Skip to main content

Looking at Digital Innovation in the Workplace


Yao Yao was hired last July as an assistant professor of organizational behaviour and human resources at the Telfer School of Management. She completed her PhD in industrial relations and human resources at the University of Toronto. We interviewed her to learn more about her research interests in industrial relations.

Why did you choose to study industrial relations and human resources?

I have always been fascinated by the interplay among different actors in complex systems. Industrial relations is one such system where employees, labour unions, employers and the state interact to strike a balance among their interests. It is also a practical field that concerns real-world problems relatable to workers, such as changes in the labour markets and employee voices in the workplaces.

How has your PhD training informed your current research program?

Industrial relations is known for its relations to different disciplines: organizational theory, organizational behaviour, labour economics and sociology. In my PhD training, I was exposed to different theoretical and methodological approaches for dealing with the same issues. This experience helped shape my current openness to using various perspectives to construct research questions and using different methods to answer various research questions. This openness and flexibility in my research has enabled me to converse with different disciplines.

Do you have any new research highlights or interesting publications in the pipeline that you are excited about?

My research interest revolves around the conflicts between the old norms in the workplaces and changes introduced by technological innovations. For instance, one of my recent publications in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, entitled “Uberizing the Legal Profession? Lawyer Autonomy and Status in the Digital Legal Market,” looked at how online platform work, which is known for its quick turnaround, low pay and customer review systems, is impacting lawyers, who are known to enjoy high pay, high social status and autonomy at work. This study shows the struggles professional workers may have to face when platform-based work extends to a wide range of occupations.

How can your research influence businesses in Canada?

Digital transformation will be an irreversible trend in the next few decades. My research seeks to generate a better understanding of the impact of digital innovations in the workplaces. This new knowledge about the digital transformation of different occupations can help prepare Canadian workers and policymakers for heightening digitalization in the 2020s. To get ready for the future of work, our students, as the next generation of workers, managers and policymakers, must keep updating their skillsets and mindsets to excel in the digital era.

About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

Profile Photo of Rania Nasrallah