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keiralow-69455047-19t2 mbaz604-research proposal part B

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MBAZ 604—BUSINESS RESEARCH METHODS
RESEARCH PROPOSAL PART (B)
Surname: LOW
Given Name(s): Keira
Student ID: 69455047
Lecturer: Trevor Nesbit
Due Date: 30 Jun 2019
Word Count: 3,008
Abstract
As the technology evolves, businesses and organisations have no choice but to
adapt and implement new technological solutions to remain competitive in their
respective industries. This phenomenon is also known as digital workplace
transformation. In order for the transformation to occur, day-to-day business
operations will need to be recalibrated and managed. In this paper, discussion will
revolve primarily around the human resource (HR) department’s role in managing
the digital workplace transformation, specifically in the perspective of Christchurch
City Council. On the same note, it is important to know a few key points: there are
human resource management (HRM) solutions in the market currently that are
designed specifically to improve and optimise the HR processes such as payroll,
time logging, etc., however, it is also crucial to highlight that HR as a business
function also plays a role in facilitating and moderating the overall change
management. For instance, if an organisation is to implement a new collaboration
tool across departments, though HR may not be the end user of the new tools, HR
still plays the role in ensuring that employees understand the underlying objective of
the implementation and have collaborative attitudes towards the change. In other
words, major changes in organisations involve large amount of input from
employees, and HR will act as the change agent to ensure change among employee
is happening at the appropriate rate. Not only that, HR also needs to make sure
employees are motivated and happy with the change along the way. In terms of the
overall research direction, multiple methods will be employed to answer the research
questions. Firstly, existing literature reviews will be utilised to provide general context
of what digital workplace transformation is, as well as issues dealing with the
transformation. Secondly, interview will be conducted with HR practitioners in South
Island to understand how they are currently managing the change. Their
experiences, regardless of positive or negative, in the transformation will also be
noted and investigated. Lastly, with the above learnings and findings, Christchurch
City Council will be able to evaluate and make the most informed decisions in
managing this change. Furthermore, other readers will also be able utilise the
learnings and apply them according to their organisations’ needs and requirements.
Aims and Objectives
This research project aims to explore how human resource (HR) department can
manage digital workplace transformation in large organisations, particularly for the
HR team at the Christchurch City Council. Instead of evaluating the options and
alternatives from scratch, the paper will provide essential pillars of digital workplace
transformation, as well as recommended approaches in tackling the change.
Specifically, the paper will first help the HR team understand what digital
transformation is, then evaluate it’s positive and negative impacts to an organisation;
lastly, how they can best or most effectively facilitate the change in their
organisation. Various success or failure experiences from other organisations will
also be researched and analysed to establish realistic context and expectations for
the readers. Not only that, in-person interviews conducted will also provide more indepth descriptions and perceptions regarding opinions, including both positive and
negative, in regard to the current climate of digital workplace transformation. The
results of the study will ultimately be practical to the HR practitioners as it will equip
them with clear ideas to identifying, evaluating and deploying the best
implementation approaches to manage digital workplace transformation in their
organisation.
Research Questions
The research aims to provide in-depth information to empower HR practitioners in
managing digital workplace transformation effectively, hence the primary research
question:
What are the roles of human resource (HR) department in digital workplace
transformation at Christchurch City Council?
In order to provide a comprehensive view to answer the above research question,
additional sub-questions have also been formulated to help reader grasp deeper
understanding as well as build relevant contexts.
The sub-questions are:
a) How are technologies being used in transforming workplace digitally?
b) What are the current issues relating to digital workplace transformation?
c) What are some perceptions and experiences regarding current/emerging
technologies in the perspective of HR practitioners?
d) What are the best practices to transform workplace digitally in the context of
Christchurch City Council?
These questions have been evaluated on criteria such as clarity and researchability—questions a) and b) to be researched via existing research, c) via interview,
and d) answered via synthesis of findings from other questions. In other words, these
questions are inter-connected with each other and will collectively provide a
comprehensive coverage for the primary research question.
Introduction and Background
Digital workplace transformation has been a widely discussed topic in recent years.
The new technologically driven workplace can be overwhelming to many, hence it is
critical to understand which technology is appropriate, how to implement, as well as
juggling the balance between conflicting needs of end-user community and corporate
IT mandates (accenture, 2013). In other words, this transformation has been
changing how businesses operate and how employees work. In order to effectively
manage this transformation, organisations are reducing hierarchy and practice “agile
networks of teams”, implementing real-time feedback, personalised micro-learning,
and artificial intelligence (Agarwal, Bersin, Lahiri, Schwartz, & Volini, 2018). With
these new changes, Petrucci and Rivera (2018) suggests to utilise tools and
solutions that fosters constant communication and encourages feedback on every
interaction that an employee has, which will then be measured through a network
analysis.
Particularly, in the perspective of human resource (HR) department, it is important
for the team to be aware of the impact of digital workplace transformation on the
organisations. Not only HR work processes such as recruitment, performanceappraisal, employee training, etc. are affected, more importantly, HR plays crucial
role in building the right mindset among the employees as well as allocating
appropriate level of resources within the company. In other words, the HR team is
now required to collaborate closely with departments such as IT and participate
actively in processes such as planning and implementing for change management,
introducing and reworking business processes using new collaboration tools and
solutions, etc. These changes need to be addressed with high level of attention or
the organisation may end up with consequences such as unmotivated employees,
high turnover or worse, loss of business clients, etc. Hence, HR practitioners are
required to be equipped with sufficient knowledge to manage the change.
To put it simply, the research’s motivation is to help HR practitioners be aware of the
importance of change managements, the benefits and risks of digital workplace
transformation, then prepare a strong HR strategy to manage these changes.
Initial Relevant Literature
An effective HR department is a crucial factor in creating a conducive work
environment for employees, achieving alignment with overall organisational strategy,
and as a result, improved organisational performance (Alfes et al., 2019). A survey
conducted by KPMG ‘The future of HR 2019: In the Know or In the No’ has
highlighted the importance of HR in digital workplace transformation. The report has
advised leaders and businesses to focus on the items below:

Reshape the HR function by implementing technology and new skills to
explore value and competitive advantage of data and analytics;

Value employees equally as ‘customers’;

Pursue a deeper understand of employee skills, strengths, goals and purpose
while creating custom-made employee experiences (KPMG International,
2019).
According to a recent report by New Zealand Productivity Commission (2019), the
technological advancement has been transforming the job market in several majors
ways:

Creates new jobs and tasks;

Increases demand and scope for workers in existing jobs;

Reduces demand for workers in some existing jobs;

Changes the economics of different work arrangements.
Obviously, these implications need to be addressed appropriately by companies, and
HR will be one of the key departments here. More specifically, HR will need to
moderate and facilitate the digital transformation happening in the organisation from
various different perspectives, such as implementing change management or
deploying new tools to assist with the change, or even reengineering the entire
business process.
Human Resource Management Solutions
Specifically in HR-related technological solutions, a Forrester research has reported
annual growth rate of 9% in the Human Resource Management (HRM) systems
globally, in comparison to the market of ERP solution at only 3 to 4%, indicating
organisations are now aware of the importance of HRM and getting onboard
(Pulyaeva, Kharitonova, Kharitonova, & Shchepinin, 2019). Some of these biggest
vendors are Oracle, SAP, SumTotal, Infor (Lawson) and Saba (Pulyaeva et al.,
2019).
In terms of the evolution of HRM systems, they initially started with functions solely
focusing on HR record keeping, labour compensation and basic report and analytical
processes. Overtime, modern HRM systems have evolved to include automation of
individual functions such as resume storage in joint database, psychological testing
when evaluating employee candidates, work time logging, employee loyalty
estimation as well as performance evaluation and management (Pulyaeva et al.,
2019).
On paper, these tools are great as they promise to decrease cost and optimise
business processes in many aspects, however, there is also the more realistic side
of things. Specifically in employee engagement and employee training, Rigby and
Ryan (2018) argues that though advances in technology and tools have allowed HR
practitioners to collect employee data to track and influence employee engagement,
as well as programs that promote engagement through digital enticements such as
“gamification” in employee training, these tools are largely ineffective due to the lack
of evidence-based framework that inform accurate engagement efforts. Colbert, Yee,
and George (2016) has also added that though gamification has become a popular
strategy for increasing employee motivation as it provides clear goals and real-time
feedback, further research is needed to examine how the design and implementation
of gamification systems impact motivation especially over the long term.
In terms of performance management, study conducted by Koulopoulos (2018) also
reported that 95% of employees are not satisfied with their organisation’s appraisal
process, and 90% do not feel the process is accurate. Such issue should be
perceived as opportunities for HR practitioners to explore further and resolve via the
right technological solutions available in the market.
Roles of HR in Building the Right Digital Mindset
Apart from the direct benefits offered the HRM systems and software in the market, a
well-formulated HRM policies and practices is definitely another critical success
factors to gain competitive advantage in twenty-first century organisations (Iqbal,
2019). This is to say technology is only solving the first half of the issue, the second
half would require collective effort from both the executive team as well as the
employees. According to Alfes et al. (2019), it is essential for the HR team to
interpret their change agent role as one that is focused on change content and
change implementation. They need to ensure that line managers understand the
ultimate purpose behind the HRM transformation, as well as individual behaviour that
they should encourage (Alfes et al., 2019). Very importantly, they are also required
to ensure if company and employees are actually change-ready on top of the change
management in placed (Alfes et al., 2019).
In other words, for change to happen efficiently, HR needs to first speak to
employees’ heart and minds in order to trigger positive affective responses to the
change (Alfes et al., 2019). This point is also supported by Rigby and Ryan (2018),
pointing out that when employees are perceiving their managers as supportive of
basic needs in terms of autonomy, relatedness and mastery, they have a higher
likelihood to demonstrate higher motivational quality, organisational loyalty and
engagement.
Proper Planning for the Change
In order to resolve these issues, proper planning is essential. Ideally, the roles and
expectations of a HR management strategy needs to be established very clearly. Not
only that, it should be planned along with the overall organisation strategy, also
known as Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM)—organisation strategy
focuses on business long-term goals, while SHRM focuses on resources to achieve
the organisational goals simultaneously (Belhaj, Tkiouat, & Khouaja, 2017). To put it
simply, Belhaj et al. (2017) has defined SHRM as HRM that is enhanced to a
business strategic level that helps organisations gain more competitive advantage.
Not only such strategic decisions will help bring together vertically integrated, crossfunctional teams of people to perform in the most efficient manner (Petrucci &
Rivera, 2018), it also helps optimising HR’s day-to-day key operations such as
automating employee management processes, storing and processing employee
details securely, providing accurate business estimation, etc. (Pulyaeva et al., 2019).
In other words, it is crucial for HR practitioners to understand the new challenges,
starting by giving more importance to new technological software and tools in the
market, thinking strategically about HR’s role in this change, preparing managers
and succession plans, giving attention to employee commitment and social climate,
and lastly, exploiting analysis of HR data (Belhaj et al., 2017).
Research Methods
For the purpose for this research, data will be collected in both primary and
secondary approaches.
Secondary analysis will be performed through literature reviews and industry
whitepapers to answer sub-questions a) and b), investigating current as well as
emerging technologies in the market.
Primary data will also be collected via in-person interviews among HR practitioners,
and it will help to answer sub-question c). This qualitative research strategy entails
an inductive approach as the research is focusing on drawing theories from the data
collected. In other words, inferences will be drawn in a generalised manner from
qualitative responses. This also means research is incorporating the scientific model
of interpretivism, indicating a need for researcher to grasp subjective meaning of
social action (Bryman & Bell, 2011). To study respondents’ personal attitudes
effectively, open-ended questions will be formulated. Not only that, interviewer will be
trained ahead of time to ensure they allow respondents to have sufficient time to
express their thoughts and opinions before moving to the next question or probing
for more details if necessary.
Once questions a) to c) are answered, the analysed responses will help compile a
list of best practices to answer question d), which will then act as a foundation for the
main research question. With that, full coverage regarding HR’s role in managing
digital workplace transformation will be provided to the HR team in Christchurch City
Council.
In terms of sampling, interview respondents will be conducted exclusively on HR
practitioners and snowball sampling method will be used. Target of respondent
number is set to be between 15 to 20. To reach this niche group of individuals, the
respondents will be first scouted on LinkedIn. The criteria of scouting an interview
candidate are as followed:

Has a HR-related LinkedIn Headline,

Work or has worked as a HR practitioner,

Works for companies located within the South Island.
A private message will then be sent to them to request for the interview. If request is
accepted, interview will be scheduled and conducted accordingly. Regardless of the
success of scheduling, researcher will also proactively request for interviewee
candidate recommendations within the interviewees’ network. This will allow
researcher to quickly identify additional potential interviewee candidates.
Each interview is planned to be completed within 45 minutes, with 30 minutes of
active and semi-structured questioning and answering, followed by 15 minutes of
unstructured comments and feedbacks in relation to their industry and experience.
Refer to appendix for proposed interview guide, along with key questions and
transitions.
Upon data collection, due to the lack of pre-determined response categories,
patterns from the responses will need to be drawn out. To help with this process, I
will start with organising the data with transcripts, as well as familiarising myself with
the responses. Then, I will be structuring and sorting the responses, and attempt to
place them different groups of themes and characteristics, also known as thematic
analysis. This process will be repeated iteratively until theories explanations are
drawn from the data.
Ethical Issues
This research project will be led by myself, Keira Low, as a Master of Business
Information Systems student at University of Canterbury. The project will be
conducted complying to all business research ethics norms. Researcher will take
responsibility to provide interview consent form as well as study information sheet
with clear explanations and expectations of the research to all respondents before
conducting the interview.
During the data collection stage, protocols will be designed to minimise usage of
identifiable information, especially in such small-scale research project. Access to
research data will also be limited to researcher, and possibly supervisor of the
research at the university if necessary. The same will also apply in the reporting
stage, no identifiable or traceable data will be shared in any way in the report unless
consent has been provided. This will be a crucial point to protect the respondents’
current and future career prospects and employment opportunities.
Limitations
The findings of this study have to be seen in light of some limitations that could pose
potential weakness to the validity and credibility of the results.
Firstly, though findings from existing literature research are published in recent
years, however, it is important to keep in my mind that the ever-changing
technological advancement in particular could vastly affect the relevance of the
study. As an illustration, emergence of a disruptive solution among HRM system
vendors could cause current problems to become obsolete or cause newer and more
complex problems to arise.
Secondly, small number of interviews conducted could also be limiting the validity of
the results. On top of it, the research may also be limited by organisations of the
similar scale in South Island, New Zealand; hence learnings from interviewees might
not be completely applicable to Christchurch City Council that currently has over
2,000 employees (Christchurch City Council, 2019).
Thirdly, the nature of interview also poses challenges to effectively see through the
eyes of the respondents. Therefore, responses need to be analysed with caution as
they may have viewpoints based on very unique experiences, or contexts that
researcher is not aware of.
All in all, further research is highly recommended if the above limitations apply during
the research process. Particularly for the second limitation, it will be ideal to expand
the research scope to North Island as there are more large organisations in the
bigger cities, Wellington and Auckland.
Appendix
Interview Fact Sheet
The fact sheet will be filled in by the interviewer before starting to conduct the
interview.
Fact Sheet
Name
Company Name
Current Position/Role
Length of holding current
position/role
Years of experience in HR
(indicate if public or private
sector)
Email address
Mobile Number
Interview Guide
1. Introduction
a. To start off the interview, could you tell me a little about the company
that you work for?
b. Could you tell me about your position in the company, and your role in
the company?
2. Now, let’s move on the more important topic of HRM. Please put on your HR
hat while answering those questions.
a. Does the company that you work for utilise any kind of human resource
management (HRM) system or software?
b. If yes, what did you like, and not like about the software in the
perspective of a HR practitioner?
c. If no, what do you think is stopping the company implementing one?
3. Moving on, the following questions will be respondent in the perspective of an
employee in general?
a. If the company has used an HRM software, what is your general
attitude towards the implementation. Please elaborate why you like it or
dislike it?
b. If you have not had a change to use an HRM software, do you know
what does it do exactly? If yes, would you encourage the company to
implement it? And why?
4. Lastly, do you have anything else that you would like to share or discuss?
Reference List
accenture. (2013). Opportunity and disruption. Digital Workplace Transformation.
Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com/nz-en/service-workplacetechnology-transformation
Agarwal, D., Bersin, J., Lahiri, G., Schwartz, J., & Volini, E. (2018). From careers to
experiences: New pathways. Retrieved from
https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capitaltrends/2018/building-21st-century-careers.html
Alfes, K., Shantz, A. D., Bailey, C., Conway, E., Monks, K., & Fu, N. (2019).
Perceived human resource system strength and employee reactions toward
change: Revisiting human resource's remit as change agent. Human
Resource Management, 58(3), 239-252. Retrieved from
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2bf2474a25abc6dc3f429. doi:10.1002/hrm.21948
Belhaj, R., Tkiouat, M., & Khouaja, M. A. (2017). Toward an agent-based framework
for human resource management. Paper presented at the 2017 International
Colloquium on Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Competitiveness
and Innovation in Automobile and Aeronautics Industries, LOGISTIQUA 2017.
Bryman, A., & Bell, E. (2011). Business research methods. Cambridge; New York,
NY: Oxford University Press.
Christchurch City Council. (2019). Christchurch City Council Profile. Retrieved from
http://www.localcouncils.govt.nz/lgip.nsf/wpg_URL/Profiles-CouncilsChristchurch-City-Council-Main?OpenDocument
Colbert, A., Yee, N., & George, G. (2016). The digital workforce and the workplace of
the future. Academy of Management Journal, 59(3), 731-739. Retrieved from
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Iqbal, A. (2019). The strategic human resource management approaches and
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Advances in Management Research, 16(2), 181-193. Retrieved from
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doi:10.1108/JAMR-11-2017-0104
Koulopoulos, T. (2018). Performance reviews are dead. Here’s what you should do
instead. Retrieved from https:// www.inc.com/thomas-
koulopoulos/performance-reviews-are-dead-heres-what-you-should-doinstead.html
KPMG International. (2019). The future of HR 2019: In the Know or in the No.
Retrieved from
https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/it/pdf/2019/01/The_Future_of_HR_201
9.pdf.
New Zealand Productivity Commission. (2019). Technological change and the future
of work: Issues Paper. Retrieved from
https://www.productivity.govt.nz/inquiry-content/3960?stage=2
Petrucci, T., & Rivera, M. (2018). Leading Growth through the Digital Leader. Journal
of Leadership Studies, 12(3), 53-56. Retrieved from
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ada4c35e1a41c7cbb9f. doi:10.1002/jls.21595
Pulyaeva, V., Kharitonova, E., Kharitonova, N., & Shchepinin, V. (2019). Practical
aspects of HR management in digital economy. Paper presented at the IOP
Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering.
Rigby, C. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2018). Self-Determination Theory in Human Resource
Development: New Directions and Practical Considerations. Advances in
Developing Human Resources, 20(2), 133-147. Retrieved from
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de2774ca1d1729fa5e31d7ad0124a. doi:10.1177/1523422318756954
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