CNoW 2023 workshop on changing nature of work

On December 9 I participated in the CNoW workshop “Changing nature of work- Reshaping human endeavors with digital technologies.” The workshop was part of ICIS 2023 in Hyderabad. It was an online workshop attended by approximately 25 people. I presented a position paper in a program consisting of ten paper presentations.

The workshop started with keynote presentations by Bonnie Cheuk and Malar Hirudayaraj. Bonnie Cheuk, senior director and head of business and digital transformation at AstraZeneca, talked about the involvement of employees in discussing the impact of generative AI on work practices. AstraZeneca seems to prioritize employee involvement, and has set up a communication and knowledge sharing infrastructure to involve employees. Forums and processes are created where employees can participate in discussions about work practices and skills and their transformation by AI. Although this seems to be a promising case for digital transformation involving employees, the details about the initiatives that Bonnie presented were not evident. For instance, it is not clear how much time employees could spend discussing, what more they could do beyond having discussions, what the framework for the discussions was, and whether there were dedicated resources related to such involvement or whether the employees had to do it in their own free time.

Malar Hirudayaraj, associate professor in human resource development at Rochester Institute of Technology, discussed the “meta-work” related to AI-based digital transformation. Malar’s work is interesting because of the many examples she showed of this meta-work and where it occurs. It was also interesting because it showed how digital transformation puts whole work practices and their legitimacy into question, a topic seldom acknowledged by the management. For instance, Malar shows, that after a transformation with AI, being a loan consultant no longer required any advanced expertise, and anybody could take on the new role. Loan consultants then started asking questions such as Who am I? What is my value? Malar divided changes into first-order (immediate effect on AI on tasks), second-order (impact on workforce and roles), and third-order (meta work such as upskilling, reorganizing, and changing culture) changes. Third-order change requires a re-envisioning of work, i.e., asking questions such as what is routine work, what is cognitive human/non-human work, and what is the best process to introduce machines. This requires deconstructing roles, and asking: what are the new roles? What goes into this role? For instance, a new role could be that, instead of performing a task, you start training the algorithm to do the job. You teach the algorithm, and then go to a higher level (what can that be?) and do the job again.

Two papers presented in round table 2, where I presented my paper, were most relevant for our research on platforms:

  • Paper 2 “Algorithmic Work on Digital Labor Platforms: Bringing Humans Back in Control” presented by Hui Hao was about how labor platform workers can cooperate with algorithms and augment them in their daily work.
  • Paper 4. “Humanistic Goals’ Role in Sustaining a Digital Labour Platform” presented by Sampsa Suvivuo is about a matchmaking platform where humanistic goals are used as the basis for the platform’s business model and technology.

My paper is about the sustainability of work practices as a consequence of platformization processes in organizations. The paper is about an initial conceptual framework for research we are currently conducting in our SustainDiT project.

You can download these and all the papers from the workshop’ web page. Thanks to the organizers of the workshop and to the authors who presented and the audience who gave us many tips to improve our papers.