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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Changing competence requirements in public services: consequences of digitization in general and highly specialized work

Alternative title: Nye kompetansekrav i offentlig sektor: konsekvenser av digitalisering i arbeid med ulik grad av spesialisering

Awarded: NOK 10.2 mill.

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Project Period:

2019 - 2024

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The CORPUS project generates new knowledge on requirements to professional expertise and learning in the primary health services, by conducting close-up studies on how digitalization generates changes in work organization and task distribution, what competencies are needed to cope with and resolve these challenges, and what learning opportunities are afforded in everyday work. CORPUS examines work and learning in settings where new technologies for service coordination and delivery are recently designed, implemented or reinvented for specific use. The project conducts fieldwork in two cases in the City of Oslo. One case follows the design, development and implementation of ELISE, a digital technology to facilitate information flow and coordination when patients move between units (e.g., from hospital to home care). Special attention is given to how health professionals as users participate in the design process and what this requires in terms of competencies. The other case follows knowledge sharing and collaborative practice development in the services directed towards home-based care, where new care technologies are taken into use in clients’ homes and changes the way health services are provided. In this case, special attention is given to groups of care personnel mandated to facilitate technology integration and adapt the services for these purposes. Our results show how digitalization processes imply a manifold of new tasks and responsibilities for healthcare workers, which to a limited extent are made explicit. Health professionals who take part in the design of technologies for patient information sharing need to develop an understanding of the larger work system in which tasks and care services are embedded. Moreover, they need to assess and decide on the relevance of different information in different contexts of use. These participants oscillate between different designer roles as explorers, facilitators and negotiators of the emerging design features. Our analyses show how their emerging responsibilities stretch beyond catering for their own work contexts and imply to design for other work processes and actors in the wider service flow. This work expands their professional expertise as capacities to identifying, delimiting and exploring design problems in a collaborative manner are required. Workers who are given coordinating responsibilities when welfare technologies are taken into use in the care services face challenges as to navigating relations between different organizational functions, involved actors and organizational layers, and balancing various concerns in short and long perspectives while at the same time aiming at influencing implementation of technologies and development of services. Their tasks and responsibilities in the digitalization processes are to a limited extent formalized or specified. Thus, the crafting of their work role becomes itself a complex and learning-intensive task. Our analyses show that this work has a relational character as care workers become and assume responsibilities for redefining and navigating relations to their colleagues, their leaders and clients in the service organization. These forms of ‘meta-work’ are typically not recognized as important work for the digitalization of health care to be realized. Moreover, our observations indicate a relatively high mobility of personnel in such positions. This mobility generates challenges in securing continuity in the digitalization initiatives and leads to repetitive processes to bring new groups of employees on board and reorganize the services to adapt to technological changes. Over time, our analyzes show that scaling and connecting multiple technologies in digital infrastructures contributes to increased complexity, and requires the capacity to handle variation in work practices and meet immediate challenges, while safeguarding future strategic ambitions. Changing personnel also creates challenges for continuity of work, and contributes to the fact that many processes have to be repeated in different work environments so that personnel and the service organization can deal with technological changes. During 2023, results have been shared with users and research environments at national and international conferences. Activities in the following year emphasize comparative and synthesizing analyses. The results of CORPUS will be valuable for work organizations outside the health sector and for the further development of lifelong learning policies. For information about publications and other activities, see the project webpage:

The CORPUS project will develop new and important knowledge on digitization, new skills requirements and learning in working life by conducting close-up studies of how digitization generates changes in work organisation and task distribution, what competences are needed to cope with and resolve these challenges, and what learning opportunities are afforded. Two digitization trends are highlighted: The datafication trend which relates to data-driven development and automation, and the platform trend, which relates to new forms of work coordination and distribution in digital platforms. CORPUS examines work and learning in settings where new technologies for service coordination and delivery are recently designed, implemented or reinvented for specific use. Public health services form the empirical sites. These are heavily exposed to different types of technology change, they employ a major portion of public sector employees with diverse background, and the capacities of work organisations, leaders and employees to use technologies and data in productive ways are critical for the sustainability of the welfare society. The sector offers productive cases for investigating the mundane consequences of digitization and how organisations and individuals master emerging challenges and take advantage of new opportunities for work and learning. CORPUS comprises researchers with expertise in the learning sciences, organisational sociology and computer science. The research work will be organized as a set of case studies in which work practices and learning will be studied by a) examining the 'information ecologies' that make up the work environments, and b) investigate how different groups of employees get access to information, engage in learning-on-the-job, and take advantage of opportunities for future-oriented development. CORPUS collaborates closely with users and stakeholders. The project includes collaboration and comparisons to other Nordic contexts.

Publications from Cristin

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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon