4
Changes in the Structure and Content of Work

The purpose of this chapter is to explore what workers do and how what they do is changing. The relative growth and decline of broad occupational categories used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are useful for providing a picture of the changing mix of occupations. BLS data clearly show the decline of farm and blue-collar workers and the rise of professional, technical, and what have traditionally been called white-collar (managerial/administrative, marketing/sales) workers. However, they tell us little about what is happening to the nature of work within these categories or whether the categories are themselves useful for distinguishing among the activities and experiences of workers in different occupations.

In the sections that follow we examine closely the changes occurring within occupations by using the following broad categories: blue-collar, service, technical/professional, and managerial workers. However, even as we draw on the literature describing the nature of work within each of these conventional categories, we demonstrate that the categories themselves are losing much of their descriptive and analytic meaning. The nature of work is changing not only within these categories but also in ways that blur the traditional distinctions among them. This observation is supported by the WorkTrends™ data reported in



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4 Changes in the Structure and Content of Work The purpose of this chapter is to explore what workers do and how what they do is changing. The relative growth and decline of broad occupational categories used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are useful for providing a picture of the changing mix of occupations. BLS data clearly show the decline of farm and blue-collar workers and the rise of professional, technical, and what have traditionally been called white-collar (managerial/administrative, marketing/sales) workers. However, they tell us little about what is happening to the nature of work within these categories or whether the categories are themselves useful for distinguishing among the activities and experiences of workers in different occupations. In the sections that follow we examine closely the changes occurring within occupations by using the following broad categories: blue-collar, service, technical/professional, and managerial workers. However, even as we draw on the literature describing the nature of work within each of these conventional categories, we demonstrate that the categories themselves are losing much of their descriptive and analytic meaning. The nature of work is changing not only within these categories but also in ways that blur the traditional distinctions among them. This observation is supported by the WorkTrends™ data reported in

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Table 2.3. Statistical regression analyses of worker attitudes on occupational groupings revealed that occupations accounted for a decreasing amount of variance in attitudes toward work and employment between 1985 and 1996. The ability to predict work attitudes based solely on respondents' occupations diminished from 1985 to 1996.1 We analyze the nature of work within these categories by considering four dimensions along which work varies and appears to be changing in significant ways: The degree of discretion or decision-making power workers have over how to do their jobs. We refer to this as autonomy-control. The range or breadth of the tasks embedded in a job. We refer to this as task scope. The substantive (or cognitive) complexity, or the degree of cognitive activity and analysis needed to do a job. We will refer to this dimension as cognitive complexity. The extent to which the quality of social interactions, including their emotional quality, is critical to job performance. We refer to this as the relational or interactive dimension of work. It includes emotional labor, which is a relatively new concept and an increasingly well-recognized, if not an increasingly important, component of many jobs in which interactions are critical tasks. We view these as key dimensions of work. In various scientific literatures, they are the primary concepts that have been used to study the relationship between skills and wages, between skills and compensation, and other features of jobs and occupations. The exception is industrial and organizational psychology, which tends to use more refined indicators for skill. These four dimensions also are broadly supported by multivariate studies that factor analyze more detailed measures of work in search of underlying factors or dimensions (for example, see National Research Council, 1980; for a review, see Spenner, 1990). Thus, these 1   A binomial test of this trend (i.e., R2 decreasing versus increasing or remaining constant) was significant (p < .05).

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dimensions have empirical as well as conceptual merit. Finally, these dimensions open useful conceptual windows on the increasing heterogeneity of work, the debureaucratization of work, increased choices for structuring jobs, and increased interdependence among work structures. The first two dimensions—autonomy-control and task scope—are well established in the job design and analysis literatures (Hackman and Oldham, 1975; Hackman, 1987). Because autonomy-control reflects the vertical division of authority in an organization, it is also found in the organizational design literature and it parallels the legal distinctions that define employee rights and organizational obligations. Task scope has been the subject of considerable debate over the years and focuses on the horizontal division of labor. Ever since scientific management and early industrial engineers formulated narrow specialization as a principle of job design, scholars and practitioners have debated the trade-offs of specialization versus job enlargement, job rotation, team-based work systems, and other means of expanding the scope of a job. The cognitive complexity dimension is normally treated in job analysis as the depth of expertise one needs to do a job. In comparison with major sociological approaches, our definition of cognitive complexity is nearly identical to the definition used by Kohn and colleagues in their program of research (Kohn and Slomczynski, 1990). They define substantive (or in our terms cognitive) complexity as the degree to which performance of the work requires thought and independent judgment. Our definition is more restrictive than that proposed by Spenner (1990), who includes not only cognitive demands, but also interpersonal demands and task scope in his definition of substantive complexity. The social interaction dimension includes both relations between workers and their customers or clients, and relations among workers. Although interpersonal work may long have been important in many jobs, it has become more salient for a number of reasons. Relations between workers and customers have become more prominent because of the growth of customer-contact jobs and because of the increased importance that employers give to competing on the basis of customer service (e.g., Albrecht and Bradford, 1989; Reichheld, 1996; Zemke and Schaff,

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1989). Relations between employees at all levels of the organization appear to be more important because of the spread of collaborative forms of work organization. Employers have gone from introducing groups as a stable building block of organizations to using multiple types of permanent and temporary groups to accomplish organizational goals—supervised teams, self-managed teams, cross-functional teams, quality circles, labor-management committees, problem-solving groups, project teams, task forces, top management teams, etc. The job analysis literature has traditionally defined the interactive dimension to include communication and negotiating skills, but has paid little attention to emotional labor. Making someone happy, excited, calm, or committed is a crucial skill in a growing number of jobs. In the following sections, we also discuss the increasing importance of information technology, not because it represents a fundamentally new dimension of work, but because information technologies are creating an array of new jobs and changing how existing jobs are performed. In addition, we examine the influences of changing markets, changing workforce demographics, changing organizational structures, and changing employment relationships on the structure and content of work. Blue-Collar Work Blue-collar workers are usually viewed as workers who are nonmanagerial (i.e., covered by the National Labor Relations Act) and nonexempt (i.e., covered by the wage and hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act). Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not use "blue-collar work" as a specific occupational category, their categories that come the closest to encompassing the popular notion of blue-collar work are "skilled and semi-skilled production" and "craft workers," "operatives," and "laborers." Using these categories, blue-collar workers represented approximately 25 percent of the labor force in 1996, down from 40 percent in 1950. In this section, we focus on blue-collar work in manufacturing, since this is the typical image associated with this category. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of blue-collar work is its presumed position in an organization's vertical division of labor. Blue-collar workers are assumed to be supervised

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by managers and, therefore, to have low levels of autonomy and control over their work. The distinction arises out of the presumption that those who conceive how work is to be done can be separated from those who execute the work. Those who "execute" are, of course, the blue-collar workers. Frederick Taylor's scientific management methods elevated this distinction to a normative principle: conception should be separated from execution in order to organize work efficiently and reward workers in ways that satisfy their economic needs. Not surprisingly, this principle has been the subject of debate since it was first enunciated. How much control over work-related decisions is delegated to those doing the work has become an especially important part of job and organizational design decisions, as some firms restructure and move decision making down to lower levels, while others centralize it further with the aid of digital control technologies. Scientific management also emphasized the scope of blue-collar work by stressing the importance of segmenting work into clearly defined tasks that formed discrete jobs requiring narrow skills. This approach to job design fit well with the growing mass markets and need for standardization associated with the factory system. The design of jobs was perceived largely as an engineering task aimed at producing mainly physical results (the number of boxcars loaded; the number of parts cut, polished, or painted). The Changing Nature of Blue-Collar Work The types of organizational restructuring discussed in Chapter 3 are challenging traditional principles for the design of blue-collar jobs. Blue-collar production work in many firms is expanding to include more decision-making tasks that in the past would have been part of a supervisory or managerial job. This, more than anything else, makes the term "blue-collar work" or "blue-collar workforce" less useful as an analytical or practical tool. Moreover, for some production workers, narrow job definitions are giving way to broader involvement in work teams and interactions with external customers, clients, and patients. Part of our understanding of the changing nature of blue-collar work builds on research concerning the adoption of "high-involvement" or "high-performance" work systems. The basic

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argument in this literature is that blue-collar work structures are changing because the highly specialized division of labor that supported cost minimization in mass production is no longer compatible with current markets. Under the logic of mass production, which emphasized quantity over quality, work was divided into individualized, repetitive jobs that required low discretion and skill. Today's markets demand competitiveness on the basis of quality, innovation, and customization (Piore and Sabel, 1984; Appelbaum and Batt, 1994). Under the logic of high-involvement systems, quality and innovation result from work designed to utilize high skills, discretion, and the participation of front line workers in operational decision making. Human resource practices such as training, performance-based pay, and employment security provide complementary incentives for participation (Ledford et al., 1992; Osterman, 1994; Kochan and Osterman, 1994). A central hypothesis in this literature is that work structures are part of a larger internal labor market system or set of complementary work and human resource practices (Milgrom and Roberts, 1992). Thus, the content of work must be analyzed as part of this larger system in order to understand how work structures affect outcomes of critical interest to different stakeholders. This point will feature prominently not only in this section on blue-collar work but also in discussion throughout this chapter. Effects of Teams on Skills and Work Content At the heart of the movement to high-performance work systems lies the growing emphasis given to teamwork and work structures organized around work units or groups rather than individual jobs. The decision to implement teams affects both the degree of control delegated to nonsupervisory workers and the scope of tasks that workers are expected to perform. As such, it changes both the vertical and horizontal divisions of labor. Team-based work structures also increase cognitive complexity and the interaction requirements of blue-collar work. A number of studies demonstrate that both cognitive and interactive skills are becoming more important in blue-collar jobs, as team-based work structures are more widely used in blue-

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collar work. Morgan et al., (1986) identified giving suggestions/criticisms, cooperation, communication, building team spirit/morale, adaptability, coordination, and acceptance of suggestions/criticisms as critical teamwork skills and behaviors. Perhaps the most extensive research on team competencies, however, has been carried out at the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (Tannenbaum et al., 1992; Cannon-Bowers et al., 1995). It developed a model of team effectiveness (see Figure 4.1) that focuses on the influences of organizational, work, and task characteristics on requirements for both individual task competencies and team competencies. Subsequent work has concentrated on decomposing team and task competencies. There are, as seen in Figure 4.2, four basic types of teamwork competencies: "transportable," "task contingent," "team contingent," and "context-driven." The two categories most relevant to occupational Figure 4.1 Team effectiveness model: Conceptual framework. Adapted from Tannenbaum, Beard, and Salas (1992)

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  Team Generic Team Specific   Transportable competencies: generic competencies that generalize to many tasks and team structures Team-contingent competencies: competencies that are specific to a particular configuration of team members, but not to any particular task situation Task Generic Examples: project teams, task forces Only knowledge really necessary is the knowledge of teamwork skills and behavior. These skills are necessary to individuals involved in multiple teams. Task situations include requiring a team of perform competently on a number of different tasks—e.g., quality circles, functional department teams, self-managed work teams.    Task-contingent competencies: competencies that are related to a specific task, but that hold across different team member configurations. Context-driven competencies: competencies that are dependent both on a particular task and team configuration. These vary as either the task or team members change. Task Specific Apply to team situations where membership changes frequently due to organizational policy (learn many jobs) or high personnel turnover (e.g., military cockpit crews who rotate to relieve one another). Knowledge is detailed on the task, not about the teammates. Important for teams performing highly demanding tasks—emergency personnel, sports teams, aircrews, military teams. Require flexibility and rapid adaptation. Figure 4.2 Types of team competencies analysis are those that are generic across all teams. Thus the focus should be on team competencies that either will generalize across tasks and team situations ("transportable") or that are related to specific tasks regardless of who the other team members are ("task contingent"). Work in these categories requires the development of interactive as well as cognitive skills. Both qualitative case studies and quantitative studies of the changing nature of blue-collar work have documented the importance of communications, problem solving, and coordination within and across teams (Adler, 1993; MacDuffie, 1996; Rubinstein, forthcoming; Appelbaum and Berg, 1997). Rubinstein

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found that quality performance in the team-based production process employed at the Saturn Corporation was significantly influenced by the amount of communication among team leaders. His study illustrates the links between cognitive and interactive skills, since he showed how the union at Saturn had created a dense social network among these team leaders that facilitated communication, coordination, and problem solving on production and organizational issues. Appelbaum and Berg (1999) demonstrated the growing importance of coordination and communication in a three-industry study of work organization. They found that, compared with workers in traditional job structures, those working in teams reported higher levels of participation in problem solving, communications with supervisors and managers both in their units and in other parts of the organization, and greater responsibility for a wide range of duties traditionally reserved for supervisors and managers. One effect of these changes is to blur the traditional lines of demarcation between blue-collar and managerial work in settings that rely heavily on teams, as well as the distinction between blue-collar workers and the technicians and other professionals who design and support the technical and organizational systems associated with their work. Box 4.1 illustrates the blurring of these traditional occupational boundaries in several industries. Relationship management for blue-collar workers is not limited to shop floor work teams, labor-management committees, or cross-functional problem-solving groups. By reorganizing work from functionally driven lines to product- or customer-focused centers, employers are able to more directly link customers to workers, and blue-collar workers need to develop customer relationship management skills. Box 4.2 provides an example of this; it is taken from a case study of Corning, Inc., a company that has worked collaboratively with the American Flint Glass Workers Union to create team-based work systems. Effects of Information Technology A large number of recent empirical studies have shown that technology is changing blue-collar work in significant but

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BOX 4.1 Blurring of Occupational Boundaries in the Steel, Apparel, and Electronics Components Industries (Appelbaum and Berg, 1999) In many of the plants in the three industries in our sample, workers are expected to engage in problem solving whether or not there are self-directed teams. . . . Front line workers have increased responsibility for coordinating production activities, and offline teams are widespread. Nevertheless, the survey results indicate that self-directed teams have responsibilities that go beyond this, and that there are significant distinctions between these responsibilities and those of other workers. . . . [M]uch of the information in these plants is collected and remains at the bottom levels, where it is acted on directly by workers who call on subject matter experts, confer with workers and managers outside their work groups, and make decisions that affect product quality, maintenance of production equipment, and adherence to production schedules. . . . In tandem with the reductions in the number of supervisors and with greater reliance on front line workers in many of the plants in our sample, there has been a major change . . . in the supervisors' role. Supervisors are expected to coordinate with purchasing or with earlier stages of the production process about the quality and availability of incoming materials as well as with internal and external customers downstream from them. As we have seen, they participate extensively in offline teams that deal with product quality, cost reduction, equipment purchases or modification, working conditions, or training; and they usually have responsibility for facilitating these meeting. They are also called on to resolve differences of opinion among blue-collar workers and to provide structured on-the-job training for workers, who now require greater skills. Where self-directed teams have been introduced, either formally or de facto, supervisors spend very little time "watching other people work." nondeterministic ways (Hirshhorn, 1984; Jaikumar, 1986; Kelley, 1986; Keefe, 1991; Adler, 1992). Moreover, these studies suggest that past debates over the effects of technology have been framed too narrowly. To ask whether the net effect of technology is to "upskill" or "downskill" blue-collar work fails to capture the

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BOX 4.2 Teams and Customer Interactions at Corning, Inc. (Batt, 1997) Corning, Inc., and the AFGWU [American Flint Glass Workers Union] undertook a joint plant redesign at General Machine Shop [GMS], a supplier of machined parts for Corning's consumer and television tube production plants. The 1992 redesign replaced prior functional departments with product-oriented groups (serving consumer, lighting, and TV products), and within those groups, teams dedicated to producing parts for particular customer plants (e.g., Pressware, Martinsburg, and Greenville plants). The "real change" according to machinists, was ". . . the team-focus on the customer and their product." In the past, customers complained that no one at the plant would even answer their calls. This was due in large part to functional specialization. Under the team-based system, teams are responsible for end-to-end production—from providing quotes to customers for jobs to arranging for materials from suppliers to interfacing directly with the customer during design and production phases to meeting delivery dates. Because workers are now organized into product-focused teams, customers can directly contact team members on the floor to get updates on the production process and to collaborate over product design and cost. Now, GMS machinists go back and forth on designs and specifications with customers, who also supply the cast iron mold and the blueprint; the machinists also go back and forth with their engineers as needed until they "get it right." The machinists are also more heavily involved in training the workers in customer plants on the new equipment provided by GMS. In addition, each team also has its own annual budget for tools and supplies; whereas in the past, the supervisor had to sign a materials purchase order, machinists now purchase anything under $200. They go to trade shows and interact with equipment suppliers to purchase new equipment. Teams also absorb traditional personnel tasks of scheduling, arranging vacations, and determining overtime. multidimensional ways in which technology affects the content of work. For example, Zuboff (1989) found that a major effect of information technology on blue-collar work is to replace physical activity with mental and more abstract forms of analysis and response: "Your past physical mobility must be translated into a

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forms of artistic work that have a project structure. There is evidence that project organization is spreading to other organizational contexts, in part, because of the spread of professional and technical work. The parallels between craft, professional, and technical forms of organizing highlight a crucial and often overlooked implication of the spread of professional and technical work: the increasing prominence of horizontal divisions of labor. A horizontal division of labor implies a dispersion of authority among experts from distinct occupational groups. The logic behind this way of dividing work and authority is that knowledge and skills are domain specific and too complex to be fragmented and nested; thus individuals, rather than positions or jobs, become vessels of expertise. Knowledge is preserved and transmitted through extended training rather than through the rules and procedures that characterize bureaucracies. Occupational groups retain authority over their own work, while interacting with members of other groups to manage their respective components of a task. In a horizontal division of labor, knowledge and skills tend to be transportable across work sites. Prior to the industrial revolution, except for the military and the church, horizontal divisions of labor were the primary forms of organizing. It was only with the development of the factory system that vertical divisions of labor become more prominent. A resurgence in the horizontal division of labor should pose problems for organizations and individuals quite distinct from those they have faced in the recent past. One such problem concerns the nature of careers. Research has long demonstrated that relatively few scientists, doctors, or lawyers desire careers structured around hierarchical advancement. The same is true for most engineers. Although the literature frequently suggests that engineers desire managerial careers and although there can be no doubt that engineers move into management at greater rates than do members of other professions (Perrucci, 1971; Ritti, 1971; Zussman, 1985; Whalley, 1991), surveys of engineers nevertheless routinely indicate that two-thirds of all engineers are more interested in careers that involve increasing technical challenge (Bailyn and Lynch, 1983; Allen and Katz, 1986). In a series of studies of technicians, Zabusky and Barley (1996) report that most techni-

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cians also aspire to "careers of achievement" rather than "careers of advancement." The difficulty for both technicians and engineers is that organizations have historically not supported careers of achievement for three reasons. First, the range of work that most organizations can offer is not sufficiently broad to provide most technical workers with substantive challenges that are occupationally meaningful. Second, offering careers of achievement requires that organizations and human resource managers understand how members of an occupational community conceptualize skill and then plot opportunities in those terms. Such career paths are difficult to envision if one is not also a member of the occupation, which is certainly the case for most managers. Finally, definitions of success in most organizations, if not society as a whole, are still defined in terms of advancement. Thus, to pursue careers of achievement, technical professionals must often move from organization to organization in search of new challenges and skills. The desire for careers of achievement partially explains the growing popularity of contract work among technical professionals. Thus, as the professional and technical labor force expands, one might well expect independent contracting to become increasingly common. Cognitive Work Professional and technical work has always required considerable cognitive and analytical skill and familiarity with esoteric bodies of knowledge. There is little reason to believe that this will become any less or any more common among most established professional and technical occupations. Far more likely is the possibility that scientific and technical developments will require professionals to learn new bodies of knowledge continually in order to avoid becoming obsolete. Technological obsolescence has long been a concern among scientists and engineers; advanced technologies may increase the risk in other professions as well. For instance, Barley (1990) demonstrated how the advent of computerized medical imaging has inverted the status hierarchy in most radiology departments, because younger radiologists

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were more likely than older radiologists to understand how to interpret ultrasound, CT, and MRI images. As work becomes increasingly technical, however, we can expect analytical skills to become more important for an ever-larger segment of the workforce and even in lines of work that have not historically been viewed as requiring analytical skills. For instance, the digitization of control systems and the integration of previously discrete subcomponents of production systems requires operators to begin to coordinate production systems via a symbolic interface instead of relying on immediate sensory data such as tastes, smells, and sights (Zuboff, 1989). Symbolic interfaces require individuals to work with increasingly abstract representations of phenomena. However, it would be a mistake to believe that technical work eliminates the need for contextual knowledge of materials and techniques, as some analysts have suggested. What is more likely is that work will increasingly require a more complex interweaving of analytical and contextual knowledge that the culture's current system for classifying work has difficulty accommodating. Technicians' work illustrates the point. Most technicians work at an interface between the material world and a world of representations (Barley, 1996b). Using sophisticated techniques and technologies, they transform aspects of the material world into symbols that can be used for other purposes and by members of other occupations, typically professionals or managers. For instance, in medical settings, technicians produce images, counts, and other data useful for medical diagnosis. Technicians in nuclear power plants and other automated facilities create and monitor flows of information on production systems. Science technicians reduce physical phenomena to data or "inscriptions" from which scientists construct arguments, papers, and grants (Latour and Woolgar, 1979). Technicians, however, do more than generate representations and information; most are also responsible for taking care of the physical entities they oversee. Technicians ensure that machines, organisms, or other physical systems remain intact and in good working order. Care taking often requires technicians to make use of the very representations they create. Thus, emergency medical technicians take action on the basis of diagnoses made at the site of an acci-

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dent. Microcomputer support technicians use the results of tests and probes to alter the functioning of computer systems. The dual processes of transformation and care taking that define the core of technical work also make it culturally anomalous. To be effective troubleshooters at an empirical interface, technicians must comprehend the principles of the technologies and techniques they employ as well as be familiar with more abstract, systematic bodies of knowledge. In this respect, technicians resemble professionals. For instance, emergency medical technicians require knowledge of biological systems, pharmacology, and disease processes to render diagnostically useful information. And because technicians manipulate entities to achieve practical ends, they must also possess extensive contextual knowledge of their materials, technologies, and techniques. This knowledge is usually highly situated, acquired through practice, and difficult to articulate, much less codify. Contextual knowledge resides in an acquired ability to read subtle visual, aural, and tactile cues where novices see no information at all. At present, our culture prefers to divide work neatly into mental and manual occupations. We do not have culturally meaningful categories for making sense of work that requires both. As a result, organizations typically either treat technicians as junior professionals or as a modern variant of blue-collar labor, both of which misrepresent the technician's role in a production system and sometimes undermine their effectiveness (Barley, 1996b). Interactive-Emotion Work The ability to manage human relationships is key to the work of many professionals. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and social workers are expected to be particularly adept at ministering to their clients' emotional as well as their physical, legal, and educational needs. In fact, one of the primary complaints about professionals is that they often treat clients too distantly, as a mere case. Engineers and other technical professionals are even more maligned for their inability to relate to others. Increasingly, however, even the work of engineers and programmers requires considerable interpersonal skills. Technical work is today typically performed in the context of a team whose members must

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not only coordinate with each other but also must communicate effectively with clients in order to develop reasonable understandings of the requirements of the systems they design and build. Thus expansion of professional and technical work is likely to necessitate that an even larger proportion of the workforce possess effective interpersonal skills. A shift to a horizontal division of labor will place an increasing premium on the ability of people with different types of expertise and information to collaborate and coordinate. Without widespread interaction and communication skills, organizations will become increasingly ineffective because managers will be unable to coordinate the details of work processes, since they will not possess the requisite substantive knowledge. In a world of technical and professional experts, systems of command and control can not ensure coordination, the communication of requisite information, or effective problem solving. In a world of experts, such activities require the involvement of specialists who know the capabilities as well as the limits of their own expertise and therefore how to work effectively in teams in order to assemble breadth of knowledge from the deeper knowledge of distributed experts. Team-based professional and technical work also demands effective emotional labor. Summary Professional and technical workers have always enjoyed considerable autonomy, and we expect that this will generally remain the case. However, the employment of professionals by organizations, such as the employment of physicians by managed-care firms, may make some professionals increasingly subject to bureaucratic controls. For example, physicians in health maintenance organizations are typically required to prescribe drugs from an approved formally, a bureaucratic limitation on their professional autonomy. The scope of these workers' tasks is influenced by the gradual expansion of professional and technical work within organizations in which occupations collaborate. Technicians and professionals do not fit easily into the vertical blue-collar/managerial divide that dominated the rise of large-scale factory systems. In-

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stead, because they hold the knowledge and expertise that is derived from their formal education and training and craft-based experience, the boundaries of their expertise tend to be determined by the scope of their training and experience—i.e., by the horizontal boundaries of their craft or profession. Thus, the placement of and interactions across these horizontal boundaries becomes a more salient feature for professional and technical workers and the organizations that employ them. Cognitive complexity is a central feature of professional and technical work, but its substance is shifting quickly in many occupations. Draftsmen have moved from skilled constructors of material images to operators of software for computer-aided design. Technological changes in engineering have blurred the category between some electrical and mechanical engineers: "mechatronics" fuses digital and mechanical systems. Social changes have forced civil engineers to incorporate concern for and develop expertise in environmental impact assessment. Increasingly, the use of cross-functional teams requires professional and technical workers to have the cognitive and interactive skills needed to communicate, negotiate, and solve problems across traditional horizontal boundaries. In the helping professions such as nursing and medicine, workers have become more astute at managing the emotional encounter between patients and caregivers, understanding that healing may have as much to do with emotional as with physical care. Many other professionals and technicians that work with customers and clients are now being trained in the emotional labor aspects of their work. Conclusions Given the heterogeneity subsumed by any aggregate of occupations, attempting to draw conclusions about the general directions in which the content of work may be changing within a broad occupational classification is a risky proposition. It is even riskier to make proclamations about the direction in which the workforce as a whole is moving. Most of the data on the changing content of work comes from case studies of specific organizations, ethnographies of particular occupational groups, and a handful of surveys that assess a wider population of workers,

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albeit much more superficially than do situated studies. For some lines of work, especially management, there is almost no research on which to draw. In these instances, students of the changing nature of work must, at present, turn to accounts written by consultants and managers and then attempt the difficult interpretive task of separating self-serving rhetoric from substantiated observations. Ideally, researchers and policy makers should be able to turn to a continually updated, national, and longitudinal database on job skills and occupational structures to identify with less ambiguity the kinds of trends with which this committee has wrestled. Unfortunately, it is precisely the absence of such a database that occasioned this report in the first place. We do not believe, however, that the absence of systematic and consistent data on a large number of occupations precludes drawing any conclusions whatsoever. Although the data are uneven, accumulating evidence concerning some occupational groups does seem to point in consistent directions. It is reasonable to treat these consistencies as a form of replication that constitutes reasonable evidence. And it is equally important to underscore where there is considerable variation in what researchers have observed as well as to indicate what we do not, but should, know. At the moment, evidence for what is happening to blue-collar jobs, especially jobs in manufacturing settings, is the most well developed and consistent. Our relatively greater understanding of the changing content of blue-collar work probably reflects several facts. First, social sciences have a long history of studying factory work, so there are baselines for judging change. Second, it is much easier for researchers to gain access to blue-collar settings than it is to gain access to any other type of work, with the possible exception of clerical, technical, and professional work. Third, techniques for describing and analyzing physical work are better developed than techniques for describing and studying mental and interpersonal work. Finally, the transformation of production processes has been a key concern in business and engineering since the early 1980s and hence has attracted considerable attention from responsible journalists. Aside from the well known fact that blue-collar employment has fallen precipitously since mid-century, four other develop-

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ments seem reasonably widespread. Although these developments are occurring unevenly across industries and although one can surely find within any particular industry instances to the contrary, compared with the past an increasing number of blue-collar jobs seem (a) to offer workers more autonomy and control over their work processes, (b) cover a wide range of tasks, (c) demand more interpersonal skill, and (d) possibly have become more analytic if not cognitively complex. The adoption of lean production techniques, the growing acceptance of team-based work systems, and the spread of computer-integrated manufacturing technologies appear to be primarily responsible for these changes in the content of blue-collar jobs. Of these various developments, the least well-documented concerns the implications of computer-integrated manufacturing systems for analytic skills. In particular, we don't know whether the increasing importance of symbolically mediated work is confined to particular types of jobs or whether it is associated with specific types of production systems. We do know that the best evidence for the increasing analytic complexity of blue-collar work comes from studies of computerized control systems in continuous process industries: steel, chemicals, and paper manufacturing. Developments in the content of service work are far less consistent. For instance, studies of service work sometimes indicate a reduction in autonomy and control, less cognitively complex tasks, a narrowing of task scope and more routinized and scripted interpersonal interactions. Other studies indicate precisely the reverse. Our sense is that this variance is not an artifact of the studies that have been published, but an accurate reflection of what is happening in the service industries. Although social scientists have long studied clerical work, few other service occupations have attracted the attention of researchers until recent years. As a result, our ability to differentiate between types of service work is poorly developed. If nothing else, recent research indicates the utility of developing more grounded concepts for conceptualizing different types of service work. Researchers have shown that the ability to make even rudimentary distinctions, such as a typology of customers or the difference between relational and transactional interactions, greatly improves the ability to identify trends, at least within subsets of service work.

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Nevertheless, despite situational variance in the findings of existing studies, several tentative conclusions regarding service work seem plausible. First, a significant percentage of service jobs are probably becoming more routinized, in large measure because new information technologies enable greater centralization and control over work activities. Second, there is a tendency toward the blurring of clerical and sales jobs. Although the heterogeneity of work within specific service occupations appears to be increasing, this heterogeneity reflects, at least in part, the tendency to structure work differently according to market segments. Finally, interpersonal and emotional skills remain critical to service work, although the nature of these skills varies and the language for describing them is primitive. The nature of most professional and technical work is probably not changing in dramatic ways, even though scientific and technical advances can completely alter what professional and technical workers need to know in a relatively short span of time. Professional and technical jobs continue to afford considerable autonomy and control over work processes, to have considerable scope, to offer cognitively complex challenges, and to demand high levels of interpersonal skills. The primary trends in professional and technical work are continued expansion and increasing specialization, which tends to generate even more professional and technical occupations. When taken together, professionals and technicians now represent the largest occupational sector of the U.S. labor force. This constitutes a significant change in the demography of employment in the United States and other Western economies. Finally, solid empirical evidence on changes in the content of managerial work is nearly nonexistent. There is no broad occupational sector that demands more careful empirical study. This situation is ironic given the amount of attention paid to managerial work in the business press and by consultants and educators in business schools. The dearth of research on the changing nature of managerial work probably exists for several reasons. First, many descriptors used to inventory managerial skills (for example, makes decisions, engages in planning, etc.) are insufficiently detailed and too imprecise to register evidence of change. Second, the language for making distinctions among managerial

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jobs is poorly developed, perhaps, in part, because an intense belief in the importance of general management skills has precluded attempts to map functional specialization in management and to inventory the kinds of skills that such specialization requires. The situation is analogous to claiming that there are no meaningful differences between the work of a neurosurgeon and the work of dermatologist because both are doctors. Finally, as most ethnographers of work know, it is notoriously more difficult to gain access to observe the work of managers than it is to gain access to study the work of those whom managers supervise. Nevertheless, the tremendous consistency in the business press's portrayal of how management is changing indicates that substantial changes may indeed be occurring in the nature of managerial work. These changes appear to have been occasioned by the same developments that have altered blue-collar work: namely, downsizing and the shift to team-based work systems. Two developments seem especially plausible, although they are in need of much better documentation and they are likely to exhibit considerable variation across firms, industries, and hierarchical levels. First, at least lower-level managers appear to have experienced some loss in authority and control. Second, the need to communicate horizontally across the internal and external boundaries of organizations may be becoming more important than the supervision of an employee's work. There is also considerable talk about the substantive content of managers' jobs, shifting toward the procurement and coordination of resources, toward coaching as opposed to commanding employees, and toward project management skills. In attempting to assess these changes, however, it is particularly difficult to separate rhetoric from reality. Given the variation of developments within and between broad occupational groups and the paucity of research on service and especially managerial work, it is difficult to draw many strong conclusions regarding general trends in the nature of work. Nevertheless, considering all available evidence, the committee believes two conjectures concerning the broader trajectory of work in a postindustrial economy seem particularly plausible and worthy of considerably more scrutiny. First, it does not appear that work is becoming more routine or less skilled than in the

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past, but we are unwilling, at present, to claim that the reverse is true. Second, and far more intriguing, is the increasing importance of what sociologists call the horizontal division of labor. By a horizontal division of labor, sociologists tend to mean an occupational division of labor in which expertise is distributed among groups of specialists. In a vertical division of labor, expertise is lodged in organizations and structured in series of proper subsets that form an inclusion tree or a hierarchy in which superiors know what subordinates know and more. The tendency toward the reduction of job categories and the increasing scope of work in blue-collar work, the expansion and proliferation of professional and technical jobs, the segmentation of service work by problem area and market, and the hypothesis of increasing specialization of managerial work all point to a more horizontal system for organizing tasks, skills, knowledge, and responsibility. In horizontal divisions of labor, coordination occurs though the ongoing collaboration of experts rather than through a system of command and control. Should the general nature of work change to favor a more horizontal division of labor, it would represent a reversal of one of the primary attributes of the industrial era: the primacy of bureaucracy and hierarchy. In an economy marked by a horizontal division of labor, content and knowledge would become more important than command and control as vectors for organizing.