieve this objective, occupational analysis and classification systems must widen their traditional scope of attention as well as deepen their level of descriptive detail to capture both the range of relevant factors and the distinctions between jobs and occupations that might other-
wise go unnoticed. They must also be sensitive to the greater variance in how work is done within occupations today. Rather than provide a single description of a given job, an adequate system for occupational analysis may need to attend to various alternatives for structuring work in a given job family as well as to the attributes and skill requirements associated with these alternatives. Shifting from a backward-looking to a forward-looking system that will aid decision makers in designing work structures will also require occupational analysts to consider the human resource and organizational practices needed to support alternative ways of structuring work. By being flexible enough to address future changes in the context and content of work, occupational analysis and classification can contribute not only to the description of work, but also to research that interprets and predicts changes, and to the work designs that anticipate those changes.
As work becomes increasingly team-based, it changes the mix of skills possessed by a typical worker and blurs traditional demarcations across occupations. Changing economic conditions and conceptions of the employment are also leading many workers into nontraditional employment arrangements such as entrepreneurial, part-time, contingent, or contract work and self-employment. These developments have implications for methods and techniques of occupational analysis, because they call into question what is meant by a "job."
To account for people factors, job analysis inventories must become sufficiently detailed to describe such work attributes as abstract analytical work, skill in the use of information technology, teamwork competencies, and skill in performing emotional work. The job analysis process should include effective definitions and tools to identify skills required to perform information technology intensive work, interactive and emotional work, and team tasks and interactions. Process refinements are also needed with respect to whom to sample when analyzing a job or occupation, how to reach them, which questions to ask, what survey technology to use, and how often to update the analysis.
To clearly describe work processes and products, definitional refinements are required for such questions as: What is a "job"? What does a job title indicate about job content? How can title-
based task inventories be created when incumbents share tasks across titles? Job activities must be precisely defined. Occupational analysis and classification process improvements relevant to analysis of work processes and outputs include deciding which observers and analysts will most effectively complete which inventory, and how often the job analysis information should be updated, especially with respect to technology used on the job (Cascio, 1995).
In summary, a more contingent approach to describing jobs is needed that can take account of different systems for organizing work and of work systems that are undergoing continuous improvement or more rapid change. An example might help illustrate what we have in mind. Consider the job of an automobile assembly line worker. If organized in the traditional way, an assembler will be assigned a narrow, highly specialized task with specific rules governing how the job is to be performed. If organized in a team-based or high-performance work system, the same job is likely to encompass a wide range of physical, analytic, and interactive tasks that include considerable individual and collective discretion over how the work is to be done. The same would be true of customer service workers. As reported in Chapter 4, the scope, discretion, cognitive complexity, and interactive content of these jobs vary considerably depending on the type of customer the worker serves. And as product and service offerings continuously change with new technologies and customer demands, by implication so too do the information processing requirements of the customer service jobs. One implication of this is that much more research is needed to identify the critical contingencies (e.g., customers, product life cycles, production organization) and the driving forces that shape the choice of alternative work systems.
Analysis of changing work contexts, is likely to require inclusion of the home environments or other alternative work environments of employees (e.g., telecommuters) when gathering context information. Employment relationships and organizational structures should be carefully defined and examined to capture changing understandings of who are considered employees (e.g., distinctions between contract and regular employees). Improvements in the analytical process for examining context fac-
tors should involve means to effectively include incumbents with alternative work schedules in the job analysis sampling plan.
General process challenges include the adaptation and application of technology to enable effective and efficient gathering, updating, and analysis of job information on a large scale. Finally, research suggests that workers, particularly highly skilled service workers, often have considerable leeway in defining the scope of services provided and the manner of service delivery. Such individual work discretion presents a challenge to task-oriented occupational analysis methods designed according to the premise that work processes and products are mostly prescribed by job titles. Occupational analysis and classification should, therefore, be sufficiently flexible to address unpredictable combinations of job attributes.
In the committee's view, O*NET™ offers several important advances over prior systems in its organization of job description variables and associated data collection instruments, in its electronic databases with job incumbent and occupational analyst ratings, and in the initial technical evaluations. If fully developed and widely used by practitioners who add their own features to the system, we anticipate that it can serve the functions called for here.
- First, O*NET™ is the first available system with planned national scope that brings together the most current category and enumerative systems and the most comprehensive descriptive analytical systems and makes the data readily accessible in electronic format.
- Second, O*NET™ has a theoretically informed and initially validated content model with a more detailed set of job descriptors than other available systems.
- Third, the O*NET™ database can be accessed and used through multiple windows or modes, including entering with job titles or occupations at varying levels of hierarchical detail, but also entering at the level of work descriptors (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, other contextual factors). The latter window of access is extremely important in a world of work that is changing. It allows the analyst or user to build up inductively to the level of job or occupation, in contrast to systems that proceed deductively,
- starting with a job or occupational category that is anchored in the past and may not be current in its ratings or job descriptive information. O*NET™ could be developed into a decision support tool that allows analysts to compare different models for organizing work, to generate a list of complementary changes needed to support these models, and to project the consequences of these alternatives for the outcomes of central interest to different stakeholders. This feature is perhaps one of the major developments of the O*NET™ prototype.
- Fourth, O*NET™ offers a significant improvement over earlier systems, particularly ones based on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, in the ease of conducting cross-occupational analyses and comparisons.
- Fifth, by utilizing the cross-walks supplied by the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, the O*NET™ system allows mapping to other major category and enumerative systems, including military occupational specialties and the Standard Occupational System.
Based on these advances, the committee recommends that O*NET™ should continue to be developed as a fully operational system for use in both civilian and military sectors.
Implications for the Army
Since most of the evidence we have discussed pertains to the civilian sector, it would be inappropriate to generalize our findings or conclusions directly to the Army or other branches of the military. Rather than draw such generalizations, we sought to organize our review of the changes in civilian occupations and organizations in a way that would provide the Army with a framework for examining its own work structures and occupational analysis systems. As the material in Chapter 6 shows, the Army is experiencing a number of changes in the context of work that parallel changes experienced in the private economy. We suspect that these developments will also create pressures for change in the structure and content of soldiers' work. These pressures should create opportunities for the military commanders to
adjust existing work systems, should they choose to take advantage of them.
The Army's work structure is the basis for selecting, training, organizing, and managing personnel to meet mission requirements. The result of changing mission requirements has been the development of a smaller, more flexible force with a wider range of fighting skills—as well as new skills in negotiation and interpersonal interaction. The increased diversity of Army missions coupled with downsizing has led to the creation of teams composed of individuals from different work cultures with different skills.
The growing role of women in the military, the increasing age and family responsibilities of military personnel, the growing use of units composed of regulars, reservists, and civilians, and the increasingly prevalence of joint missions with military units from other countries indicate that diversity will be a salient feature of military work. It is beyond the scope of our work to judge whether or not officers and soldiers are being trained adequately to lead and function effectively in these diverse settings. Given these developments, however, we believe that a thorough analysis of this question should be undertaken.
Increased Use of Advanced Technology
The Army views technology as a key strategic and tactical resource. Yet there is still a tendency to view the choice, design, and use of technologies as somewhat separate. There is a need to better integrate the design of technology and the design of work structures. Those who design and purchase new technical systems need to be informed by and work in tandem with those who design work structures. The key lesson from the civilian sector is that the maximum benefits of a technology come from its effective integration with work systems and human resource practices.
Another implication of the Army's use of advanced technologies is the probable upskilling of jobs. It is likely that the qualifications required of personnel in the leaner military of the future
will parallel the sophistication of the systems that are fielded. Occupational analysis and classification systems must capture these qualifications.
Rapid expansion (on-demand increases in the size of force and its range of capabilities) and tailoring (matching force capabilities to mission needs) will be required to respond to sudden events that do not resemble traditional military actions. Thus, the work structure itself is likely to become an increasingly important weapon or tool—a part of the information technology that must be used to speedily identify, locate, and assign large numbers of personnel for specific missions.
The trend toward joint operations involving hybrid units may require the branches of the military to develop common work structures or at least structures that can be more easily meshed. New missions—particularly those that involve extensive interaction with civilians—will require new tasks, knowledge, skills and abilities, and forms of organizing. For example, social skills will prove increasingly important for dealing with civilians and their leaders when Army personnel must adapt to peacekeeping, community service, and similar roles. These tasks also may require fluency in the native language; cross-cultural sensitivity and knowledge; interactive and emotional skills; and the ability to engage enemies who do not follow traditional rules of war. Work structures must include descriptors for these tasks and the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Extremely high tempo and a strategy that allows attack from multiple positions simultaneously will require commanders who possess suitable decision-making, teamwork, and problem-solving skills; work structures must therefore include descriptors for these skills. Commanders will be, supported by different organizational structures that delegate responsibilities and authority to lower ranks, and by technologies that permit such delegation by rapid collection, transmission, and analysis of information. Commanders must be able to plan, decide, and execute commands extremely rapidly and with great flexibility—rapidly grasping changes in situations and exercising judgment
while reasoning under uncertainty. Moreover, as we will note below, the need for these skills is not limited to officers. The same forces that drive delegation of greater decision-making authority and a blurring of the manager-worker boundary in the civilian sector are at work on the officer-soldier boundary in the work of the Army.
The downsizing of the military forces also creates pressures to delegate to lower-level soldiers tasks and decisions traditionally embedded in officer ranks. This pressure may be heightened by technology (e.g., distributed battlefield technologies) that encourages such delegation of authority and responsibility. Layers of supervision may be reduced. The officer-soldier distinction may experience some blurring similar to that affecting the blue-collar-managerial distinction in the civilian sector. Attention should be given to the implications of these new roles for personnel management. There are at least two possible cases in which previously distinct jobs may be at least partially melded in the future. One distinction is that between operational users (e.g., tank crews, helicopter crews) and maintainers. Another distinction is that between commanders and subordinates.
Although the military's new strategic emphasis on speed and flexibility of response has implications for a wider distribution of information and work responsibilities, there is little serious consideration being given to flatter, nonhierarchical organizational structures. Nonetheless, with fewer personnel, there may be a need for individual soldiers to have a broader range of skills than in the past or to work with a more diverse group of individuals from various sectors of the Department of Defense. The work structure should be flexible enough to adapt to these changes, and it must facilitate a rapid response to a wide variety of situations and team configurations.
One of the most important implications suggested by the framework used to organize our analysis and the evidence pre-
sented about the factors that are interrelated to work structures is that Army decision makers need to see the design of jobs, work structures, and occupations as tightly linked to their changing missions, technologies, workforce demographics and family structures, and employment practices. The committee therefore recommends that Army decision makers think about the interconnections among these factors and take them into account in structuring work to meet the mission requirements and the needs of those who will be part of the Army of the future.
Application of O*NET™
The Army's ability to efficiently manage its personnel, in the complex and rapidly changing contexts expected for future missions, would be enhanced by an occupational analysis system that efficiently links workforce capabilities with mission planning and provides the structure for recruiting, training, assignment, and promotion of personnel. Such a system would provide all the information needed for such tasks as assembling a special operation in the field or for developing training requirements for a combined military occupational specialty.
Having considered the advantages of O*NET™, the committee sees that it offers promise for meeting the future occupational analysis needs of the Army. AP*NET, an adaptation of O*NET™ proposed by Russell et al., (1995), has several useful features. It will (1) be useful to manpower, personnel, and training professionals and to Army commanders; (2) contain linked readiness, occupations, and training databases that allow easy access to descriptions of training courses that teach a particular skill, to lists of soldiers who have skills and abilities relevant to a particular type of mission, and to Army jobs that have similar requirements; (3) have a menu-driven, user-oriented interface that allows users to access data at the level of aggregation and specificity that is best suited to the application. In adapting O*NET™, the Army would have to develop Army-specific cross-job descriptors; equipment and technology descriptors to be linked to tasks; a taxonomy of missions and linkages among missions, work activities, skills, and knowledge; variables of use to commanders; and coupling with top-down, future-oriented job analysis procedures.
The committee recommends that the Army consider building a prototype of a system whose functional capabilities include those in the AP*NET concept.
Implications for Research
Need for Multidisciplinary Studies of Work
Our committee used a blend of theoretical perspectives and methodologies and data drawn from multiple disciplines to assess how work is changing and its implications. In doing so, we both broadened the perspectives most scholars and practitioners use to study work and to make decisions that affect work structures and their consequences. In our view, this type of cross-disciplinary collaboration is essential to future progress in this field. However, we do not suggest that all individual studies should abandon their disciplinary focus or traditions. Instead, communication and dialogue across disciplines is needed to inform both the framing of questions and the interpretation of results from multiple disciplines.
Rethinking Images of Work and Occupations
We have been critical of both the popular and analytic images and categories typically used to characterize and study work and occupations that have been carried over from an earlier era when industrial and manufacturing work dominated the economy. These images and categories reflect the historical periods in which they were formed. To gain the full advantage of the opportunities available from new technologies and organizational forms and the changes in the characteristics of the labor force, the images need updating to better reflect: (1) the diversity of the workforce, (2) the dominance of the service economy, (3) the growing role of cognition and analysis, interactions and relationships, and digital technologies in the work people do, and (4) the blurring of the traditional boundaries across which work was divided in the industrial era. The blue-collar-managerial divide in particular no longer captures what people do at work. How to adapt practices, institutions, and public policies that rely on this
divide or the other outmoded images are major issues for future study and action.
Need to Study What Workers Do
Throughout this volume we have stressed the need for more intensive direct observation of what workers actually do in their jobs today. Changing the images of work and going beyond abstract arguments about trends in skills requires detailed and rich description and data reported from direct experiences of workers. Thus the sociological and anthropological traditions of observing and participating in real work settings and producing detailed narratives describing the actual experiences of workers need to be encouraged, with the objective of updating perspectives on work. But to be representative, these studies must examine the full array of occupations and workers found in the labor force today. Researchers are especially limited in their ability to describe what managers do at work today because it is difficult to measure. Furthermore, sociologists, industrial relations experts, anthropologists, and others continue to focus their efforts on more easily quantifiable jobs in lower-level occupational groups. It is also important to examine ways of integrating data describing what workers do from other disciplines, such as industrial and organizational psychology and human factors.
Need for a National Database on Work
Direct observation and in-depth description of what workers do is a necessary but not sufficient input to update and continue to monitor changes in the aggregate structures of work and the content of jobs. To do this requires a national sample representative of the labor force. This type of data collection is needed both to complete the data collection and analysis needed to make O*NET™ operational and to realize its potential and to track systematically the changes in work and their consequences for organizations, individuals, and society.
Need to Study Occupational Analysis Tools as Aids to Decision Makers
As noted earlier, the committee's vision is of a forward-looking occupational analysis system that can be used by decision makers to monitor changes in work, design new jobs, formulate effective personnel policies, and provide timely career counseling. Advances in technology that allow for the consideration of large numbers of variables in a relational database have made it possible to include information not only about jobs and skills, knowledge and abilities, but also about the organizational and environmental forces that influence work. Furthermore, it is now possible to display and combine data to develop what-if scenarios as an aid to job design. In the committee's view, the use of occupational analysis tools to shape work is an extremely important and fruitful area for research and experimentation.
Implications for Policy
Throughout this study, we noted that the laws and institutions governing work and employment largely reflect their industrial-era origins. It goes well beyond the scope of this effort to suggest what changes are needed to update employment laws and institutions to better support work and employment relations today. As we note in the introduction, there are good reasons to believe that the current structures and content of workplace regulations may have two adverse effects. First they may force the organization of work into outmoded categories. Second, because of increased complexity, they may produce frustrations on the part of workers and employees. Thus, although they may be beyond the scope of this analysis, these issues warrant study of their own at some point in the near future. Furthermore, this book may provide a starting point for the analysis of the role of law by presenting data on how work has changed since the basic legal framework governing employment relations was enacted.