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Employment and Jobs

For Better or Worse: Designing Jobs During Technological Change

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Increased global competition in recent decades has unleashed a new wave of technological advancement, and a new wave of predictions of technological displacement and job loss. But job destruction is not a foregone conclusion of technological advancement; in complex systems outcomes are hard to predict. Technology can replace workers or make work less fulfilling, but it can also be used to complement workers’ skills and improve wages, safety, and employee engagement. Choices about developing and deploying technology and designing new jobs all make a difference.

Employers, workers, government, philanthropy and others can play an active role in shaping how technology is used, how jobs are designed, and what the future of work will be. How does technology affect job design? What can employers and businesses do to invest in technology and their workforce to improve business performance and increase employee retention and engagement? How can workers be engaged to help shape operations and how technology is developed and used? What can we learn from human-centered design?

This is the first conversation in our three-part series, The Job Quality Choice: Opportunities and Challenges in Job Design.


In this video, hear @AspenJobQuality #talkopportunity with Ben Armstrong @workofthefuture, Lisa Dewey-Mattia @PANYNJ, @rebeccalilian0 @ideo, and @DanielleDigest @washingtonpost about job design during technological change.

Video: “Designing Jobs During Technological Change.” Featuring Ben Armstrong @workofthefuture, Lisa Dewey-Mattia @PANYNJ, @rebeccalilian0 @ideo, and @DanielleDigest @washingtonpost. Hosted by @AspenJobQuality.

New technologies often bring predictions of worker displacement. But job loss is not a foregone conclusion. Learn how technology can complement skills and improve wages, safety, and engagement.

Employers, workers, government, and philanthropy all have a role to play in shaping the future of work. Hear @AspenJobQuality and guests discuss how technology can help to create good jobs.

What lessons can human-centered design teach us about the future of work? Hear @AspenJobQuality and guests discuss how technology can improve both #jobquality and business performance.


Photo of Ben Armstrong, MIT

Ben Armstrong
Executive Director, Work of the Future Initiative, MIT @workofthefuture

Ben Armstrong is the executive director of MIT’s Work of the Future Initiative and a research scientist at the MIT Industrial Performance Center. His research and teaching examine how workers, firms, and regions adapt to technological change. In his work, Ben has collaborated with governments, nonprofit organizations, and firms to understand how scholarship and education can be useful to practitioners and policymakers. Previously, he worked for Google Inc. and served on the board of an open-source hardware nonprofit. Ben received his doctorate from MIT.


Photo of Lisa Dewey-Mattia

Lisa Dewey-Mattia
Director, Office of Continuous Improvement, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey @PANYNJ

Lisa Dewey-Mattia is the director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Office of Continuous Improvement, a team that applies lean and design thinking to transform processes to meet internal and external customer needs. In her twelve years with the agency, she has managed efforts across multiple disciplines, from exploring new technology for the PATH train system to logistics planning for World Trade Center Redevelopment. Lisa has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in urban planning from Rutgers University’s Bloustein School, and she holds a professional license from the American Institute of Certified Planners. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in the beautiful community of Maplewood, New Jersey.


Photo of Becky Lee, Director, IDEO

Becky Lee @rebeccalilian0
Director, IDEO San Francisco @ideo

Becky is a director in IDEO’s Learning practice. Her portfolio is focused on access to transformative learning and meaningful work. She partners with leaders of colleges, training programs, and Fortune 500 companies to think creatively about talent and workforce development.

Becky brings expert facilitation, storytelling, and systems thinking to design challenges at the intersection of learning and work. Most recently, she collaborated with Opportunity@Work to design tools, services, and experiences that advance economic mobility for people without four-year degrees. She has also partnered with the Ford Foundation to elevate the voices of non-salaried workers at corporate organizations. In earlier work, she has also taught design thinking to professors and scientists, refreshed an iconic student foreign exchange program, and laid the foundation for California’s first online community college.

Prior to IDEO, she helped launch mobile TV ratings at Nielsen and taught English as a second language as a Fulbright fellow in Brazil. She earned degrees in English and psychology from Cornell University, where she researched adult attachment in the “Love Lab.”



Photo of Danielle Abril

Danielle Abril @DanielleDigest
Tech at Work Writer, The Washington Post @washingtonpost

Danielle Abril covers technology and its impact on workers across industries for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she covered Big Tech companies at Fortune including Google and Facebook. She previously was a reporter and editor for more than 10 years in Dallas.

The Job Quality Choice: Opportunities and Challenges in Job Design

Each day, approximately 160 million people in the US go to work. Many of them will work in a job or workplace designed to meet the needs of the employer with little thought given to what employees may need to be successful, or how the success of employers and workers are connected. The results of our country’s collective approach to job design are well documented at this point. Almost one-third of workers in the US – a disproportionate number of whom are women and people of color – earn less than $15 an hour, and over 50% of the jobs projected to be created between 2020 and 2030 will pay less than a living wage. But, wages are just one part of job design. Many of these low-paying jobs also don’t offer personal fulfillment, opportunities for worker input and voice, advancement, skills development, benefits, or other qualities of good jobs.

The evidence is also clear that bad jobs resulting from poor job design are not inevitable, but are reflective of choices we make. Employers in every industry and across every occupation have demonstrated that designing good jobs is possible and beneficial to workers and employers. What can these employers and businesses teach us about job design? What incentivizes and inhibits the design of quality jobs? And what role does philanthropy and government have in helping employers to design good jobs? Join the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program for this mini-series, The Job Quality Choice: Opportunities and Challenges in Job Design, where we will explore the drivers of job design, examine current challenges and opportunities around issues such as technology, skills development, and worker voice, and discuss strategies and practices that create good jobs that help workers and businesses succeed together.

Opportunity in America

The Economic Opportunities Program’s Opportunity in America discussion series has moved to an all-virtual format as we all do what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the conversations about the changing landscape of economic opportunity in the US and implications for individuals, families, and communities across the country remain vitally important. We hope you will participate as we bring our discussions to you in virtual formats, and we look forward to your feedback.

We are grateful to Prudential Financial, Walmart, the Surdna Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Bloomberg, and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth for their support of this series.

Learn More

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.

Event information
Wed Jul 27, 2022
2:00pm - 3:15pm EDT