Digital media is having ‘largely positive’ effects on professional lives

Digital workplaceThe digitization of content and data, along with new digital communication technologies, has fundamentally changed the way work gets done, and affected the nature of the employment relationship. While it has a largely positive impact on peoples’ lives, including individuals’ ability to find work, learn and develop skills, and balance work and life, it can, in some cases, lower worker productivity and increase inequality. These are among the key findings from Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society  – a report by the World Economic Forum conducted in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson and presented at the WEF 2016 annual meeting in Davos. In the study, which included a survey of more than 5,000 digital users from five of the world’s most important markets; Brazil, China, Germany, South Africa and the US, over half (56 percent) reported digital media has transformed the way they work, and two-thirds said digital media has improved their ability to do work.

“The increased use of digital media is changing people’s everyday lives and the way they connect and collaborate, especially at work,” said Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director at Willis Towers Watson and co-author of the study report.

“The digitization of content and data, as well as new digital communication technologies, have opened up novel opportunities for where, when, how and by whom work gets done. This is also changing the nature of the employment relationship.”

The survey, conducted in October 2015 with the support of comScore, also found users spend the most amount of time connected online for work purposes (32 percent spend more than three hours a day online for this purpose) and information or learning.

Perhaps the most interesting findings centre around the influence digital media has on respondents’ professional lives:

  • More than half of respondents (56 percent) said digital media has transformed the way they work.
  • More than four in 10 respondents (41 percent) agree that social media improves their work effectiveness. Only 14 percent said it reduces their work effectiveness.
  • Half of the respondents agree that digital media has improved the quality of their professional lives. Only 14 percent disagree.

Additionally, respondents were extremely positive about how digital media has affected other work and professional-related aspects of their lives:

  • About two-thirds of respondents said digital media has improved their ability to do their work, learn and develop professionally, and collaborate with colleagues.
  • Roughly six in 10 agree digital media has improved their ability to maintain balance between work and personal life, build relationships with professional contacts and find work.

Interestingly, whether individuals see the impact of increased digital media use as positive or negative depends greatly on where they live. Only about one-quarter of respondents from Germany and the U.S. think digital media has improved the quality of their social, professional and overall lives. By contrast, about two-thirds of respondents in Brazil and China believe this. Respondents in South Africa are roughly divided on the issue.

“We are still striving to understand the implications of digital technology in our professional lives and the impact this will have on businesses,” said Sarita Nayyar, managing director, World Economic Forum USA. “As we have a better grasp, businesses will be in a much stronger position to leverage digital media to its fullest for both their organizations and employees.”

“Digital media now touches almost every aspect of a typical organization, from how talent is sourced and deployed, to how work gets done, to how the business connects with employees and customers.

“Given these changes, we believe employers should consider several initiatives including using digital media to more accurately match an individual’s skills to a specific business need, rather than thinking solely in terms of traditional jobs; taking a more nuanced approach to how work should be conducted; using social media tools to build communication and engagement within the organization; sourcing and building digital skills; and developing digital leadership,” said Jesuthasan.

Click on the link to read: Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society

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