Industry 4.0: The role of human resource professionals

Nelesh Dhanpat, Zanele P. Buthelezi, Marilyn R. Joe, Tshepo V. Maphela, Nonduduzo Shongwe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera1302
Pages (from-to)10
Number of pages1
JournalSA Journal of Human Resource Management
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Competencies
  • HR professionals
  • Human resource management
  • Industrial revolution
  • Industry 4.0

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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