Digitalisation is changing our working world, from the work environment to work organisation and co-operation.
Increasing digitalisation also has a substantial impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), for instance, on their work environment and organisation as well as their co-operation with customers and suppliers. Products and services as well as the related production and work processes are also changing. There is hardly any sector that remains untouched. Both the contents of work and the production conditions are subject to rapid change due to the fast pace of technological change.
This transformation is not always considered to be positive. Public perception, for instance, often associates digitalisation and (partial) automation of the working world with a supposedly unavoidable loss of jobs. Historically, these concerns are not new. Similar concerns arose in conjunction with the mechanisation and automation of agriculture which, not long ago, accounted for most jobs in Germany. Today, this share is down to less than two percent. However, this dramatic decline did not lead to a corresponding increase in unemployment because new business fields, activities and jobs emerged in industry and the services sector. This change in the organisation of work suggests that the effects of automation and the creation of new activities could also be fairly balanced in the future.
The digital change means both enormous opportunities as well as challenges for employees in all sectors. It is foreseeable that certain activity profiles will no longer exist in a few years whilst other profiles will develop further and a host of new jobs – albeit sometimes in other sectors – will be created at the same time.
Depending on a company’s organisation, the same technical concepts can have very different consequences for the contents and quality of work and hence for employees.
When activities currently performed by humans are replaced almost completely by new digital technologies, there will be a need for highly qualified and well-trained employees, on the one hand, whilst the number of helpers with low qualifications performing simple work will decline, on the other. But innovative technologies can also be aptly used as a tool. In this case, skilled workers who acquire additional skills during the course of digitalisation can continue to work.
If digital technologies are additionally used, the qualifications required from employees are different from those related to automation. Employees must perform more demanding operations and therefore need much higher qualifications. The way in which the working world will change can be influenced in a very targeted manner.