Human & Technological Resource Management (HTRM): New Insights into Revolution 4.0

ISBN: 978-1-83867-224-9, eISBN: 978-1-83867-223-2

Publication date: 16 November 2020


(2020), "Prelims", Kumar, P., Agrawal, A. and Budhwar, P. (Ed.) Human & Technological Resource Management (HTRM): New Insights into Revolution 4.0, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xxvi.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Emerald Publishing Limited

Half Title

Human & Technological Resource Management (HTRM)


A fast-forward into the future of human resource management and technology. Artificial intelligence, digital competencies, gig economy, digital reverse mentoring, employer branding and organisational design are the topics covered and highly relevant for the new world of HRM. A highly recommended read!

Miha  kerlavaj, Vice-Dean for Research and Professor, University of Ljubljana and BI Norwegian Business School

A successful combination of two important topics: Industry 4.0 and Human Resource Management. Two sides of the same coin, which are usually only looked at from one perspective.

Professor Dr Alexander Brem

University of Stuttgart, Germany

The management of people in the time of Industry 4.0 is a critical issue for both practitioners and academics. This book provides much needed answers from a cohort of leading academics who pull together current knowledge about HRM and Industry 4.0 to shed light on this complex matter. Those who study HRM would profit from reading this book.

Yehuda Baruch, Professor of Management, University of Southampton, UK

Title Page

Human & Technological Resource Management (HTRM): New Insights into Revolution 4.0

Edited By

Payal Kumar

BML Munjal University, India

Anirudh Agrawal

FLAME University, India & Copenhagen Business School, Denmark


Pawan Budhwar

Aston University, UK

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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First edition 2021

Copyright © 2021 Emerald Publishing Limited

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-83867-224-9 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-83867-223-2 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-83867-225-6 (Epub)

To my sister Leena, who is my heart, and to my children Priya and Debashish, who are my soul

Payal Kumar

Anirudh would like to dedicate this book to his wife Abhilasha Gupta, his children Anushka and Ashwin, Dr Kai Hockerts, and Volume Contributors

Anirudh Agrawal

Pawan dedicates this book to his sisters – Shakuntala and Kamlesh and sisters-in-law – Indu, Deepa and Radhika

Pawan Budhwar

To all who have interest in learning about and embracing the HRM 4.0 revolution.


List of Figures ix
List of Tables xi
About the Contributors xiii
Foreword xvii
Preface xxiii
Part I: Conceptual and Historical Frameworks
Chapter 1 Futuristic Organisational Design: The Role of Technological Imperative in Defining the Changing Nature of Structure, Coordination and People Practices
Tomislav Hernaus, Aleša Saša Sitar and Ana Aleksić Mirić 3
Chapter 2 A Polycentric Network Forming Digital Competencies for the Future
Margit Neisig and Uffe K. Hansen 19
Chapter 3 HRM 4.0 and the Shifting Landscape of Employer Branding
Sujo Thomas, Sonal Kureshi, Susmita Suggala and Valerie Mendonca 37
Chapter 4 Opportunities and Barriers in the Practice of Human Resource Analytics
Tobias Rex, Sudeshna Bhattacharya, Kanimozhi Narayanan and Pawan Budhwar 53
Part II: HRM 4.0: Practice, Strategy and Policy
Chapter 5 Gig Economy, 4IR and Artificial Intelligence: Rethinking Strategic HRM
Ashish Malik, Pawan Budhwar and N. R. Srikanth 75
Chapter 6 Digital Reverse Mentoring as a Strategic HRM Tool: Case Study of an Indian Firm
Nimruji Jammulamadaka 89
Chapter 7 Influence of Artificial Intelligence on Work, People and the Firm: A Multi-Industry Perspective
Richa Saxena and Yogesh Kumar 111
Chapter 8 India Industry 4.0 and Comparisons with Germany, South Korea and the USA
Anirudh Agrawal, Payal Kumar and Ashish Tyagi 133
Chapter 9 Will the Pandemic Bring Industrial Revolution 4.0 Closer to Home?
Samrat Choudhury 157
Index 167

List of Figures

Chapter 2

Fig. 1. Structural (or Operational) Coupling. 25

Fig. 2. Collaborative System Based on Commitment. 25

Fig. 3. A Polycentric Network, Using a Shared Semantic Reservoir for Their Communication to Communicate. 26

Fig. 4. Complex Polycentric Contexts: Communication, Semantics, Trusting and Power. 27

Fig. 5. Design Thinking as Applied in the project. 28

Chapter 3

Fig. 1. Conceptual Framework for Understanding Employer Branding. 47

Chapter 4

Fig. 1. HRA Competencies. 63

Fig. 2. Possible Locations of HRA. 66

Fig. 3. Overview about Restraints and Facilitators of Using HRA: AMO Model. 67

Fig. 4. Role of Motivation. 69

Chapter 6

Fig. 1. Process Flow of Digital Reverse Mentoring at Case Study Organisation. 99

Chapter 7

Fig. 1. Influences of Artificial Intelligence. 116

Chapter 8

Fig. 1. Evolution of Industry 4.0. 134

Fig. 2. Research Method and Data Analysis Strategy. 137

Fig. 3. Learnings from Ideal Types and Policy Directions for India and Global South Towards Industry 4.0. 152

List of Tables

Chapter 1

Table 1. Organisational Theories and Design Changes Across Industrialisation Phases (1800–2010). 8

Chapter 2

Table 1. Steps and Description of the Competency Model. 32

Chapter 4

Table 1. Overview of Case Organisations. 56

Table 2. Key Competencies for Working in HRA. 57

Table 3. Availability of Data and Technology. 59

Table 4. Contribution to Organisational Strategy and Preferred Location of HRA. 61

Chapter 6

Table 1. Benefits from Digital Reverse Mentoring. 105

Chapter 7

Table 1. Participants’ Profile. 115

Chapter 8

Table 1. SWOT Analysis of Industry 4.0 Adoption in Germany. 139

Table 2. SWOT Analysis of Industry 4.0 Adoption in the United States. 141

Table 3. SWOT Analysis of Industry 4.0 Adoption in South Korea. 143

Table 4. SWOT Analysis of Industry 4.0 Adoption in India. 145

Table 5. Cross-case Analysis. 147

About the Contributors

Anirudh Agrawal is an Associate Professor, Business School, at FLAME University and Researcher at Management Society and Communication, Copenhagen Business School. His primary research focus is MSME finance, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, organisational theory and corporate social innovation. His research focus also includes robotics and Industry 4.0. He has presented his research at AOM, EGOS and EMES. His consulting is mainly focussed on product-market fit, organisational design and organisational strategy. His PhD is in the final stages of completion at Copenhagen Business School. His Masters is from INSA LYON and he was Fellow at HEC, Paris.

Sudheshna Bhattacharya is an International Management Scholar (Teaching Fellow, Aston Business School). Her research examines the theory of the psychological contract in the context of new employment relationships within an off shored outsourced call centre in the Indian labour market. Her recent research explores the impact and future of the outsourced businesses in India on the life and careers of youth who find themselves solely trained for this particular service industry.

Pawan Budhwar is the 50th Anniversary Professor of International HRM at Aston Business School. He is also the Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor International, the Director of India Centre at Aston University and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of British Journal of Management. His research interests are in the field of strategic HRM, International HRM and emerging markets with a specific focus on India. He has published over 120 articles in leading journals and has also written and/or co-edited 20 books. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, British Academy of Management, the Academy of Social Sciences and the Indian Academy of Management.

Samrat Choudhury is an Author and Journalist, and a Former Editor of daily newspapers in India’s major metropolises, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. He is the Co-founder and Member of the Editorial Board of Partition Studies Quarterly. He was the Asian Leadership Fellow from India at the International House of Japan in Tokyo in 2018 and a Chevening Scholar at the University of Westminster, London, in 2019.

Uffe K. Hansen is a Post Doc at Roskilde University. His research is focussed on trust, organising, HRM, competence development, digitalisation and leadership. He teaches micro-sociological approaches to organisation, leadership, organisational theory, methodology and philosophy of science.

Tomislav Hernaus is an Associate Professor at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. His multilevel research interests include organisation design, process management, job design, knowledge hiding and innovative work behaviour. His research has been published in journals such as Human Resource Management Journal, Journal of Knowledge Management and Journal of Managerial Psychology.

Nimruji Jammulamadaka is an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Her research interests include post and decolonial management studies, power, social sector, CSR, innovation and research methods. Her recent books are Indian Business: Notions and Practices of Responsibility (Routledge); Governance, Resistance and the Post-colonial State: Management and State Building (Routledge) and Workers and Margins: Grasping Erasures and Opportunities (Palgrave). She is also the Co-editor of the book series Managing the Post-colony (Springer). She serves on the editorial boards of Organization, Journal of Management History and Qualitative Research in Organisations and Management. She has served as the Chair of the Critical Management Studies Division of the Academy of Management.

Payal Kumar is a Professor and Chair HR/OB, Head of Research and International Collaborations, BML Munjal University, Gurgaon, India. Her research interests include international HRM, diversity and inclusion, and mentoring experiences. She has published extensively, including the five-volume Palgrave Studies Leadership and Followership, of which she is the Series Editor. She is an Editorial Board Member of various international journals, and also a Member of the executive committee of the Management, Spirituality and Religion division of the Academy of Management.

Yogesh Kumar is currently the Vice President (Analytics), Deutsche Bank, USA. He has been into various leadership roles in his 20+ years of professional career across multiple industries, having worked on cross cultural teams across India, and other countries including United Studies, Germany and UK. He has helped set-up multiple centres of expertise and technology delivery centres with organisations like HCL Tech., Hewitt Associates and Deutsche Bank, involving building partnerships and creating highly skilled workforce while delivering business results. He has worked across areas like ERP, Supply Chain and Human Capital Management.

He has special interest in application of technology to solve business problems which business leaders face on regular basis. He is a keen student of understanding the impact of macroenvironment of market forces, regulators and other stakeholders in the business decision-making process. Currently, his areas of focus are Digital Tranformation in HR, Workforce Planning and People Analytics.

Sonal Kureshi is a PhD in marketing and has been closely associated for the last 30 years with the marketing area at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. Her current research interests are in communication in the emerging media, social marketing, branding and new product-related issues.

Ashish Malik is an Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His research focuses on impact of HRM practices on business and individuals in knowledge-intensive firms. His work appears in premier A/A* journals and serves as Editor/Board member of several journals such as JBR and JKM.

Valerie Mendonca is a Management Professional with over 10 years of experience in corporate, research and academics. Her research interests are people and organisations, women and work, organisational storytelling and financial inclusion. She works withCIIE.CO at IIMA as a Senior Associate and writes case studies on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Ana Aleksić Mirić is a Professor at the Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade. She teaches and runs research in the field of Organisational Design, Knowledge Management and Networks. She has a rich publishing history, producing individual chapters and articles in edited collections and scholarly journals.

Kanimozhi Narayanan is a Lecturer in Organisational Behavior at Aston Business School, UK. She has a PhD in Management from University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses mainly on positive and negative workplace behaviours, the use of AI in HRM and employee engagement with a specific focus on India and UK.

Margit Neisig is an Associate Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark, with a PhD in socio-technological planning. She is the Director of the business programmes. She is also the lead partner from Roskilde University in the Social Foundation project: ‘Digital Pathways to Growth: Competency’, being conducted in the region of Zealand in Denmark. Her research focusses on HRM and leadership.

Tobias Rex is working as HR Specialist at BCG Platinion in Cologne, Germany. His role focusses on employee surveys and HR data. Before, he gained experience in an HR Generalist function. He holds a MSc Degree in Human Resource Management & Business from Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Aleša Saša Sitar is an Assistant Professor in the Academic Unit for Management and Organization at the School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana. She lectures in courses on organisation and management. Her main research interests are organisation theory, organisational design, organisational learning and knowledge management.

Richa Saxena is a Faculty Member in the OB&HR Area of IMT Ghaziabad. She is a Fellow of IIM Ahmedabad. As a Visiting/Adjunct Faculty she has taught courses in various reputed Business schools of India including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Amritsar and IIM Ranchi. Her research and teaching interests include issues related to Contemporary Careers, Diversity & Inclusion, Gender and Talent Management. She has published her research work in reputed journals including Human Resource Management Journal, Journal of Organizational Behaviour and Journal of Education & Work. She has also presented her work in reputed international and national conferences.

N. R. Srikanth is the Managing Director at Accenture’s Advanced Technology Centers in India and is responsible for the overall talent strategy and transformation for over 120,000 professionals. He has over 22 years of industry experience with global organisations in technology and consulting.

Susmita Suggala is a Faculty in Marketing at L J Integrated MBA, Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad. She has over 10 years of experience in academics and industry. Her peer-reviewed research is majorly in the healthcare sector and she works relentlessly to understand the dynamics of Indian hospitals on digital media.

Sujo Thomas is a Faculty Member (Marketing Area) at Amrut Mody School of Management, Ahmedabad University. He has over 18 years of experience in academics and industry. His research interests are in the area of consumer behaviour, specifically, topics that are related to cause-related marketing and online grocery retailing.

Ashish Tyagi is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and holds a PhD from Penn State University. His research focuses on climate and energy policy, particularly in developing countries, and the conflict between economic growth, technological progress, sustainability and institutions.

Foreword: Managing People and Technological Change in Context


Professor Chris Rowley

Kellogg College, University of Oxford and Cass Business School, City University of London

This new book edited by these three well-known and respected editors (Payal Kumar, Anirudh Agrawal and Pawan Budhwar) comes at the right time on a topic of great importance. It is fashionable for commentators and policy-makers to state we are at the beginning of a ‘new’ industrial revolution where technology is rapidly changing personal, work and professional lives and challenging existing models of work organisation with major implications for the economy, jobs and labour market.

In an attempt to distinguish this particular ‘revolution’ from earlier ones, commentators have given it the shorthand label of ‘4.0’. It is given the suffix of ‘four’ to signify its sequence in following on from the three prior industrial revolutions before it (Welsh Government, 2019). The first is seen to have been from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries when water, steam and mechanical equipment transformed production with mechanisation mainly focussed on agriculture, textiles, etc. The second was from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries when electricity, mechanisation and factory mass production created mass consumer markets and public services. The third was from the mid-twentieth to early twenty-first centuries with the growth of information technology, electronics, computing, the internet and the integration of corporate value chains which extended from manufacturing to service industries. Finally, the fourth is seen as developing from the early twenty-first century, driven by emerging and interlocking technological breakthroughs, such as in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, data analytics, the internet of things, etc., giving rise to the digital transformation of business, public services and wider society.

I will side-step to what extent such a nomenclature is really the case in some sort of hard, measurable way with distinct boundaries. Indeed, this is similar to the arguments about globalisation – what is it, how ‘new’ is it, have there been previous ‘waves’ of it and how do we distinguish when it began (see World Systems Theory, such as Wallerstein (1976)) and ideas of deglobalisation.

Furthermore, I will avoid too much detailed comment and analysis around one of the main and longstanding interests and debates – which are polarised – regarding the impact of such industrial/technological revolutions on jobs. This coin has two sides: the number and the nature of jobs. One the one side, there are too many eye-catching, lazy reports and headlines about the end of work, how ‘robots will take all our jobs’ or some other such predictions of work and employment Armageddon. These are naïve, overly-simplistic, inconsistent and debated due to their different methodologies, who is asked what and their focus is, etc. They also require balance in terms of not only exogenous but also endogenous factors. For example, there may well be the technology to replace humans, but it is only one factor – along with investment, innovation, government policy (such as on minimum wages, migration, etc.), etc – in shaping work and jobs. For some organisations it makes little business sense to use technology for many reasons, such as competitive advantage and strategy, ranging from access to cheap labour to the quality-cost decision and emphasising the ‘handmade’ and value-added.

These scenarios reflect the much earlier and longstanding concerns about the impact of technologies on human jobs, which has always occurred (Jenkins & Sherman, 1979, 1981). A few examples are the displacement of artisan weavers by mechanised looms or all the myriad jobs around horses by other forms of transport and power to newer examples such as cashiers and tellers by self-service machines, etc. Behind this lies the so-called ‘Luddite fallacy’ linked to the ‘lump of labour fallacy’, basically that there is a finite amount of work available and technology does that work, then surely there can be no other work left for humans to do. Keynes in the 1930s popularising the phrase ‘technological unemployment’. While the technological trend is labour substitution and hence job displacement, there are also compensation effects, including inter alia from the following. First, the technology itself: the labour needed to build, service and maintain it. Second, new investments: enabled by cost savings and increased profits. Third, wages: if boosted leading to increased income and spending in turn encouraging job creation. Forth, prices: lowering encouraging more demand and employment and helping offset wage cuts as cheaper goods increase buying power. Fifth, new products, services and markets: where innovation directly creates new jobs, both directly and indirectly and with ‘new business models’ leading to new products and services, etc.

The other side of the coin concerns the nature of jobs – such as skill requirements – stemming from technical change, again with polarised perspectives. Again, these ideas are not new. Examples range from Braverman (1974) on the innate deskilling in technology and the whole labour process field, including around control and surveillance via ‘Just-In-Time’ production and ‘Total Quality Management’ (Sewell & Wilkinson, 1992), or via tools for internal communication (Zuboff, 1988), as well as more comprehensively and surreptitiously as in so-called ‘surveillance capitalism’ of companies like Facebook and Google (Zuboff, 2019), expanding ideas of ‘digital dispossession’ (Harvey, 1990). Indeed, we can even see this at state level, as in China.

Some commentators see the most impact on routine jobs. However, but what is classed as ‘routine’ and ‘high-skilled’ is changeable – and even linked to gender – for example, the reclassification of retail bank clerks over time from skilled to unskilled as males were replaced by females. Also, technology is allowing information capture from the minds of knowledge workers. This process of digital Taylorism – translating knowledge work into working knowledge, captured in digital software – is impacting on professional occupations such as accountants, lawyers, consultants and teachers (Welsh Government, 2019).

Technology can be used to re-design jobs, changing their content, character and context. Also, technology may transform the nature of the employment contract in allowing super connectivity that may then allow firms and people to arrange new types of employment and perhaps this may be incorporated into the nature of jobs. Likewise, we need to go beyond the analysis of people and technology issues separately as there will be interaction between them creating decision dilemmas and responsibility issues when we rely on AI or big data approaches in human resource management (HRM) issues, such as interviews, performance evaluation, etc. (I thank Professor Bae for these perceptive points).

So, how all technology is used and unfolds, we too often forget, is about human choices. It is not, to use the title of the great Bob Dylan song ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’. Neither is it a zero-sum game. Yes, there will be challenges and job displacement, as there always have been with technological change, but there will be, again as previously, new opportunities such as fresh types of work, jobs requiring different or enhanced skills. How ‘4.0’ is used and pans out has significance in terms of its impact on how work is experienced. It can be used to either to augment skills and improve job quality or to deskill and eliminate jobs. Like previous iterations of disruptive technology, at the start the metaphorical kaleidoscope is pointing at the light, ready and waiting – but there is only a limited space and time to shape matters and how it will be used before it comes settled.

Nevertheless, for the sake of simplicity, I will go along with the arguments that AI-based automation, software and bots, etc., can solve all manner of complex problems which once needed human intervention. I will narrow this down further to discuss and comment on the belief that some companies across certain industries are deploying technologies like AI and big data to HRM. For example, while there will be changes in the areas of work, it is not clear how change will take place, its job impacts in terms of numbers and training or practices such as recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining people, both in the ‘core’ and the ‘periphery’ of the firm and dual labour market. In other words, is HRM 4.0 an opportunity, a phase or a threat?

This new book examines these areas and provides information and analysis in answering this question. How does it undertake this task? In broad terms this book is structured in two sequential parts. Part One covers the conceptual and historical frameworks in four chapters followed by another four chapters in Part Two covering HRM practice, strategy and policy areas. I will now note a little about each chapter before moving on to my own views.

Chapter 1 – ‘Futuristic organisational design: The role of technological imperative in defining the changing nature of structure, coordination and people practices’ analyses how the building blocks of digital organisational design shape managerial and employee behaviours, unleashing digital technologies potential. This is achieved by reflecting on the historical changes in organisational design practices that unfolded throughout different phases of industrialisation. Chapter 2 – ‘A polycentric network forming digital competencies for the future’ details the process of creating a competency model via a multifunctional semantic informed by social system theory to enable dialogue in a polycentric network. This spread across a wide range of different small- and medium-sized enterprises, educational and training organisations, consultants, trade unions and industrial interest organisations. Chapter 3 – HRM 4.0 and the Shifting Landscape of Employer Branding focuses on HRM and the change in employer branding strategies due to rapid increase in digitalisation such as through analytics and big data. A conceptual framework is provided, that links this HRM with employer branding strategies. Chapter 4 – Opportunities and Barriers in the Practice of Human Resource Analytics argues HR Analytics can add value to organisational effectiveness, although barriers exist in realising this, such as low awareness. Facilitators include the right set of competencies with relationship building particularly important and discretionary effort.

Part two shifts to the level of HRM practice, strategy and policy. Chapter 5 – ‘Gig Economy, 4IR and Artificial Intelligence: Rethinking Strategic HRM’ begins by exploring the critical tenets of strategic HRM and then discusses what its study and practice needs to do in this new era. Chapter 6 – ‘Digital Reverse Mentoring as a Strategic HRM Tool: Case Study of an Indian Firm’ highlights the various design elements of digital reverse mentoring that contribute towards achieving digital transformation and rebuilding of mindsets in the company. Through the case study it also suggests that HRM needs to look beyond adoption of technological tools to actively participate in addressing the digital transformation in a company. Chapter 7 – ‘Influence of Artificial Intellligence over Work, People and the Firm: A Multiindustry Perspective’ examines the influence of AI over work, people and organisations. Its qualitative approach indicated the pervasiveness of AI, the emergence of new forms of work, the threat to some existing jobs and the emergence of new skill sets. Chapter 8 – ‘Country-level comparison of Industry 4.0 in Germany, South Korea and the United States: Policy implications for India’ compares the strategic actions taken by these countries by using a SWOT analysis. It uses Max Weber’s ideal types as a positivist frame of analysis for the country-level data and then outlined policy recommendations for India.

I will now set this book, its contents and authors in context, both old and new and focus on the twin ones of lifelong learning and leadership.

First, lifelong learning. In terms of newer – or more correctly, now re-discovered and re-emphasised – areas, major ones concern ‘adult education’ to use a traditional term or its modern lexicon of ‘lifelong learning’. As the Centenary Commission Report (2019) reminds us, adult education was seen as ‘A Permanent National Necessity…’ over 100 years ago! Another recent example is the work by Phil Brown, such as in the Wales 4.0 report (2019). This argues that significant numbers of jobs will be displaced by automation and those effected will need access to good quality, relevant adult education to upskill and access higher-level roles that might emerge. Both reports acknowledge there are challenges in delivering such lifelong learning when funding cuts have reduced participation in adult education and the challenges of making such education accessible to the least mobile members of society. Furthermore, this is a classic ‘rhetoric versus reality’ area. All politicians will publicly support such ‘worthy’ aims as adult education, but for such change to actually happen requires policy-maker commitment and actions and thus the political will – and funding.

Second, leadership. The ideas and implications of this latest revolution powered by AI will have implications and impacts on not only practices and their management, but also especially leadership, particularly effective leadership in uncertain times (Rowley & Oh, 2019; Rowley & Ulrich, 2012, 2019). It will require effective, agile leadership to both challenge the preconceived, easy, but intellectually lazy notions that somehow everything about and around technology is preconceived and fixed. It is not. It is about decisions and choices and the people who do this.

Of course, it is not only leadership, but new competencies of people becoming more important, requiring us to ‘drill down’ further. As I was reminded by Professor Bae, it may need us to redefine the nature and feature of people in the firm, even for the ‘person’ rather than a ‘human resource’ who can make their own decisions under new circumstances. The decisions and choices are related to the ‘ideal society’ we may conceive. We can avoid both ‘technological pessimism’ and ‘technological optimism’ and do not need to be afraid of technology, but we cannot disregard its influence, so we need to examine and analyse the nature of the new technologies of the ‘4.0’.

Given all this, I will end with a clarion call for not only further academic thought, research and publications in this area, but also for work of greater impact and engagement with policy-makers and practitioners. It is they who hold the code and key to how ever more technology is used in areas such as HRM for a brighter future for us all in our work and professional lives.


I would like to thank Professor Johngseok Bae of Korea University Business School for his perceptive points and improvements. All mistakes remain mine.


Payal Kumar (BML Munjal University, India)

Anirudh Agrawal (Flame University, India)

Pawan Budhwar (Aston Business School, UK)

The book Moneyball by Michael Lewis (2003), which led to a film of the same name starring Brad Pitt, cinematically conveyed how data analysis could be used to promote people for organisational benefits. Since the book’s publication and success of the film, the annual budget of analytics-based human resource allocation in sports teams has increased 20-fold. Now companies across industries are quickly deploying higher technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and big data to hire and allocate human resources for greater competitiveness (Brunet-Thornton & Martinez, 2018). It is envisaged that AI-based automation will significantly restructure the industrial-organisational set-up (Agrawal, Schaefer, & Funke, 2018; Daugherty & Wilson, 2018). What is less certain is what kind of strategies will be adopted towards the digital transformation of organisations.

The recent socioeconomic trends and speeches by many global leaders have pointed to the uncertain socioeconomic effects of the movement of the economic and production systems from twentieth century practice, where the human was master of the machine, to a twenty-first century practice, where humans and machines work along-side each other as colleagues (Ross, 2017; Schwab, Davis, & Nadella, 2018; Susskind & Susskind, 2017). This trend is driven by recent advances in technology and constant innovation, outpacing even Moore’s law (that the speed of our computers will keep increasing, as their cost keeps reducing). The developments in automation with the increased accuracy of predictive analytics, compounded with increased internet speed, cognitive machines incorporating lighter-inexpensive-nanoscopic sensors, and evolving platforms, have already evolved to the extent that technologies can mimick the human manager. People like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have prescribed a cautionary approach to the development of AI, pointing out that its relative autonomy might turn out to be problematic, and even beyond our control.

These trends force us to reflect on a multiple of critical questions. First, at the institutional and policy level, one is forced to reflect on how governments should develop strategies to ensure learning, socioeconomic balance and employment. Second, at the level of the corporation and production systems, one will have to rethink organisational structure, human resource skilling (and trimming), and also human resource allocation while ensuring shareholder value creation and long-term competitiveness.

Further, following the digital transformation of organisations, there are deeper questions on re-skilling and redevelopment of the human resources while ensuring the ethical, sustainable and financial bottom line of the organisation. There remains uncertainty on the competitiveness of organisations investing (or not) in ‘Industry 4.0’. We need to ask critical questions about the future of employees who fail to unlearn and adapt to the new normal. There are multiple critical questions on how the strategic human resource management (SHRM) will pan out in terms of attracting, developing, rewarding and retaining those employees who benefit the firm in these disruptive times. Will HR managers perceive IT as a supporting function or a core operational department?

This edited volume attempts to answers such questions. The book is divided into two sections. The first section primarily focuses on conceptual and historical frameworks. This section is more at the people and organisational-level and how organisations could re-think and re-design themselves to remain competitive. The second section focuses on the strategic and policy level and discusses how firms and countries should be strategic and policy-driven in managing employment, innovation and competitiveness. This volume primarily consists of qualitative and conceptual studies and calls for exploratory and confirmatory quantitative studies, especially in the domain of automation, re-skilling and national competitiveness.

The first chapter of the volume by Tomislav Hernaus, Aleša Saša Sitar and Ana Aleksić Mirić reflects on the organisational design practices which took place over different generations of industrialisation. They discuss from the organisational-level perspective the relevance of how change happens and how organisations could be in the age of digitalisation while ensuring competitiveness. They essentially deflate fears related to AI and Industry 4.0. The ability of small- and medium-size enterprises (SME) to unlearn and learn is difficult.

The second chapter by Margit Neisig and Uffe K. Hansen reflects on the ‘polycentric network forming digital competencies’ using social systems theory. The authors using this theory discuss the usefulness of sharing knowledge, information and competencies with individuals, organisations, SMEs connected in specialised groups and networks. The success of managing digital competencies lies in connecting (or grouping) these organisations in a unique socially cohesive networked system such that information exchange is symmetric, learning and change are implemented, and overall digital competitiveness is enhanced. SMEs should form clusters, networks and association sharing evolving knowledge and pursue socially collective business practices.

There are multiple empirical studies linking organisational performance to digitalisation. The chapter by Sujo Thomas, Sonal Kureshi, Susmita Suggala and Valerie Mendonca links the digital competency of the organisation to its employer branding strategies. More specifically, this chapter discusses the internal changes in the organisation due to the HRM 4.0 transformation and its perceived benefits on employer branding strategies. The study makes propositions about enhanced brand awareness (external implications) due to internal digital innovation.

The last chapter of the first section is by Tobias Rex, Sudeshna Bhattacharya, Kanimozhi Narayanan and Pawan Budhwar which discusses how the human resource analytics adds value towards organisational effectiveness and competitiveness. While there is a strong empirical evidence of organisational competitiveness and digitalisation, investing for organisational digitalisation at the functional level (i.e. human resource analytics) requires overcoming organisational inertia. Internal leaders (and facilitators) within an organisation who have the vision and network may drive digitalisation at the departmental levels.

The doomsayers have presented an extremely dismal picture of Industry 4.0 where they have imagined the new normal with massive layoffs and capitalism without the middle class. The chapter by Ashish Malik, Pawan Budhwar and N. R. Srikanth addresses such fears. It discusses HRM in an exploratory study where the authors reflect on the organisational function of SHRM in the evolving context of automation, gig economy and how it can be re-designed such that organisational performance remains competitive. It is a policy level study, conceptualising SHRM policies in the developing dynamic environment of Industry 4.0 and how organisations at the intersection of gig economy can best strategize. Further, the doomsayers point that many organisations may actually find easier to layoff older staff than invest in their training.

The chapter by Nimruji Jammulamadaka is a case study that explores the various ‘design elements of digital reverse mentoring’ which have the potential to bring about organisational change. The research suggests that an employee-driven active engagement process has the potential to bring about digital transformation within a controlled environment at controlled costs and lead to high organisational agility. Utilising the potential of the newer and younger workforce for training the senior employees and helping them unlearn and learn newer technology will have positive social and financial ramification at the corporate level. Such a strategy will bring balance to the organisation and reduce fear of lay-offs.

The chapter by Richa Saxena and Yogesh Kumar takes a critical approach towards AI applications in workplaces and explores its consequences over the workplaces and associated people and their productivity. The authors point out the potential opportunities that the adoption of AI brings to the workforce and their organisations in terms of increased productivity and earnings. This chapter suggests to focus on re-skilling of existing employees in new digital applications and organisational design as a way of improving employee productivity and corporate bottom line. The technological competencies have mostly been held by global north, the global south has mostly remained a follower nation.

The chapter by Anirudh Agrawal, Payal Kumar and Ashish Tyagi is a country-level study of Industry 4.0 policies adopted in Germany, South Korea and the United States and its implication for India (and other emerging economies). This chapter uses SWOT analysis and Max Weber’s ideal types to understand the Industry 4.0 policies of each of these countries. The study further finds that each country has had different positions on public policies, sustainability, human resource development, standards and protocols to influence its competitiveness and create ecosystems for their corporations.

The final chapter is an opinion piece by senior journalist and Chevening scholar Samrat Choudhary, who discusses whether the Covid 19 pandemic is bringing HRM 4.0 closer to all of us at a faster than expected rate. As this book moves into print many of us all over the world are experiencing the reality of work from home and are tapping into technology for that. At the same time scientists and doctors are frantically working to draw on AI advances at a pace never seen before, for example, sophisticated drones in China are doing a mass surveillance of people and warning them to stay at home. In this chapter, the author looks at some examples of responses to the coronavirus in terms of work practices, at the barriers to adoption of these technologies and their inherent limitations, and at the implications of possible shift to wider adoption of remote work and work from home practices in years to come, for workers, managers, companies and at the broadest level, for industries and countries.

In all this edited volume presents both promise and a high degree of uncertainty. The apocalyptic movies like I-Robot, Blade Runner and the Terminator series have created an image where the world view for the future is such that technology would lead to mass lay-offs, with machines taking over humans and the world as we know it. Some chapters in this book convey that Revolution 4.0 poses a certain risk in terms of continuous employment, organisational competitiveness and country competitiveness. However, overall the theme of this volume is positive, discussing solutions and strategies that will ensure competitiveness of the people, organisations and countries in the 4.0 paradigm shift.

Research has only just begun on what impact the Industrial revolution 4.0 will have on employees and firms. This edited volume covers a whole gamut of interests, from practical effects on people and technology, to a more theoretical approach, to looking back and placing this revolution in a historical context. It is hoped that both researchers and practitioners alike will enjoy reading this and will gain new insights from the chapters written by authors from both emerging economies and developed countries. We thank the reviewers and the publisher for making this edited volume possible.


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