The onset of the 21st century has seen a rapid rise in the uptake of technological services to solve various Human Resource Management (HRM) challenges, such as workforce training and regulatory compliance. The goal has been to enjoy the benefits of digital transformation as a source of competitive advantage in business (Helmerich, Raj-Reichert and Zajak, 2020). However, there is scanty literature on the effects of this digital transformation on people management practices among small business enterprises.
From this background, this research proposal aims to investigate the effects of digital transformation on people management practices among small business enterprises. The investigation is informed by the need to develop effective people management strategies as a source of competitive advantage in an economic environment that is increasingly being redefined by technology (Kann and Biersteker, 2018; Gonçalves et al., 2020). The findings of this study will be impactful in improving people management practices in the small business enterprise sector.
The qualitative and quantitative methods are the two main approaches used in academic research studies. However, in the proposed study, the two techniques will be integrated into a broader mixed research approach framework that includes qualitative and quantitative aspects of investigation (Kumar, 2018). The researcher intends to use the mixed-method research approach because it is consistent with the exploratory nature of the research topic (Bell et al., 2018). Therefore, it will help the researcher to get a holistic understanding of the main research issues.
The researcher will use the sequential concurrent triangulation technique as the preferred design. This technique will allow the researcher to overcome the weaknesses of one technique (such as qualitative) with the strengths of another (quantitative) (Research Rundown, 2020). Thus, in this type of research design, there is no specific preferred data type to be collected, thereby giving room for the researcher to be guided by evidence.
Data will be collected from 42 local businesses within the researchers’ locality. Additionally, 12 business managers will be interviewed. Data from the local businesses will be captured using online questionnaires that will be administered as a survey. The respondents will be randomly sampled to eliminate researcher bias.
Quantitative data will be analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software, while qualitative data will be evaluated using thematic and coding methods. Data from both sources will be triangulated and contrasted with findings from secondary research to gain a broader understanding of the research issue.
There is a need to get ethical approval to conduct the study because it involves human subjects. Researchers recommend that studies of this nature should focus on gaining consent from the respondents, protecting their identity, and safeguarding the integrity of the information obtained (Dobrick and Fischer, 2017; Temple, 2019). The researcher will observe these ethical principles in the study.
The concept of people management is extensively mentioned in this proposal to mean the techniques used by managers to effectively moderate how employees work, engage with one another, behave and grow. In this context of analysis, the adoption of people management skills does not only mean the development of talent retention or management skills but also provides additional support for a business or employee to follow specific actions to meet their goals. Technology has significantly changed the workplace environment thereby influencing such outcomes.
Impact of Digital Transformation in the Workplace
Traditionally, employer-employee relationships were defined by strict modes of engagement between both parties. This type of interaction was designed to protect clear lines of control and engagement between employers and workers with little room for questioning authority (Akemu and Abdelnour, 2020). However, in the digital age, most of these modes of engagement have changed as employers and employees engage with one another using flexible channels of engagement, such as emails and skype, which have significantly reduced the power distance between both parties (Stark and Crawford, 2015). Research studies have largely classified this phenomenon as part of the effects that technology has had on communication among employees and their superiors in the workplace. This area of research is of critical importance to the present investigation because the effect of technology on communication affects power balance between employers and employees and, by extension, people management practices. However, most of these findings have been based on research conducted in large corporations.
The diffusion of innovation theory is a useful tool for understanding how people adapt to new technologies in their workplaces. Particularly, researchers have used it to investigate how ideas are introduced and eventually integrated to become part of an organization’s culture. When used in a human resource context, the diffusion of innovation theory proposes that technology would influence groups of employees differently as some of them would be more inclined to embrace it better than others do. In this regard, digital transformation is likely to have a bigger impact on selected groups of employees or organizations (Akemu and Abdelnour, 2020). For example, some industries may be more receptive to the adoption of new technology better than others may. This is the case with the high rate of technology adoption in the public as opposed to the private sector (De Vries, Tummers and Bekkers, 2019). In line with this argument, figure 1 below shows that the diffusion of innovation theory categories people based on how they react to new technology.
As highlighted in the above diagram, it is estimated that about 13.5% of people would be early adopters of new technology, thereby paving the way for an early majority of workers who would later embrace the technology before other people (late majority and laggards) decide to try the technology as well. The researcher will use this theoretical foundation to understand how technology has affected people management processes in small business enterprises.
Although researchers have extensively studied the impact of technology on human resource management practices, a review of the existing body of literature highlighted above reveals that the focus has mostly been on large organizations, while little attention has been paid to small businesses. The proposed study aims to fill this research gap and it is expected to take ten weeks to complete. Table 1 below outlines different milestones that have to be completed during this period, based on a weekly review of tasks.
Table 1. Gantt chart (Source: Developed by Author).
|Activity||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5||Week 6||Week 7||Week 8||Week 9|
|Formulation of the final report||X||X||X|
|Confirmation with respondents (Member-check technique)||X|
|Presentation of findings||X|
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Bell, E. et al. (2018) Business research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Boston University. (2019) Diffusion of innovation theory. Web.
De Vries, H., Tummers, L. and Bekkers, V. (2019) ‘The benefits of teleworking in the public sector: reality or rhetoric?’, Review of Public Personnel Administration, 39(4), pp. 570-593.
Dobrick, F. M. and Fischer, J. (2017) Research ethics in the digital age: ethics for the social sciences and humanities in times of mediatization and digitization. New York, NY: Springer.
Gonçalves, C. V. et al. (2020) Handbook of research on human capital and people management in the tourism industry. London: IGI Global.
Helmerich, N., Raj-Reichert, G. and Zajak, S. (2020) ‘Exercising associational and networked power through the use of digital technology by workers in global value chains’, Competition and Change, 4(1), pp. 1-10.
Kann, J. S. and Biersteker, M. (2018) Managing monasteries: strategy and organizational design. New York, NY: GRIN Verlag.
Kumar, R. (2018) Research methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners. London: SAGE.
Research Rundown. (2020) Mixed methods research designs. Web.
Stark, L. and Crawford, K. (2015) ‘The conservatism of emoji: work, affect, and communication’, Social Media and Society, 9(2), pp. 1-11.
Temple, A. (2019) The postgraduate’s guide to research ethics. London: Red Globe Press.