DAVOS, SWITZERLAND and ARLINGTON, VA, January 20, 2016 — The explosive growth in digital media is transforming how work is getting done and is having largely positive effects on professional lives, including individuals' ability to find work, learn and develop professional skills, and balance work and life. However, digital media, in some cases, can actually lower worker productivity while at the same time increasing inequality. These are among the key findings from the Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society study released today by the World Economic Forum and conducted in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW).
“The increased use of digital media is changing people’s everyday lives and the way they connect and collaborate, especially at work,” said Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director at Willis Towers Watson and coauthor of the study report. “The digitization of content and data, as well as new digital communication technologies, have opened up novel opportunities for where, when, how and by whom work gets done. This is also changing the nature of the employment relationship.”
The study, which included a survey of more than 5,000 digital users from five of the world’s most important markets — Brazil, China, Germany, South Africa and the U.S. — revealed that nearly seven in 10 respondents agree that the use of digital media for work-related purposes has grown significantly over the past three years and will continue to do so in the future. The survey, conducted in October 2015 with the support of comScore, also found users spend the most amount of time connected online for work purposes (32% spend more than three hours a day online for this purpose) and information or learning. Perhaps the most interesting findings center around the influence digital media has on respondents’ professional lives:
- More than half of respondents (56%) said digital media has transformed the way they work.
- More than four in 10 respondents (41%) agree that social media improves their work effectiveness. Only 14% said it reduces their work effectiveness.
- Half of the respondents agree that digital media has improved the quality of their professional lives. Only 14 % disagree.
Additionally, respondents were extremely positive about how digital media has affected other work and professional-related aspects of their lives:
- About two-thirds of respondents said digital media has improved their ability to do their work, learn and develop professionally, and collaborate with colleagues.
- Roughly six in 10 agree digital media has improved their ability to maintain balance between work and personal life, build relationships with professional contacts and find work.
Interestingly, whether individuals see the impact of increased digital media use as positive or negative depends greatly on where they live. Only about one-quarter of respondents from Germany and the U.S. think digital media has improved the quality of their social, professional and overall lives. By contrast, about two-thirds of respondents in Brazil and China believe this. Respondents in South Africa are roughly divided on the issue.
“We are still striving to understand the implications of digital technology in our professional lives and the impact this will have on businesses,” said Sarita Nayyar, managing director, World Economic Forum USA. “As we have a better grasp, businesses will be in a much stronger position to leverage digital media to its fullest for both their organizations and employees.”
“Despite the productivity gains and opportunities of digital media to actually bridge economic gaps and reduce inequality, potential downsides still exist,” said Jesuthasan. “First, digital media and related technology may drive near-term inequality as innovations like talent platforms increase the productivity and rewards of highly skilled workers while simultaneously cutting the cost of low-skilled work. Second, digital media has the potential to diminish work effectiveness and productivity. The multiple platforms and vast quantities of information and content at their fingertips may distract workers and disrupt work. In addition, as more people work remotely, valuable face-to-face time is reduced, which can weaken understanding and collaboration, and potentially hinder innovation.”
“Digital media now touches almost every aspect of a typical organization, from how talent is sourced and deployed, to how work gets done, to how the business connects with employees and customers. Given these changes, we believe employers should consider several initiatives including using digital media to more accurately match an individual’s skills to a specific business need, rather than thinking solely in terms of traditional jobs; taking a more nuanced approach to how work should be conducted; using social media tools to build communication and engagement within the organization; sourcing and building digital skills; and developing digital leadership,” said Jesuthasan.
About the Implications of Digital Media Survey
The online survey was conducted in October 2015 across Brazil, China, Germany, South Africa and the U.S., with a representative sample of about 1,000 digit media users from each country. The survey was part of a larger research project by a team of the World Economic Forum’s Media, Entertainment and Information industry team and professional services company Willis Towers Watson. The study findings were presented at the 2016 annual meeting in Davos.
About Willis Towers Watson
Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW ) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 39,000 colleagues in more than 120 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at willistowerswatson.com.