The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Technological Change and Job Redesign: Implications for the Quality of Working Life. A Qualitative Case Study into Employee Experiences during the Digitalization of Radio and Television Program Production

Niina Rintala

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU2 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 29th of April, 2005, at 12 o'clock noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-7513-9)   [1442 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-7512-0)


Technological advances have brought about extensive changes in work over the last few decades. In many industries, work has changed from specialized, often monotonous, manufacturing work to non-routine, complex and autonomous knowledge work that produces outputs characterized by information content. Simultaneously, job descriptions have increased in scope and autonomy. Technological development and job redesign continue to change work in many industries. Both the use of new technology at the workplace and job redesign also influence the quality of working life and alter the factors that promote work-related well-being and/or induce stress. This study examines employee experiences during technological change and job redesign in terms of the quality of working life. The data are derived from 32 thematic interviews, mainly with journalists and editors in three units of a national broadcasting company during the digitalization of radio and television program production technology.

Initially, the study set out to examine how technological changes are experienced in terms of the quality of working life. To answer this question, a qualitative content analysis of the interviews was performed. The data were analyzed first within cases and then across cases using both inductive and deductive approaches. The analysis revealed that the technological change was connected with experiences relating to (1) technological implementations, (2) changes in job descriptions, (3) learning to use new technology and (4) using new technology. It was found that the technological change was accompanied by job redesign, which enriched journalistic job descriptions and narrowed down editorial job descriptions. The results were examined in the frameworks of the Job Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham, 1980) and Job Demand-Control Model (Karasek, 1979). As these models did not capture negative experiences related to enriched job descriptions, a new research question was posed: "What stressors are experienced in job redesign?"

By conducting a situational analysis, stressful work situations were identified and examined. Stressors were categorized according to the Balance Model (Smith & Carayon-Sainfort, 1989), in which the work system consists of five elements: task, technology, organization, environment and person. Enriched job descriptions were connected with stressors in all of the elements, whereas narrowed job descriptions only with organizational stressors. Stressors were also categorized in terms of their elements: excessive breadth and depth of demands, contradiction and changes in demands, social conditions, lack of organizational support and the moderating stressor, lack of work motivation and ability.

The study also examined ways of experiencing technological change with job redesign in terms of the quality of working life. A phenomenographic analysis indicated six ways of experiencing digitalization as a technological change with job redesign: as a revolutionary change, as an interesting change, as hardly a change at all, full of uncertainties and images, as an interesting but stressful change, and as a difficult change.

The main findings of this study were that technological changes can be accompanied by social and organizational changes that have a significant influence on the quality of working life of individual workers and work units, and that enriched job descriptions are not inevitably experienced as positive in terms of the quality of working life in knowledge work. The results of this study suggest that, in knowledge work, the same factors contribute to well-being and induce stress, which means that job redesign cannot anymore focus on simply eliminating stressors but should focus on balancing the work to suit the needs of the individual. The methodological contributions of this study suggest the use of qualitative methods, the use of multiple analysis methods and the use of complementary research strategies in studying the quality of working life. The practical implications of the study include enabling employee participation in technological changes and job (re)design, implementing changes gradually, as well as providing employees with training and support in meeting new skill requirements.

Keywords: technology, job design, change, experience, well-being, stress

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© 2005 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26