How Common is Employers’ Use of Workplace Management Technologies? A Review of Prevalence Studies
Working Paper | Technology and Work Program
Over the last decade – and particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic – the use of digital technologies in workplace management has received increased attention. Whether the focus is on the algorithmic management of delivery drivers, the productivity monitoring and evaluation of warehouse workers, or the apparent explosion in automated hiring software, it is clear that digital technologies have the potential to profoundly reshape the 21st century workplace. However, we have only a weak understanding of how widespread these technologies are in US workplaces, why and how employers use them, and the range of impacts on workers.
The purpose of this working paper is to help fill this information gap. We provide an overview of existing research that attempts to measure the prevalence of employers’ use of workplace management technologies – i.e., technologies that are used to monitor, evaluate, or make predictions about workers, or assist or augment their tasks.
Specifically, we focus on firm-level adoption of the following technologies in the workplace: digitization of business information and cloud computing; hiring technology; human resources analytics; electronic monitoring; and emerging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. Table 1 gives a fuller description of these technologies and common terms used to refer to them.
We collected studies for this paper based on an analysis of secondary literature and through monitoring industry, consultant, and HR field newsletters and publications. Our geographic focus was the United States, although we included several important studies from the European Union. Despite differences between the EU and the US, these studies give an indication of the general state of technology adoption in western industrial economies, especially given the growing dominance of multinational corporations.
Read the full working paper.
 For overviews of digital technologies in the workplace, see Adler-Bell, Sam, Michelle Miller. 2018. “The Datafication of Employment.” The Century Foundation, December 19, 2018 https://tcf.org/content/report/datafication-employment-surveillance-capitalism-shaping-workers-futures-without-knowledge/?agreed=1; Bernhardt, Annette, Lisa Kresge, and Reem Suleiman. 2021. “Data and Algorithms at Work: The Case for Worker Technology Rights.” https://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/data-algorithms-at-work/; Bogen, Miranda, and Aaron Rieke. 2018. “Help Wanted: An Examination of Hiring Algorithms, Equity, and Bias.” Upturn. https://www.upturn.org/reports/2018/hiring-algorithms/; Nguyen, Aiha. 2021. “The Constant Boss: Labor Under Digital Surveillance.” Data & Society. https://datasociety.net/library/the-constant-boss/; Negrón, Wilneida. 2021. “‘Little Tech’ Is Coming for Low-Wage Workers: A Framework for Reclaiming and Building Worker Power.” Coworker.org. https://home.coworker.org/worktech/; Milner, Yeshimabeit, and Amy Traub. 2021. “Data Capitalism + Algorithmic Racism.” Data for Black Lives and Demos. https://www.demos.org/research/data-capitalism-and-algorithmic-racism; Scherer, Matt, and Lydia X. Z. Brown. 2021. “Warning: Bossware May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” Center for Democracy & Technology. https://cdt.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2021-07-29-Warning-Bossware-May-Be-Hazardous-To-Your-Health-Final.pdf.
 We conducted Google keyword searches for various technologies in Table 1 + “use” or “adoption” or “spending” or “investment” and limited our time frame to studies published within the past four years (with one exception for an old study that is widely-cited but has not been updated).