Human Resource Development in the Digital Age: Recent issues and future research directions

Call for papers for: International Journal of Manpower

Human Resource Development in the Digital age: Recent issues and future research directions
Call for papers for: International Journal of Manpower

Special issue on “Human Resource Development in the Digital age: Recent issues and future research directions”

Guest Editors
Dr. Surajit Bag 
Associate Professor of Practice
Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management
College of Business and Economics
University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Lincoln C. Wood 
Associate Professor
Department of Management
University of Otago, New Zealand
Email: [email protected]

Human resources are a source of competitive advantage in any organisation (Bag and Gupta, 2019). Organisation can lose or gain customers based on the ability to speedily deliver goods and services to customers (Esper et al., 2007; Gupta et al., 2019) and for which modern businesses need to integrate human resource management with operations management to deliver best results (Bag and Gupta, 2019). The fourth industrial revolution (I4.0) has opened many opportunities for businesses; but at the same time, I4.0 suggests that firms should change how they manage human resources and their development in their operations (Hofmann and Rüsch, 2017; Bag et al., 2020 a, b). I4.0 is driven by various internal and external forces such as changes in technological applications, systems and reference architectures; changes in supply chain design; changes in manufacturing layout; changes in organization structure, work setups, performance management systems and changes in skill sets and training requirements (Telukdarie et al., 2018). 

Information technology resources comprises of tangible resources (IT infrastructure); human resources (technical and managerial skills) and intangible resources (knowledge, customer orientation and synergy) that can enhance innovation in the organization (Bharadwaj, 2000). I4.0 technological innovation has changed the business environment, which requires changes in how businesses implement strategic human resource management (Whysall et al., 2019).

An important dimension of I4.0 research is the human aspect. Firms showing openness (breadth and depth) to I4.0 technologies allow better opportunities for small enterprises to enhance performances (Büchi et al., 2020). However, most manufacturers have so far failed to seize the I4.0 revolutionary opportunities, and human resource challenges are one of the problems (Calabrese et al., 2020). For instance, Brazil has faced significant challenges to exploit I4.0 technologies due to lack of skills to fulfil the expertise that I4.0 process demands (Cezarino et al., 2019).
Advancement of I4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence and internet of things has automated various medium- to high-skilled jobs, leading to significant changes in the labor requirements (Hughes et al., 2019; Marengo, 2019). The automation has created general fear among people about losing jobs in the digital age. Organizations must consider the wellbeing of employees and labor during this digital transformation. A practical solution to the job insecurity problem is to adopt a proactive approach and for the firm to adapt to I4.0 technological changes and prepare for the digital transformation (Nam, 2019). 

Human resource development is primarily shaped by two factors: the knowledge economy and the emerging digital technologies that will necessitate changes in the human part of the system (Evans, 2019). Depending upon the industry sector, the transformation will require new competencies with a unique set of skills leading to change in job profiles. The technical skills requirements will include expertise in programming, big data analytics, robotics, and the maintenance of smart systems. The soft skill set consist of continuous learning, innovative, and critical analytical thinking (Jerman et al., 2020). Skills upgrading, managing of knowledge, and agile leadership qualities develop strategic human resource development related dynamic capabilities in the organization (Garavan et al., 2016). 
Literature indicates that technology is a key driver of organizational changes, including human resource development. The advancement of digital technologies necessitates innovative practices. For instance, telecommuting, virtual teams and cloud-based systems were suggested by Li (2016). To bridge the skill gap, focus must be given towards training design. Tools such as ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation) can be useful to identify gaps (skill gaps, knowledge gaps and performance gaps) and further bridge the gaps (Li, 2016).

There is also the vast potential of virtual reality (VR) applications in human resource development, particularly in the area of training and development of existing and new recruits (Schmid Mast et al., 2018). A VR program mimics the real world and aids virtual interactions and cooperation, thus offering immersive, near to real-life, value-added experiences (Khandelwal and Upadhyay, 2019).
I4.0 technologies have no doubt unlocked digital innovation, but it also impacted the work and life of human resource development professionals. Research needs to examine associated changes in the job atmosphere pertaining to the digital workplace and understand the effect on workers. This will be helpful in further design of innovative solutions to fit workers and support them in the new socio-technical relationships in organizational systems and enhance performance (Li and Herd, 2017; Oh et al., 2018).
Although I4.0 delivers significant benefits and opportunities such as better visibility and integrity control (Barreto et al., 2017; Preuveneers and Ilie-Zudor, 2017; Strandhagen et al., 2017); however, it has its own set of challenges and risks for managers (Luthra and Mangla, 2018; Telukdarie et al., 2018). I4.0, therefore, needs further investigation from the human resource development perspective (Ras et al., 2017; Ansary et al., 2018; Sivathanu and Pillai, 2018).  

Moreover, there is a necessity for the advancement of talent management theory and practice towards a more dynamic, systems-thinking orientation due to complex nature of talent management activities in the I4.0 environment (Whysall et al., 2019).
This special issue aims to provide solutions for professionals to help them overcome the human resource development challenges and further embrace I4.0 for business sustainability.

To understand the human development related challenges in I4.0 era; faced by top leaders in the organisation including directors and senior managers across each stage of the talent pipeline: attraction and recruitment, training and development, career development, talent mobility and succession planning.
To identify or propose new human resource development methods/tools/ innovative practices that can help to eliminate challenges in this digital age
To understand the sustainability related concerns in this digital age from a human resource development point of view.
To identify the resource sets, core capabilities and dynamic capabilities related to human assets that will aid industry professionals in the adoption of digital technologies such as IoT, IIoT, CPS, AI, Big Data and Cloud computing.
To develop a blueprint for developing human resource development (short and long term) in this digital age

Human resource developmental challenges faced by industry practitioners in this digital age
Social, health and environmental risks associated with I4.0 projects
New human resource development methods, tools, technologies, innovative practices in this digital age
Budgeting needs for training programs including short term/long term courses to fit the workforce in I4.0 architecture
Parameters for selection of I4.0 training service providers 
Resource and capabilities related to human assets that are essential for industry practitioners in this digital age
Information systems for human resource development and performance measurement in this digital age 
Organisation readiness to adopt I4.0
Recruitment, job satisfaction, retention in I4.0 era
Designing training programs for human-machine collaboration at the shop floor
Sustainable human resource development in this digital age

Articles are suggested to adopt quantitative/empirical methodology, and focus on practice oriented research. 

•    ScholarOne open for submissions: November 30th, 2020 
•    Final date for initial submissions on ScholarOne: March 21st, 2021
•    Editors' final decision: September 30th, 2021
•    Expected publication: early 2022

Submission procedures
Submissions to the special issue should be sent electronically through the “International Journal of Manpower”  ScholarOne System The manuscripts must be prepared in accordance with the guidelines for authors given in the website of the journal “International Journal of Manpower”
Authors need to clearly indicate in their submission information and letter that their manuscript is for the Special Issue on “Human Resource Development in the Digital age: Recent issues and future research directions” All submissions will be subject to a double-blind review process followed by “International Journal of Manpower” Journal. All manuscripts must be original, unpublished works that are not concurrently under review for publication elsewhere. Questions about this special issue may be directed to the guest editors.
Interested authors are welcome to discuss their research ideas in the form of an extended abstract by contacting the guest editors. The abstract should be written keeping in mind the style of Emerald, consult the author guidelines here. The idea of proposing an abstract is share preliminary feedback to the interested authors.
For any questions, interested authors can contact the corresponding guest editor:
Surajit Bag; [email protected]

Ansari, F., Erol, S. and Sihn. W. (2018), “Rethinking Human-Machine Learning in Industry 4.0: How Does the Paradigm Shift Treat the Role of Human Learning?”, Procedia Manufacturing, Vol. 23, pp. 117-122.
Bag, S. and Gupta, S. (2019), “Examining the effect of green human capital availability in adoption of reverse logistics and remanufacturing operations performance”, International Journal of Manpower.
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 Gupta, S., Drave, V. A., Bag, S. and Luo. Z. (2019), “Leveraging smart supply chain and information system agility for supply chain flexibility”, Information Systems Frontiers, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 547-564.
Hofmann, E. and Rüsch, M. (2017), “Industry 4.0 and the current status as well as future prospects on logistics”, Computers in Industry, Vol. 89, No. 23-34.
Hughes, C., Robert, L., Frady, K. and Arroyos. A. (2019), “Managing People and Technology in the Workplace”, In Managing Technology and Middle-and Low-skilled Employees. Emerald Publishing Limited.
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Khandelwal, K. and Upadhyay. A. K. (2019), “Virtual reality interventions in developing and managing human resources”, Human Resource Development International, pp.1-15.
Li, J. (2016), “Technology advancement and the future of HRD research”, Human Resource Development International, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp.189-191.
Li, J. and Herd. A. M. (2017), “Shifting Practices in Digital Workplace Learning: An Integrated Approach to Learning, Knowledge Management, and Knowledge Sharing”, Human Resource Development International, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 185-193.
Luthra, S. and Mangla, S. K.  (2018), “Evaluating challenges to Industry 4.0 initiatives for supply chain sustainability in emerging economies”, Process Safety and Environmental Protection, Vol. 117, pp. 168-179.
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Oh, E. G. and Huang, W. H. D. (2018), “A review of technology research in HRD from a design-based research perspective”, Human Resource Development Review, Vol.17 No. 3, pp. 258-276.
Preuveneers, D. and Ilie-Zudor, E. (2017), “The intelligent industry of the future: A survey on emerging trends, research challenges and opportunities in Industry 4.0.”, Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments, Vol. 9 No. 3, 287-298.
Ras, E., Wild, F., Stahl, C. and Baudet. A. (2017), “Bridging the skills gap of workers in Industry 4.0 by human performance augmentation tools: Challenges and roadmap”, In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Pervasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments, pp. 428-432.
Schmid Mast, M., Kleinlogel, E. P., Tur, B. and Bachmann, M. (2018), “The future of interpersonal skills development: Immersive virtual reality training with virtual humans”, Human Resource Development Quarterly, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 125-141.
Sivathanu, B. and Pillai. R. (2018), “Smart HR 4.0–how industry 4.0 is disrupting HR”, Human Resource Management International Digest,  Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 7-11.
Strandhagen, J. O., Vallandingham, L. R., Fragapane, G., Strandhagen, J. W., Stangeland, A. B. H. and Sharma, N. (2017), “Logistics 4.0 and emerging sustainable business models”, Advances in Manufacturing, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 359-369.
Telukdarie, A., Buhulaiga, E. ., Bag, S. ., Gupta, S. and Luo. Z. (2018), “Industry 4.0 implementation for multinationals”, Process Safety and Environmental Protection, Vol. 118, pp. 316-329.
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