Future of work: How change agents make sense of the effects of technological development on people management

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
Digitalization and technological development are disrupting the way we work and manage people with immense speed. While the rapidly changing nature of work holds great promise for working life, it poses pressure for organizations to prepare for the future. Organizations that can capitalize on the change are expected to thrive in their industries, yet coping with an uncertain future poses a fundamental challenge for organizational actors to make sense of the change. This research aims at understanding how change agents make sense of the effects of technological development on people management in organizations. The motivation of this study is two-fold: First, I assume that technological development is fundamentally disrupting the way we work and manage people, yet I believe that organizations might struggle when attempting to make sense of the change. Thus, I believe providing further understanding on how change agents make sense of the change holds great interest for practitioners. Second, this research contributes to the currently limited amount of research on temporal sensemaking and widens our understanding on emotion and sensemaking. Moreover, this study contributes to an emerging stream of research on technology and people management, which assumes that technological development fundamentally disrupts the ways in which we work and manage people. Thus, the research question of this study is: How do change agents make sense of the effects of technological development on people management in organizations? This study builds on the interpretive approach, and considers reality as subjective and socially constructed. The empirical part of this research was carried out as a qualitative interview-based study. Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with interviewees from different industries, functions, and levels of organization. The interviews were then analyzed using the content analysis method. The key findings of this study are two-fold: First, the most prominent perceived effects were found as the shift in power from employers to employees, the increasing search for meaningfulness, and the shift from control to trust. Second, the change agents’ constructions of the change were found to vary based on the intensities of hope and fear they portrayed over the change. Consequently, feeling of control and dissatisfaction with the status quo were identified as antecedents to the responses. The key managerial implications of this study highlight the importance of reshaping people management practices to fit the new nature of work, and suggest that organizations can drive change agent sensemaking by involving them in the change, and by encouraging novel ideas when they are not satisfied with the status quo. Future research is needed in terms of how organizations adapt to the change, how sense is made in interactions, and how change agents construct temporalities in making sense of the change.
Thesis advisor
Mäkelä, Kristiina
Hakkarainen, Tuuli
future of work, the decoupling of work, sensemaking, temporal sensemaking
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