Original Research

Industry 4.0: The role of human resource professionals

Nelesh Dhanpat, Zanele P. Buthelezi, Marilyn R. Joe, Tshepo V. Maphela, Nonduduzo Shongwe
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 18 | a1302 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v18i0.1302 | © 2020 Nelesh Dhanpat, Zanele P. Buthelezi, Marilyn R. Joe, Tshepo V. Maphela, Nonduduzo Shongwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 November 2019 | Published: 28 May 2020

About the author(s)

Nelesh Dhanpat, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Zanele P. Buthelezi, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Marilyn R. Joe, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Tshepo V. Maphela, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nonduduzo Shongwe, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Organisations are at the forefront of industry 4.0 and employees are witnessing the changes it brings.

Research purpose: The objective of this study was to explore the role of human resource (HR) professionals in navigating industry 4.0.

Motivation for the study: There is scant scientific research on the role of HR professionals in industry 4.0 within the South African context, although there are workshops and seminars in the field.

Research approach/design and method: A qualitative research approach is used within an interpretivist research paradigm. We interviewed a purposive sample of 12 HR professionals. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to capture perceptions of HR professionals, and a thematic analysis was used to extract themes.

Main findings: Seven prominent themes emerged revealing that HR professionals need to assume roles as strategic business partners and talent managers, necessitating HR competencies such as creative innovator, change agent, strategic partner and people enablement to take advantage of the opportunities of industry 4.0 and mitigate the associated challenges.

Practical/managerial implications: HR professionals can use the findings as a basis for considering their role in industry 4.0. We propose a preliminary holistic model for navigating industry 4.0. Future researchers may use this study as a point of departure within the South African context.

Contribution/value-add: There is limited research on this topic matter and is a response to this. The study makes an important practical and scientific contribution to understanding the role of HR professionals as it affirms their function has become an essential part of industry 4.0.


Keywords

industry 4.0; HR professionals; competencies; industrial revolution; human resource management

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