Ashley Braganza, Weifeng Chen, Serap Sap and myself just had a paper published in the Journal of Business Research. The title of the paper is “Productive Employment and Decent Work: The Impact of AI Adoption on Psychological Contracts, Job Engagement and Employee Trust”.
The paper examines the effect of the combined emerging work practices of gig work and AI-enabled work automation, on workers’ relationship with the employing organisation, and on their work satisfaction. We term this combined effect “gigification”.
Both gig work and AI can lead to increased productivity. However, to date, there has been no empirical investigation of how these two workplace developments can impact on the qualitative aspects of work and employment.
Through our survey of 232 West London residents, we find a tension between new work practices and the development and implementation of AI technologies, on the one hand, and preserving and enhancing ‘decent work’ on the other (defined by the United Nations as the opportunity to gain work that is productive, provides a fair income, and delivers security in workplaces and social protection for families as well as room for personal development and social integration).
We find that employee engagement falls as a consequence of adopting AI technologies. AI has the potential to promote inclusion of workers in at risk groups, such as disabled workers. However, as AI technologies are implemented, in some cases entire jobs or some tasks may be automated out of existence. This causes significant uncertainties for workers.
We also find that gigification alters the relationship between workers and their employers, towards independence between the two parties. Gigification leads to ad-hoc arrangements between employers and workers, the scope of which is determined by the technology deployed to mediate the relationships between them. In these new relationships, the basis of interactions is with limited or no human intervention, while the time period is sporadic, characterised by irregular, erratic instalments of work.
We suggest that the combined effect of gig work and AI brings changes in the psychological contract between employers and employees. Namely, we found that this combination can alienate employees, detracting from relational contracts and creating an ‘alienational’ psychological contract.