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Research on digitization has been contradictory, either saying that it can undermine worker solidarity by weakening in-person connections or claiming that digital tools can offer new ways to connect people.

That’s why Telfer professor Yao Yao has received a SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grant to study the impact of digitization on worker collectives (formal and informal groups where workers connect, bond and form collective voices). Her project will consolidate and synthesize current research through a systematic literature review.

Yao will examine the ways in which technologies influence employees’ relationships with each other, the role of digital communities in their relationships and the ways technologies can be used to promote connections. She’ll look at the conditions under which digitalization can promote or undermine these connections.

Yao will also examine how unions are using digital tools to maintain their impact, as well as how digital workers (e.g., those working on online platforms) connect with each other and organize collectives.

Research impact

Yao hopes to generate an agenda to guide future research on this topic. Her research could also have an impact on policies and decision-making at different levels, helping workers, HR professionals and policymakers to use digitization to promote worker collectives and more equitable workplaces. 

By Phoenix Hudson

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Dr. Yao earned a PhD in Industrial Relations and Human Resources from the University of Toronto and holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research seeks to understand changing workplaces as technological and institutional environments evolve.  Read more about her work.

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