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Scaling Study

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Questionnaires exemplify one of the most common ways to conduct population studies. One of the greatest benefits of using a questionnaire is that they are relatively cheap and provide structured answers to standardized questions. As a result, questionnaires are particularly well-suited for the use in quantitative research projects. This paper reports the results of a small study, whose main goal was to evaluate individual perceptions of the way robots impact job growth. Unfortunately, the reliability and validity of the questionnaire raise many questions, and only repeated measurements can confirm the consistency of the questions included in the questionnaire and used in this study.

Questionnaire

The twentieth century was marked with the growing presence of robotic inventions in the job market. Organizations choose robots for their efficiency and productivity. Unlike humans, robots do not get sick and do not miss their work. They fulfill their workplace obligations diligently and without any compensation complaints. However, today, when the American job market is facing tough unemployment issues, robots are being increasingly blamed for their negative impacts on the availability of employment opportunities (Kroft, 2013). This small-scale study was designed to evaluate respondents’ individual perceptions of robots and their impacts on job growth.

The questionnaire included five questions (open-ended and closed). The sample of participants included 12 individuals of different ages and professions. The questionnaire was distributed personally during a meeting, and each respondent had 15 minutes to answer the survey questions. The questionnaires were anonymous. The respondents were not asked to provide any identifiable information, including gender or age. The only common feature was that all respondents had a university diploma or were university students at the time of participation. The following are the questions that were included in the questionnaire:

            1. Robots influence job growth.

Strongly disagree   Disagree   Cannot decide     Agree     Strongly agree

            2. Machine-human interactions can benefit the humanity.

            Strongly disagree   Disagree   Cannot decide     Agree     Strongly agree

            3.  Do you think that robots are better workers than humans? (Yes/No)

            4. Can you imagine yourself working with a robot side by side? (Yes/No)

            5. How do you imagine the future in organizations with robots? Please, describe in your own words.

Results

The results of the study were rather surprising. 10 out of 12 respondents (83.3%) answered negatively to the first question. That is, 83.3% of the sample participants strongly disagree with the statement that robots influence job growth. One possible explanation is that most respondents are confident that poor job growth is related to macroeconomic complexities, and robots have only minor impacts on the current state of the labor market. This explanation was derived from the answers provided by the respondents to the fifth, open-ended question, where many of them suggested that not robots but economy had to be blamed for today’s unemployment issues.

8 (67%) respondents agreed or strongly agreed that machine-human interactions could benefit humans, while 11 out of 12 study participants (91.6%) answered positively to the question of work and its quality. In other words, 91.6% of the sample perceive robots as better workers than humans. Reasons why individuals consider robots as better workers compared to humans require further analysis. 10 out of 12 respondents (83.3%) also said they could easily imagine themselves working with a robot side by side. Overall, respondents claim that robots will have a very promising future within organizations, especially as the problem of new skills and continuous learning is becoming very acute. Three respondents confessed they had the fear that, with time, robots would become a very powerful labor force, thus making it even more difficult for human workers to find decent employment in conditions of the continued macroeconomic crisis.

Reliability and Validity

The reliability and validity of the discussed questionnaire raise may questions. Generally, reliability is referred to as the extent to which questionnaire has measurement consistency (Marsden & Wright, 2010). On the one hand, the questionnaire is reliable in the sense that the object of measurement has been explicitly defined (individual perceptions of the way robots impact job growth). On the other hand, different respondents and researchers may have different ideas of the job growth concept. The concept of robot and robotization also deserves professional attention. The main reliability problems stem from (a) the absence of comprehensive concepts and definitions that could make it easier for respondents to answer the questionnaire questions and (b) the lack of test-retest measures to ensure that respondents’ answers are consistent over time (Radhakrishna, 2007). The best way to establish reliability would be to conduct a small pilot study, and Radhakrishna (2007) recommends including at least 20-30 subjects in the pilot study sample.

No less controversial is the problem of validity.  On the one hand, whether or not the respondents were honest and open in their answers remains unclear. In the case of questionnaires, researchers cannot always control the validity of the method and its results (Cohen et al., 2007). On the other hand, all respondents returned their questionnaires, and the so-called volunteer bias was equal to zero (Cohen et al., 2007). Non-response is one of the greatest problems impacting the validity of questionnaires. Validity usually refers to comprehensibility and appropriateness of questions for the target population/ sample (Radhakrishna, 2007). It is possible to assume that all respondents understood the meaning of the questionnaire, bearing in mind that they had the level of education needed to successfully cope with all questions. Still, it would be appropriate to conduct a readability test, such as the Flesh Reading Ease, to ensure that the validity of the instrument is high and the complexity of each question is appropriate for the target population. Only when the validity of the instrument is established, it can be used in a pilot study to test its reliability.

Conclusion

Robots and their influence on job growth is one of the most actively discussed public issues. A questionnaire was developed to evaluate individual perceptions of the way robots impact the labor market. The results suggest that most respondents do not perceive robots as a major threat to job growth, as opposed to the difficult macroeconomic situation and its implications for the national labor force. At the same time, the validity and reliability of the questionnaire raise many questions. In the absence of the test-posttest measures, the reliability of the questionnaire is difficult to establish. No less problematic is the problem of validity, as no field tests or pilot studies were conducted to evaluate its level. A readability test should be used to estimate the validity of the questionnaire, followed by a pilot study with at least 20 participants to confirm that the questions are reliable and appropriate for the target population.

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