CIRHR Welcomes New Faculty Member, Jenna E. Myers

June 3, 2021 by Cate MacLeod

The CIRHR is pleased to welcome two new faculty members who will be joining us over the course of the next year, Jenna Myers and Taeho Kim.

Read more about Taeho Kim

Dr. Jenna E. Myers joined us on June 1st, 2021. Jenna recently completed her doctorate in Work and Organizations at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Prior to her PhD, she gained experience in secondary and postsecondary education, including at Northwestern University's School of Communication and in Memphis, Tennessee through Teach for America.

Jenna uses qualitative field methods to study the changing nature of work, institutions, and technology. She is particularly focused on how frontline workers respond to the ways that new technologies disrupt power relations, shift existing sources of expertise, and give rise to new ways of organizing within their occupations and organizations.

“I am delighted that Jenna will be joining the CIRHR community in June," says Acting Director, Dionne Pohler. "Her focus on how frontline workers respond to new technologies continues a long tradition at the CIRHR of exploring the changing nature of work and organizations from the perspective of workers. Her doctoral research has already been published in top international peer-reviewed journals in industrial relations and organizational studies. Jenna’s expertise in qualitative field methods will greatly enhance the methods training of our graduate students.”

What research will you be working on at the CIRHR?

At first, I will be working on completing several projects involving data that I collected while at MIT. The first is an ethnographic study of a digital production monitoring platform deployed in manufacturing firms. I began my data collection in one machine tool shop and later expanded to focus on the product development and customer training efforts from the perspective of the technology vendor. Throughout, I look at the ways that the involvement of the third-party vendor changes the power relations between managers and workers at the firms that use the platform. For example, while recent studies of advanced digital technologies examine the negative impacts of algorithmic control and surveillance on frontline workers, I find that workers can positively impact technology development and soften digital surveillance when firms allow workers to speak directly with technology developers. A separate project examines the introduction of virtual training for nursing assistants in long-term care industries during the COVID-19 crisis, and two additional projects involve labor market institutions related to job training, including the U.S. community college system and youth workforce development programs.

What first got you interested in technological change in the workplace?

During my PhD, there was a lot of exciting work happening around MIT regarding the "future of work." A point made by many people there (which I agree with) is that the conversation needs to move beyond estimating how many jobs and what types of tasks are threatened by automation. We have so much rich, detailed, work on how technological change affects the work of professionals, and I wanted to adopt that perspective and join it with traditional ideas about power and control to study frontline work. Digital technologies in particular are affecting frontline work in many subtle and unexpected ways that go beyond job replacement and deskilling.

What is your favourite thing to do outside of academia?

I spend a lot of time cooking and oil painting (a hobby I started during the pandemic), but my favorite thing to do is spend time outside with my partner hiking, biking, or swimming. I am looking forward to exploring the outdoors in Ontario and beyond.