Accueil » 29-3 ( 1974) » L’automatisation des bureaux : quelques conséquences sur le personnel

L’automatisation des bureaux : quelques conséquences sur le personnel

François Delorme


Cet article présente un tableau synthèse des études effectuées sur les effets de l’introduction de l'ordinateur par rapport au personnel de bureau. On y formule également, à même les observations tirées des sources recensées, quelques hypothèses relatives aux licenciements, aux relogements du personnel, aux modifications occupationnelles de même qu'aux attitudes de la main-d'oeuvre de bureau.


Office Automation : Some Consequences for the Office Work Force

The focus of this study is to present, by means of a synthetical table, a review of the literature dealing with office automation, mainly as to some of its consequences for office workers. Even if those involved in the field of personnel administration are now mainly concerned with the present applications of the computer and its very near possibilities for the personnel fonction itself, it still seems important for the author to investigate the problem of EDP effects upon office workers and this, for two major reasons. First, many authors who studied the problem of automation have restricted their analysis to the factory setting in spite of the numerical importance of white collar workers in industrialized countries. Secondly, a systematic observation of the empirical cases available shows a serious shortcoming as to the scientific methods used.

In the first part of the paper, devoted wholly to the synthetical table, the material reviewed is classified according to the methodology used and to the observed consequences of EDP for the white collar workers l. Among the many aspects of EDP effects that could have been pointed out, four (4) important ones were selected on the basis of their practical implications or the controversial nature of the theoretical issues discussed: personnel reduction (I) and reclassification (II), changes in skill requirements (III A) and occupational structure (III B), and employee attitudes toward the technological change (IV) 2.

The second section deals with the first two aspects mentioned, namely personnel reduction and reclassification. As far as the personnel reduction is concerned, it does not seem that the implantation of EDP involves a notable cut in the office work force, at least in the short run. In other respects and over a longer period of time, a substantial decrease in employment is to be expected, particularly for the female employees who are usually assigned to the hardware section of the computer and are therefore less specialized to meet the technological innovations of data processing. In practice, the relocation of office workers goes in two different ways. The promotional opportunitiesresulting from the installation of the computer seem scanty because the newly created jobs require more technical knowledge than most white collar workers do have. Over and above the practical implications involved in the job evaluation system, the problem of demotions seems more crucial for older white collar workers because of their difficulty in coping with the speed involved in the new tasks.

The last section focuses on the modifications in skill requirements and in the organizational structure, together with employee attitudes concerning these changes. Thus it seems that the employees assigned to the hardware section of the computer see a downgrading of their skill requirements while those of the white collar workers are upgraded. However, since this upgrading does not bring about more promotional opportunities nor a higher salary, white collar workers and employees of the hardware section display a similar pattern of attitudes toward their job, both being as unsatisfied. In comparison to these two groups of workers, the specialized manpower attached to the computer units shows more intrinsic job satisfaction. EDP does not really bring about, by itself, a notable increase in technical and administrative functions. However, its implantation involves a reorganization at the administrative level which is responsible for an increase in manpower at all levels.

In conclusion, it is the lack of methodological precision which stands out of the studies investigated. Thus, many authors reviewed, resort to the case study which makes it difficult to elaborate work hypotheses or general trends, while others fail to specify the nature of the tools they use and most of them neglect to take into account an important intervening variable, namely the time-span between the two points of comparison (before and after the change). These deficiencies underline the necessity of devising a method allowing an adequate quantitative analysis.

1The studies included in the table are reported by authors in alphabetical order.

2These numbers correspond to the subdivisions used in the table.