One third of employees have experienced growth in jobs as a result of new technology

Technology was also found to have a positive impact on the career advancement opportunities

18 August 2020

Employees generally take a positive view when new technologies are rolled out in the workplace. Employees regard modernisation efforts as new opportunities to advance their career. In Belgium, this is even the case for 47 percent of employees, while about one third of employees in the Netherlands (32.3%), France (31.5%) and the UK (30.7%) and about one quarter of employees in Germany (25.9%) would agree with this. At the same time, it was found to have a positive impact on the stress they face in the workplace. These are the result of a large-scale survey conducted by payroll and HR services provider SD Worx in collaboration with the Antwerp Management School among 3,870 white-collar workers from Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
At least one quarter of those surveyed believe that the new technology introduced by their employers had a positive impact on their career advancement opportunities within the company. The figure in Germany was 25.9 percent, but in the UK (30.7%), France (31.5%) and the Netherlands (32.3%), for example, the figure is even higher. In Belgium, as many as 47 percent of employees see new technology as an opportunity to advance to more senior positions. Only a minority (ranging from 15.5 percent in Belgium to 7.6 percent in the Netherlands) see it as restricting their mobility within the company.

“This finding is in line with the conclusion that technology in the workplace usually replaces routine tasks", says Professor Ans De Vos, who works at Antwerp Management School on Next Generation Work: Creating Sustainable Careers. “This often frees up more time within the job in question for other, often more challenging tasks. Our study shows that many employees see things this way too. This is directly opposed to the doom and gloom you often read about when it comes to the impact of technology in the workplace. But what is important is that employers also point out the opportunities for career advancement to their employees."

Entirely new range of tasks?

The survey also found that new technology demands flexibility, with 44.3 percent of Belgian respondents having experienced that their profession has changed a lot or completely in recent years on account of new technologies. In the other countries surveyed, this percentage varies from 12.7 percent in Germany to 23.2 percent in the Netherlands. And how do they see the future? In Belgium, more than 1 in 4 expect their range of tasks to be largely or almost entirely different within a few years. In the UK, about 1 in 5 thought this, while in Germany, Netherlands and France more than 1 in 7 employees thought the same way.

Most respondents did not report any additional stress in the workplace as a result of new technology. In fact, 23.4 percent of Belgian employees reported that it even had a positive impact on their stress levels. The picture in the Netherlands was similar for more than 1 in 5 employees, while the figures for Germany (19.2%), the UK (16.4%) and France (16.3%) were somewhat slightly lower. For most countries, the introduction of new technology was found to have a neutral effect on workplace stress by around 60 percent of employees. Only in Belgium were workplace innovations found to generate additional stress by 1 in 3 employees. In the neighbouring countries, this figure fell from 24.1 percent in France to 19.6 percent in the UK.

There is a thin line between job mobility and more stress

"There is a thin line between more challenging work or career advancement opportunities and experiencing more stress", explains Professor Ans De Vos. “Stress in the face of technological changes is often due to fear or uncertainty, or self-doubt about the ability to carry out the new tasks. With technological changes, it is therefore important to focus strongly on training so that employees learn to deal with the new technology as well as with the new tasks or responsibilities that may come with it. Businesses, therefore, need to look beyond training that is simply focused on mastering the new technology.”

Contrary to the general perception, new technology also seems to create extra jobs. On average, 32.2% of respondents thought that this was the case. In France, 44.4 percent of employees saw an increase in jobs following technology upgrades in their workplace. Similarly, employees reported that technology was responsible for significant jobs growth in the Netherlands (38.4%) and Belgium (35.6%). Only in Germany (25.7%) and the UK (16.8%) were the number of job vacancies found to increase to a lesser extent.

“Businesses are being forced to accelerate and improve their processes using new technology", says Jan Laurijssen, Managing Consultant, Team People & Digital Transformation at SD Worx. “The fear that jobs will be lost as a result of new technology or that employees will find it difficult to adopt new technology appears to be unfounded. This study shows that new technology not only reduces the stress for many employees, but also offers opportunities to develop and can even lead to jobs growth. It seems that we have finally been able to dispel an age-old myth."