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According to Coovert and Thompson (2013), technology in the workplace is breaking down departmental walls, shortening product production times, building automated offices for on-the-go staff, and improving the exchange of huge volumes of knowledge. Furthermore, automation alters how companies interact with their staff and vendors, as well as how they provide services to their clients. As a result, in order to thrive and excel in the modern world of work, companies need inspired, technically literate employees. Technology enables automated workplaces and has sparked a boom in multinational virtual teams as well as a revolution in telework. Consequently, whether the members of staff work only domestically, or also globally, the workday has become endless and seamless for millions of workers in countries everywhere. The mobile devices, such as the blackberries, and the internet, including social media permit access to it anytime and anywhere making such collaborations possible. Therefore, it allows mobility whereby organizations can set up their presence internationally at a fraction of the cost. Technology in the workplace also facilitates the digital filing systems, which saves printing, paper, and space costs. Based on the human technology, there is also an improvement in the efficiency of hiring, recruiting, and screening potential candidates.
The History of Technology in the Workplace
In the 1970s, the internet was virtually unknown among the business leaders since it was only confined to the government research and arcane academic domains. After the World Wide Web made its debut by the late 1980s, and mainly in the 1990s, the internet generated a wave of creative destructions that impacted business on a global scale. Since then, developing an internet strategy has turned out to be the aspiration for many companies, as their anxious management watched net infant organization like eBay and Amazon.com rise to spectacular heights in the public consciousness and Wall Street (Wallace, 2004).
Technology in the workplace has changed and developed over the years in various ways. For instance, the technology change has altered how work is conducted and the content of the job, which has led to the occurrence of work restructuring. While the transformations in technology are often described based on mechanization or computerization, it also includes the changes in the apparatus utilized to carry out a task that causes a change in the manner the job itself is conducted. Although there are no substantive changes in the working condition that results from the technology change, it may generate new circumstances that the obtainable contemporary agreement does not sufficiently address when it comes to the composition of the structure of the employer, or the bargaining unit (McQuarrie, 2015). Technology has also led to efficiency and increased productivity. The reason is that the employee efforts and productivity have been enhanced, permitting the workers to place more emphasis on more significant aspects such as creativity and precision. Technology allows an ever-increasing range of duties to be conducted with the press of a button. Consequently, technology has been improving over the years, which has also continued to increase the quantity and quality of output (Jonge, Scherer & Rodger, 2007).
Technology has also developed over the years whereby it has brought a host of new capabilities and tools to the employees, particularly in the areas of collaboration, abilities, and mechanisms. Consequently, people can open a window to the digital world on their laptops or desktops, and they can gain access to a limitless supply of business intelligence and information. Furthermore, twenty-four-hour connection to information resources, clients, and co-workers in the workplace itself is commonplace. Therefore, regardless of physical location, the team members can apply collaborative technologies to work together. E-learning enables the employees to earn degrees and improve their skills without commuting to classes (Jonge et al., 2007).
Various factors have contributed to the changes in technology over the years. For instance, there was the need to reduce the employee workload through the technological advancement. Organizations have also aimed at leveraging the emerging technology to keep up with the market trend to manage human capital and drive productivity. Technology changes have also resulted due to the demand for more power, integrated, and scalable system components, which facilitate better services. The changes even occurred due to the need for a permanent increase in technology, which technology was the only source. The changes also transpired because it was perceived that technology would undoubtedly enable the employees to work more efficiently and faster. Besides, it also facilitated remote and flexible working, such as preparing quick presentations and reports with the use of cell phones and working from home. Another driver included the increase in pressure on companies to be more customer-focused, agile, and competitive. There is also the more significant application of dispersed work groups often the global, continual restructuring and reorganization, more efficient space use and reduced cost, and improved attraction of new workers and quality of work life.
Bodies of Legislation
According to McQuarrie (2015), the labor regulations offer methods to tackle the transformations resulting from the technological change. First, some of the laws allow the collective agreement to contain a reopener clause. In the second place, in some jurisdiction, the legislation is made up of language that primarily addresses the manner in which the technological change impact is to be handled. In a collective agreement, the reopener clause permits an employer and the union to renegotiate the cooperative agreement terms while the conformity is still in effect. Ideally, this transpires rather than viewing the timeline of the legislation for renegotiating the whole agreement.
Based on the first method, in five jurisdictions in Canada, the labor legislation obligates the employers to present notice of intended changes in technology. For instance, in the Federal authority, the employers are required to provide the bargaining agent with at least 120 day’s written notice of the changes that they propose. To this regard, the announcement must point out the effect that the transformation is likely to have, the estimated number and type of workers affected, the proposed date of the change, and the nature of the change. After that, the bargaining agent is required to apply to the board to seek an order allowing them to serve a notice to replace or revise current collective agreement terms. Therefore, the change may not transpire until the agreement has been reviewed or the board rejects the request of the bargaining agent. Based on the reopener clause, besides the terms of the deal itself, the parties can agree to revise any collective agreement provision (McQuarrie, 2015).
In the British Columbia jurisdiction, the provision for the technological change is that before the date on which the alteration, practice, policy, and measure is to be affected, the employer is obligated to present 60 day’s notice to the relevant trade union. After submitting the note, the union and the employer are required to establish an adjustment plan, which can be enforced as if it were a component of the collective agreement. For the Manitoba jurisdiction, the employer is required to present at least 90 days’ notice to the bargaining agent. They must do so in writing, and describe the effect the change is likely to have, the appropriate number of workers affected, the date of the implementation of the change, and the nature of the change. Consequently, the bargaining agent may then give the notice to negotiate revisions to the present agreement or to negotiate a new collective deal. In this case, arbitration may be applied to settle the questions concerning the change or its effect. For the reopener clauses, the parties can choose to make improvements to the provisions of the collective agreement in the course of the term of that contract (McQuarrie, 2015).
In the New Brunswick jurisdiction, the provisions for the technological change is none stated in legislation, although each of the collective agreement must comprise the terms calling for the employer to provide reasonable notice of the changes in the technology. They must present it to the bargaining agent and spell out the content of such notice. The effect or the implementation of the technological change is to be submitted to binding arbitration if the collective agreement does not hold such language. The reopener clause provision, in this case, is that any rule of a joint bargaining can be revised at any time if the parties consent, with the exclusion for the regulations that are linked to the term of the contract. In Nova Scotia jurisdiction, the stipulation for the reopener clause is that the revision can result from the collective conformity during the duration of the agreement, with the exclusion of the parts relating to the expression itself. Another jurisdiction is the Prince Edward Island, and here, reopener clause provision is that any section of a collective bargaining may be revised as a consequence of the mutual consent of the parties. However, the term of the agreement must be more than one year (McQuarrie, 2015).
Moreover, for the Saskatchewan jurisdiction, the provision for the technology change is that the employer must give the minister of labor and the bargaining agent at least 90 days’ written notice of the change if the modification is to affect a considerable number of workers. Notably, the notice should specify the effect that the move may have, the proposed date of implementation, and the nature of the change (McQuarrie, 2015).
The Taking of the Union and the Management
The notices on the reopener clauses and the technological change alert the unions and the employers to make attempts, as well as adjustments to mutually agree on how the modification will be conducted. The issues are governed by the employer and the union, although various aspects of the workplace are solely left under the control of the employer. For this reason, if restructuring takes place, as the designated representative of the workers in the workplace, the union is involved in the reorganization occurs. They are included in the planning of the workplace restructuring as a consequence of the more substantial impact restructuring could have on the workers the union represents. The reason is that the union may have expertise or information that could lead to a restructuring process that is more effective. Furthermore, the involvement of the union often facilitates the worker's acceptance of the change, which otherwise, could be regarded as an insensitive or unilateral action of the management. Negotiations can be used to address the restructuring issues if they are present when the collective bargaining commences. The restructuring of the office could also be resolved through the agreement of both parties, which is achieved by applying the reopener clauses in the collective agreement to negotiate the dealing of the language with the restructuring issues (McQuarrie, 2015).
Furthermore, when workplace restructuring is undertaken, some concerns need to be addressed, and although it is not patent that whether an organization is legally duty-bound to incorporate the union in carrying out or planning their restructuring efforts, the management needs to be careful in this activity. As such, they need to ascertain that the process does not work bypass or underestimate the legal role of the union as the representative of the bargaining unit membership. The actions of the management such as requesting for the input of the workers on the organizational operations or structure could be regarded as bypassing the union on the potential bargaining issues. For this reason, the organization must be careful that their deeds are not perceived to be to be motivated by the anti-union animus. The employer must ascertain that there are legitimate business reasons for the proposed changes if the restructuring comprises the changes to workplace structure or job descriptions. Therefore, both the unions and the employers often ensure that the transformations do not contravene any terms of the applicable collective agreement. When being involved in the restructuring efforts, the unions time and again has been conscious of the entire impact of the restructuring proposal, and have made efforts to guarantee that the interests of all members are equally defended and represented. The communication of the union with their members has been fundamental in establishing internal unity and knowledge concerning how the changes would impact different workplace groups (McQuarrie, 2015).
Two arbitration cases can be applied to address the issues. In the first case, a worker had been demoted from his first-level position in the management, and consequently, he argued that his removal was as a result of anti-union animus. Nonetheless, the employer explained that in the collective agreement, the management rights clause gave them the unilateral rights to make such changes. They also claimed that the demotion was justified as a consequence of the workplace restructuring. In the hearing of this case, the arbitrator ruled that the restructuring carried out by the organization had generated the necessity for the transformation in the in the structure of the management of the company. However, there was no sufficient evidence to establish that in this particular employee’s work, the change was as a result of the union animus. Moreover, the arbitrator also pointed out that the changes have the impact of shifting the job duties, which were earlier conducted by the members of the bargaining unit to a non-union position in the company. They also found that the transformation violated the collective agreement (McQuarrie, 2015).
In another case, the management of an organization had launched a process to solicit the input of the workers on the proposed change of the workplace. The employer was of the view that this workplace restructuring was essential for the reason that imminent funding and technological changes were about to affect the way the employer carried out their business considerably. While before the labor relations board, the union contended that the organization had excluded them from taking part in the implementation and the planning of the process to solicit the input of the employees. Here, the board established that the exclusion had undermined the position of the union as the bargaining representative for the workers (McQuarrie, 2015).
Future of Technological in the Workplace
In the future, the technology in the workplace is expected to grow further. The reason is that the concept has the potential to make practical use of human resource, cultivate mobile work culture, help the managers in strategic decision-making, and increase productivity. The revolution of the technology in the workplace will continue to have a considerable impact on the tools available to the employees, the jobs available, and the nature of the work environment. Therefore, the temperature-controlled, clean, and quiet workplaces will continue to replace the noisy, dirty work environments. Rather than the physically demanding occupations, more people will keep being employed in the technical, sedentary jobs (Jonge et al., 2007).
The changes in the technology in the workplace consequently affect all parties including the union, management, and the employees. For the unions, these changes have posed challenges for their vitality and survival. The reason is that many of the unions were formally structured to operate as the representative of the workforce in occupations or industries with the traditional hierarchical association between the management and the workers, and with a relatively stable workforce. For this reason, the unions are required to adapt to the new realities of work. Besides, they are also expected to demonstrate their importance to the new generation of employees in numerous different categories of workplaces (McQuarrie, 2015).
For the management, the technology affects them to the extent that they are obligated to address various issues, such as managing its introduction and the impact in the workforce, planning its debut, paying for it, and choosing when and the manner to introduce the new technology. The managers are also required to keep abreast of the developments in technology to identify the ones that would transform the systems of operations. For the employees, the adoption of technology has had a tremendous impact on their morale, how they interact with coworkers and have changed the nature of the jobs. The development of technology targets the culture in which organizations exist, the social milieu in which work takes place, the worker, and the tasks they perform. They are also able to accomplish their tasks using methods that are more efficient. Also, the advent of social networking, webinars, video conferences, and email underlies connectivity between colleagues. It also increases flexibility for the workers (Falconer, 2014).
Technology is not going to go away because it is a continuing process and it is everywhere. For this reason, various organizations have to cope with it in the framework of the weight of the technological setting. If the executives fail to do so, they will find it very hard to compete successfully. Furthermore, companies need to realize the significance of investing in new technology and of managing its introduction. The step will be important, because technology is breaking down departmental barriers in the workplace, collapsing product-development cycles, generating virtual offices for human resources on the go, and enhances the sharing of immeasurable amounts of information (Coovert & Thompson, 2013).
Coovert, M.D., & Thompson, L.F. (2013). The psychology of workplace technology. New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Falconer, S. (2014). Financial services management a qualitative approach. Florence: Taylor and Francis.
Jonge, D.D., Scherer, M.J., & Rodger, S. (2007). Assistive technology in the workplace. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
McQuarrie, F.A. (2015). Industrial relations in Canada. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.
Wallace, P.M. (2004). The Internet in the workplace: how new technology is transforming work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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