ROLE OF ‘HUMAN RESOURCE’ IN TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION
The textile and apparel industry in India provides employment to over 45 million people making it one of the largest employment providers for all the sectors. It is rightly said that the apparel industry is dynamic in nature mainly because of changing fashion trends, but the fact cannot be denied that it is also reckoned to be one of the slowest in adapting the emerging technologies; considering this fact, there is an urgent need for upgradation to meet the new challenges in the industry. The Human Resource personnel should therefore play a vital role in helping employees adopt to the latest and frequently reforming technologies.
The apparel industry mostly comprises of less educated workforce, and most of the supervisors are not formally trained on soft human skills. The lack of knowledge leads people in the garment industry to follow the same old practices and the industry has somehow become monotonous. Ironically, an HR which is said to be the strongest pillar in an organisation, is also a victim of this challenge but nobody is even thinking about changing this. This sheer ignorance of ground reality leads the apparel manufacturers to go through the ‘status quo’ which simply means doing the same thing again and again in the same manner and expecting a different result every time.
The main problem lies in the fact that the apparel industry lacks formal, pragmatic contemporary HR systems and interventions which are essential for integrating the digital technologies in the manufacturing processes in order to reduce human intervention. This hampers the growth of the person as well as the growth of the entire organisation. Even if there is any growth, it is very slow in nature. In this era of fast fashion and buyers’ changing demand, technology is imperative to achieve better quality output and efficiency.
The concept of ‘status quo’ and the ‘hazards of it’ were well explained by V. Aswatha Ramaiah, Head, Unique Consultants, Bangalore.
The work of the people in an organisation becomes monotonous and lacklustre due to ‘status quo’ and people tend to develop a rigid patterned mindset as well as feel restricted. “Any time, the organisation wants to inculcate technology, there is an essence of resistance from people because they have a natural flare to continue with what they have been doing, for instance doing a task manually without knowing the benefits of the technology. People only see the tree rather than focusing on the forest,” stated Aswatha.
Above all there is an uncertainty about digitisation, change of living conditions and worry about the future lurking in the minds of such people. Due to this fear, there is no sense of achievement left in them and their vast potential remains untapped.
In order to cope with the hazards of ‘status quo’, the HR Department of an apparel company should play a vital role in imbibing technology. There are times when the companies introduce technologies and some people start using them, but due to some technological upgradation, these so- called technologies become difficult to be handled and result in demotivating people. An HR, in such a situation, acts as the awareness communicator and helps people to change their mindsets so that they become recipient to accept technology. “Research has proved that a person gets a sense of satisfaction when he adopts a new thing and his body releases ‘ feel good’ chemicals which further improves the health of the person,” quoted Aswatha.
Technology can be implemented in almost every area of garment manufacturing and it is the sole responsibility of the HR to imbibe the technology at each and every level possible. For example, website tools can be used in the recruitment process in the form of e- recruitments. Resume scanners can be integrated with respect to a pre- defined criteria and applicant tracking system can be established. Also e- conferences, e-selections and online vendor selection are other modes of technology that can be adopted
Technology can be implemented in almost every area of garment manufacturing and it is the sole responsibility of the HR to imbibe the technology at each and every level possible. For example, website tools can be used in the recruitment process in the form of e-recruitments.
in the industry. Trainings can be conducted without physically transporting the operators from one place to another. Likewise, e-appraisals can be done easily using technologyenabled cloud system where all the data can be stored on the cloud without taking up any physical space. With this implementation, the manager can easily track the real-time data of the operator which will further help in doing appraisals.
“Many garment manufacturing companies have already implemented Enterprise Resource Planning System ( ERP) in order to manage the human resources, material flow information, attendance as well as time keeping activities. Moreover, strategies, policies as well as practices can be implemented using webdriven technology channels. E- procurements such as B2B, B2C or business-to- garment can be enabled using the HR information systems. HR information systems permit the digital payments along with the demographic data management,” averred Aswatha.
Aswatha shared his thoughts further stating that the human brain is divided into two parts: the left brain and the right brain. The left brain is ‘ thinking’ whereas the right brain is ‘ feeling’.
It is very important for the HR to understand this. For example, training on new technological systems, SOPs, flow charts, instructions, and questionnaires on new technology, new applications, and softwares are predominantly part of the left brain. HR should train people on these skills. But the real problem starts with the right brain when it comes to prepare people mentally to adopt technology. Even if a technology fails at some point of time, the employees themselves will make it successful whereas if the employees are not mentally prepared to adopt technology, they will find hundreds of reasons not to adopt it. Some of the relevant steps that can be taken up by HR in order to educate the workforce about technology adoption are as follows:
Training programmes for change management are very much important for creative and lateral thinking and should be given the utmost importance by HR.
People have fear of losing their job, thinking what they will do once technology is implemented, especially in the garment sector where attrition rate is very high. Now the HR’s job is to convince the employees that smart and efficient people will not lose their job while their nature of the job will become different. HR should enable creative thinking among the efficient people regarding the benefits of technology, the ease of working, the accuracy of information and the retrieveability of the information.
HR should ensure that the term ‘demotivation’ does not exist in the company. It will be more than enough to motivate people.
To imbibe technology in the organisation, the HR should keep patience as people need time to change.
Anthems should be played during lunchtime in the canteen or while travelling by buses. It is a human tendency to adopt things easily and get influenced by listening repeatedly. So, encouraging the employees to listen to songs and anthems will make them inclined towards technology easily.
HR should put up posters about technology in the premises of the factory so that the employees can see and learn about the importance of technology.
Aswatha also enlightened about the importance of ‘mission vision’ statement of the organisation amongst the employees. Every person at each level in the factory has different understanding of ‘mission vision’ statement. So in order to be on the same page, the HR should make the employees understand one definite ‘mission vision’ statement. He explained this concept by stating the example of Constitution of India. “It is just like the Constitution of India; if there is some section in it, implement it so that it can be demonstrated.” Likewise the HR’s main purpose should be to maintain consistency and alignment apart from making the people aware about the mission, vision, values and principles of the organisation. Once these are implemented, then only things will work.
Supporting the above concept of Aswatha, Anita Stogel, Founder of Business Coaching Academy, Germany explained the seven step process to conquer the fear that engrosses a person when technology is implemented in the organisation/factory and most importantly the key role of HR in imbibing technology among the employees. She compared the role of HR with that of a clock while enlightening the employees about the benefit of technology. Just as a clock has four phases, HR has to go through four phases: Warming, Storming, Norming and Performing.
In the first phase that is Warming, something new comes up and the HR starts to develop a sense of purpose and defines certain goals. HR is accountable to share the vision and mission of the company with its employees. They should make them understand the brand essence and the USP of the company. Optimising the recruitment process that is required by the HR and the hiring of good people is needed.
The second phase is Storming which is a short phase. As a HR person, one should encourage the employees to bond with each other and help build a team spirit within the employees. This is only possible by doing team building exercises. HR should closely look into all the departments of the company during this phase.
Next is the Norming phase when people start accepting new things. The main role of HR is to build good structures and effective SOPs so that employees can rely on them. This will lead to quality of work and efficient communication flow between the departments. Clarity means ‘power’. Like IT helps us monitor our work, in the same way HR is needed to monitor the growth of every employee. They are responsible to provide valuable feedback to the managers.
The last phase is known as the Performing phase where some amount of growth can be seen in the employees. The company should reward ideas of the employees and encourage the people for more such things. HR should motivate people to come up with ‘out of the box’ ideas that can do wonders for the organisation. Brainstorming is what is expected. As per some research and reports, about 70 per cent of the projects fail. “HR should motivate people to learn from those failures. Most importantly, they should help people to develop learning culture within themselves, within the team as well as within the company. Learning and proofing will always help to overcome the fears and will lead to improvement. This can be inculcated by training the workforce and peers,” concluded Anita.
The human brain is divided into two parts: the left brain and the right brain. The left brain is ‘thinking’ whereas the right brain is ‘feeling’. It is very important for the HR to understand this.
V. Aswatha Ramaiah, Head, Unique Consultants, Bangalore
V. Aswatha Ramaiah, Head, Unique Consultants, Bangalore
Anita Stogel, Founder, Business Coaching Academy, Germany