The Impact of Information Technology on the Workforce of the Future
Preface The Impact of Information Technology on the Workforce of the Future To determine the impact of information technology on the workforce of the future, I conducted a study using an historical perspective on the use of information technology in the workplace and by the workforce. This study also considered recent trends in workforce management such as telecommuting, globalization, outsourcing, and off-shoring activities.
The results of this study revealed that technological advances in office equipment over the past thirty years have enabled organizations to improve operating efficiencies, improve communications, reduce costs, increase their global presence, and gain competitive advantage through the implementation of information technology systems. Additionally, the study underscored some of the issues organizations must face when implementing new information technology systems, such as the need for increased security procedures, workforce management and motivation, and managing budgetary costs in an ever-changing technology-driven marketplace.
Based on this study, it appears that the workforce of the future will conduct business from a non-traditional office setting at an increasing rate. Employees will continue to become more mobile, operating from remote locations via electronic means. In order to stay competitive in an ever-changing, technology-driven business environment, organizations will frequently have to consider how information technology aligns
Technology is the artificial enhancement of human power. It should make us stronger and smarter; however our demented community is discovering that it now has the opposite effect. Nuclear power has terrified and paralysed its creators, while the improved cleverness and flexibility of our machines have caused social chaos and economic stagnation. 1. Introduction This paper will examine how innovations in information technology (IT) have impacted the workplace and workforce over the past four decades.
Since the 1960’s, IT has dramatically changed the landscape of the workplace through advances in office equipment, speed of information transmission and methods of communication. From a human capital perspective, IT has allowed companies and their employees to increase efficiencies, communicate more rapidly, and work from remote locations. The ability of the workforce to perform organizational tasks from a remote location (also known as “telecommuting”) has enabled employees to improve quality of life and manage the professional and personal aspects of their lives.
From an operational perspective, investments in IT by organizations willing to embrace technology have resulted in increased efficiencies, cost reductions, global expansion, improved intra-company and customer communications, improved reporting and tracking methods, and increased competitive advantage in the marketplace. Along with the benefits realized by companies from IT advances, this paper will also examine some of the issues facing organizations such as security, resource allocation, and relationship management of mobile workforce. 2.
History: Information Technology in the Workplace Prior to the 1990s, workforce, in the majority of organizations, was located in traditional office settings, with mainly face-to-face communication. Office equipment included telephones, typewriters, copy machines, and early computers used for word processing. Documents and correspondence were transmitted via regular mail, with overnight package delivery coming into service only in the late 1980s. Also in the 1980s, use of facsimile machines increased by 92%, going from 300,000 to 4,000,000 between the years of 1983-89 (Thinkquest, 2004).
Office equipment includes fax machines, computers, scanners, pagers, and conferencing capabilities (telephone, video, and satellite). Advances in technology and the dramatic surge in the use of electronic mail (e-mail) increased the transmission speed of information, thus decreasing direct face-to-face communication between organizations, their suppliers, business partners, and their customers. Computers loaded with word processing, spreadsheet analysis and presentation software programs have become standard fixtures on each employee’s desk.
Some of the workforce became mobile, conducting business outside of the traditional office settings through the use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), cellular phones and laptop computers. The initial users of mobile technology were salespeople and executive management; however, easier access to the Internet allowed more employees to become “telecommuters,” who conducted work-related activities either from their homes or from some other remote location. Technological advances in electronic communication may continue to decrease the need for traditional office setting while increasing the number of telecommuters.
Electronic capabilities will also continue to affect outsourcing, off-shoring and globalization efforts by many organizations. Collaboration technologies, currently being enhanced by Microsoft and IBM, may enable companies to conduct “virtual meetings” in the near future. In a virtual meeting, employees from remote locations conduct real-time meetings from their own computers using peer-to-peer software. Participants can see one another on computer screens, share computer space and make changes to product designs or contract documents via a “virtual whiteboard. ” 3. The Internet The internet is a global network of networks enabling computers of all kinds to directly transparently communicate and share services throughout much of the world. Because the Internet is enormously valuable, enabling capability for so many people and organizations, it is a shared global resource of information, knowledge, and means of collaboration among countless diverse communities” (Ask. com Definitions, 2006) The Internet has created the most significant impact that computer technology has offered. Most every business has a website that provides its customers with a wide variety of options.
Businesses also have incredible advertising power through the Internet that reaches a greater number of potential customers. The dilemma for business is what serves them best, is also what has become the biggest distraction for its employees. Employees engage in such Internet activities such as gaming, shopping, and many other personal uses during their time on the job. The problem with this activity is that it affects efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. According to Robbins and DeCenzo (2004), “The average U. S. employee with Net access spends 90 minutes each day visiting sites unrelated to his/her job.
Recent estimates indicate that 30 to 40 percent of lost worker productivity is due solely to cyber loafing, and this cyber loafing is costing U. S. employers alone $54 billion a year. ” Supervisors are directly responsible for these employees. For this reason, computer technology has had its greatest impact on this level of management. The question that persists is how to deal the problem. Should you strictly enforce rules regarding the Internet? That option is available but with no clear legislation on employee rights regarding privacy on the Internet at work management is taking a huge risk.
Many companies are engaging in an activity known as “internet time” giving employees an allowable timeframe to pursue their Internet activities. The plain truth is that preventing Internet use on the job is nearly impossible yet management needs a way to govern it and the idea of internet time seems logical. From the employee perspective should you be disciplined enough the limit use on your own? An employee is obviously risking a lack of promotion, an impact on salary, and even possible termination if their use of the Internet affects their job performance.
In conclusion, computer technology impacts every aspect of the workplace for both management and employee. When this technology is used appropriately it is a powerful tool. However, as this paper documents, no amount of computer technology can make up for human error or indiscretions. 4. Workforce Trends a. Telecommuting Telecommuting is working from one’s home or some other remote location outside the company’s office. According to The Tele work Coalition’s website, in 1995 there were only 4 million Tele workers, in 2000 that number grew to 23. 6 million in the USA.
Furthermore, the number of Americans who worked at home as little as one day per week increased from 41. 3 million in 2003 to 44. 4 million in 2004. In 2003, an estimated 137 million people worldwide worked from their homes. Telecommuting offers benefits to both employees and companies. For employees, telecommuting increases quality of life by enabling a meshing of personal and professional lives. The ability to work from home can assist workers with child/elder care issues, transportation restrictions, or employees who may be physically unable to report to work on a daily basis due to health-related issues (e. g. need for regular medical treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy). (Baxi, 2004) Robert Half International, the world’s largest financial recruiter, conducted a survey of 1,400 CFOs asking which incentives attract top talent for accounting positions. The ability to telecommute and/or work a flexible schedule ranked second among 33% of CFOs surpassed only by higher salaries (46%) offered to candidates. Other economic benefits that companies can realize from telecommuting include productivity gains, reduced absenteeism, reduced employee turnover costs, reduced real- estate costs, and reduced relocation costs, to name a few. . Computer Technology and its Affect on Communication “Organizations today have become integrated communications centers. By linking computers, telephones, fax machines, copiers, printers, and the like, supervisors can get more complete information more quickly than ever before. ” This also means that employees can send those messages, reports, and projects to management or other employees faster. Telecommuting has also surfaced where an employee can work wherever their computer may be and link themselves with co-workers and management (Robbins, 2004).
The attraction for easier and faster communication is obvious but are there any disadvantages? Before we get to potential drawbacks let’s accentuate the positives. The growth and development of communications has changed the way individuals interact. This interaction has also joined many where communication was once thought impossible or too time-consuming (Sirois, 2000). Communication has become global. Through the use of email, text messages, and desktop messages it has become possible to perform tasks and manage elements without ever being face-to-face with another person.
The disadvantages brought about with communication technology are obscure but existent nonetheless. Communication is not merely the words on a screen but the meaning and intent behind those words (Robbins, 2004). The first problem occurs when communication breaks down and individuals don’t have a clear understanding of the message sent. Clearly being there in person to correct any misunderstanding would be better communication. The ease of the situation will sometimes cause errors in complacency. The reports, messages, and emails that can be sent with one click are often the result of the wrong click going to the wrong place. . Globalization In the future, multinational companies (corporations operating in more than one country) may utilize telecommuting to attract local talent that can work effectively across international borders through electronic communication. Training such “homegrown talent” can allow companies to reduce international relocation expenses, manage competition levels for talented resources, and reduce issues related to working in foreign countries such as personal safety, security, political, and regulatory issues. Baxi, 2004) Reducing globalization efforts through telecommuting can help to address some of the issues related to dealing with international workforces, such as language barriers, cultural relationship differences, and time zone differences that often lead to companies needing to maintain continuous operations known as “24/7”. Information Technology (IT) is a driving factor in the process of globalization. Improvements in the early 1990s in computer hardware, software, and telecommunications have caused widespread improvements in access to information and economic potential.
These advances have facilitated efficiency gains in all sectors of the economy. IT provides the communication network that facilitates the expansion of products, ideas, and resources among nations and among people regardless of geographic location. Creating efficient and effective channels to exchange information, IT has been the catalyst for global integration. (Studies, 2006) d. Outsourcing/Off-Shoring Outsourcing is defined as “turning over all or part of an organization’s information systems operation to outside contractors or service providers” (O’Brien, 2005).
Off-shoring refers to outsourcing in another country (Puliyenthuruthel, 2005). Conceptually, outsourcing and off-shoring can be viewed together, since both involve employing individuals outside of the organization to handle operational work. According to Stan Gibson, some American companies seem to be slowing their outsourcing/off shoring efforts. Gibson writes “that 57 percent of IT executives are unwilling to outsource applications or IT activities where leadership or security is involved. ” The main reason that companies outsource/off-shore is to reduce costs, which can be obtained through lower abor rates of overseas workers. Revenues realized by multinational companies from outsourcing/off-shoring activities are expected to exceed $12 billion next year (Puliyenthuruthel, 2005). However, there are some major drawbacks to sending operations overseas, such as a loss of domestic talent, loss of intellectual assets, decreased levels of customer satisfaction resulting from diminished organizational values that do not translate across cultures, and threats to organizational performance (Puliyenthuruthel, 2005).
In order to deal with the erosion of control due to decentralization, language barriers, time zone differences, and most importantly, threats to the security of “mission critical” information systems, companies may be reducing their outsource/off-shore activities in favor of implementing telecommuting from the mainland. By embracing the use of electronic communication, companies can not only maintain control over operations, but they can also increase their competitive edge for attracting talented employees.
For job-seekers, an organization that offers flexible work schedules and/or the ability to telecommute will serve as an incentive, thus making those organizations who embrace technology appear more attractive to younger, tech-savvy potential employees. Companies may be able to use telecommuting as a bargaining tool when negotiating with domestic employees (e. g. , lower starting salary for the benefit of telecommuting). (Robbins, 2004) . Issues with the Workplace of the Future Security is the main issue facing companies with mobile workforces. Employees in the field, such as salespeople or telecommuters, have access to “mission critical” data and pose a significant threat to organizational systems security. There are numerous potential breaches of security related to mobile electronic devices such as PDAs and laptop computers that can be misplaced, stolen or damaged.
The challenge facing IT departments is to protect sensitive company data, enable secure remote access, and provide user-friendly and productive electronic tools for its mobile workforce. IT departments must also implement an education process for training employees not to use unauthorized devices or install any unauthorized programs that might threaten the integrity of company data. (Benfits achieved by adotion of IT, 2000) To ensure smooth operations with a artially mobile workforce during system crashes and office closures due to inclement weather, companies must develop and implement procedures for crisis management. Communication issues such as when systems are expected to return to normal must be promptly and effectively relayed to all employees, either through telephone calling trees or other means. In the event of network outages, inclement weather or office closures, resource allocation issues must address distribution of work between office staff and the mobile workforce (Baxi, 2004).
As the workforce of the future becomes more mobile and reliant on electronic communication, companies should consider some of the relationship management issues between employees, employers and customers that may occur from implementation of broader telecommuting policies, such as the following: Employer-Employee: when managing a mobile workforce, employers must face issues as to monitoring work completion of employees that are not readily visible; allocating workload equitably between resources located inside and outside the office; evaluating performance of mobile workforce employees; and motivating teams that consist of traditional and telecommuting employees. Employee-Employee: participating in a flexible work schedule is a morale booster for telecommuters, but employers must be cognizant of the impact on employees who are not able to telecommute (based on nature of job requirements, availability of flex schedules, etc. ). Another area for consideration is the lack of peer-to-peer interaction resulting from a partially mobile workforce. Puliyenthuruthel, 2005) Organization-Customer: when converting operations to electronic communication such as telecommuting, outsourcing or off-shoring, organizations should consider how their customers might be impacted and whether it will be transparent to the customer. Will the customer still receive the level of quality has always been delivered? How will a mobile workforce be accepted by customers? (Gibson, 2005) 6. Conclusion To increase efficiencies and maximize shareholder profit, today’s managers are looking for IT-based tools and techniques to improve performance. According to Dan Sartan of A. T. Kearney Consulting Group, “The best IT ideas are not coming from IT, but from the business side. ” Back in the 19th century, Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management” tools sought to improve organizational efficiencies and performance.
According to a 2008 study by Bain & Company, the top four (4) tools used by today’s mangers include Strategic Planning (79% usage), Customer Relationship Management (75% usage), Benchmarking (72% usage) and Outsourcing (72% usage). Security is perhaps the single most important operational issue facing organizations in today’s IT-driven business environment. Whether companies are operating domestically or engaged in outsourcing/off-shoring activities, they must develop and adhere to very strict security measures to protect “mission critical” data, confidential organization data and customer sensitive information. “Companies need to strictly restrict access to information among employees on a requirement basis” (Puliyenthuruthel, 2005).
As the trend continues toward a more mobile workforce that relies on electronic communication, organizations must develop measures to safeguard data integrity; protect customer information to prevent identity theft; motivate employees to perform effectively from remote locations; and manage IT costs and new developments in order to maintain efficient operations and gain competitive edge in the marketplace. Society expects to be able to store more than was previously conceived. Our Society expects to be able to manipulate the information they have for their benefit, to increase understanding and discover new relationships. It also expects to be able to distribute information quickly, efficiently and cheaply. Society now expects the creation of new information to be facilitated by these new technologies. Figure 1: Future plans regarding investments in information technology (Benfits achieved by adotion of IT, 2000)
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