miércoles, 28 de enero de 2015

Digtalisation and labour relationships

One aspect of our daily life digitalisation is changing forever are the labour relationships. The impact is going to be felt in any kind of work because the changes rank from a redimension of our working space to our assessment performance. There is uncertainty about the goodness of the changes and for sure the evaluation of them will be personal and depend of your personal experience. What it is sure, is that even the oldest job on earth is transforming by ICTs.

In an historical review, maybe the first change introduced by ICT in work is telecommuting. Only in the US full-time teleworkers have grown nearly 80% between 2005 and 2012 reaching 2,6% of the workforce. Nevertheless, its impact is going beyond full-time teleworkers. In certain kind of jobs doing some kind of tasks outside the office is the norm more than an exception and it is expecting that more than 43% of the US workforce will do some kind of telecommuting by 2016.  This means from a personal perspective a great flexibility on how we organise our work and for employers a tool for recruiting and retaining talent

ICTs are also the main enabler of the sharing economy. Before the success stories of Uber or Airbnb, one of the first cases of sharing economy were crowdsourcing services like Amazon´s Mechanical Turk. Human resources is a natural focus of the sharing economy in a massive expansion of freelance opportunities. According with Amazon figures, their service give access to more than 500.000 workers in 190 countries, and there are other similar services around the world. Beyond telecommuting, crowdsourcing open the gate to a new model of flexible labour relationships based on demand and not a permanent contract. As it was published in The Economist recently, there will be an app for any kind of service we will need to hire.

The most feared application of digitalisation in work are bots. Probably, it would be better to speak about software substitution, as Bill Gates prefers, because in the majority of the cases the substitute is going to have a physical form. Only in the European Union, 50% of the jobs are at risk of computerisation. This means a future where almost any kind of the current jobs could be done by machines, and therefore a shift from a world with the disappearance of human capacity scarcity in the majority of production fields.

ICTs in the workplace could also be the mean for a bigger integration of handicapped people. For instance, the usage of exoskeletons will certainly augment the human capabilities. The main focus until the moment has been only for the basic recovery of paraplegics, but the limit could go beyond this. Once a handicapped has regained or obtained for the first time the mobility of "normal" person there is no reason why he would not do the same work.

As a kind of revenge, the software substitution is on the verge to reach the human resources departments. Recruiting and managing talent are among the main activities of this kind of departments. The information they handle is on the network, reputations are now Internet pages that are waiting to be analysed. Both the identification of candidates and the performance assessment of employers are increasingly done by computers based on big data algorithms. This means a further change of labour relationships, not only our work is important but also the trace of catchable by computers that we leave behind.

Two axes defined the changes in labour relationship brought  by digitalisation: Flexibility and objectivity. Both of them have a bright and dark side. The bright path lead us to utopias and the dark path to dystopias. Which one we finally takes us a society will depend on the extent that the human being will be the soul in the machine.

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