The textile and apparel industry in India provides employment to over 45 million people, making it one of the largest employment providers. It is rightly said that apparel industry is dynamic in nature mainly because of changing fashion trends. But, it is also reckoned to be one of the slowest in adapting to the emerging technologies, considering that there is an urgent need for upgradation to meet new challenges in the industry. The Human Resource personnel should play a vital role in helping employees adopt technologies.
Characteristics of Apparel and Textile Industry
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 it to be changed. 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 apparel industry lacks formal, pragmatic contemporary HR systems and interventions which are essential in integrating the digital technologies in the manufacturing processes in order to reduce the human interventions. It hampers the growth of the person as well as the growth of the entire organisation. Even if there is growth, it is very slow in nature. With the era of fast fashion and ever-changing demand from the buyers, it is essential that industry starts adopting and implementing technology in the manufacturing processes in order to strengthen the base for quality output and efficiency.
Status Quo & Key Role of Human Resources in wriggling out Status Quo comfort
The concept of Status Quo and the hazards of it were explained by V. Aswatha Ramaiah from Unique Consultants, Bangalore. The work of the people in an organisation becomes monotonous and lack-lustre due to ‘status quo’ and people tend to develop a rigid patterned mindset and 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 digitalisation, change of living conditions and worry for the future comes through. Due to this fear, there is often no sense of achievement left in them and the vast potential remains untapped.
In order to cope with the hazards of status quo, HR department of an apparel company should play a vital role in imbibing the technology. There are times when the companies introduce technologies and some people start using it but due to some technological upgradation, it does not work which can demotivate the people. An HR acts as the awareness communicator and helps people to change their mindsets so that they become recipient to accept technology. “Researches have 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 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 technology enabled 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 web driven 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.
As we know, human brain is divided into two parts left brain and the right brain. Left brain is the thinking part whereas right brain is the feeling part. 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 a part of 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 the 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 out hundred reasons to not adopt it.
Human Resources as an enabler to Inculcate Technology in the organisation
Some of the steps that can be taken up by the HR in order to educate the workforce about the technology adoption are as follows:
- Training program for change management is very much important for creative and lateral thinking.
- People have a fear of losing the job, thinking what they will do once technology is implemented, especially in the garment sector where the attrition rate is very high. Now, the HR’s job is to convince the employees that smart and efficient people will not lose the job while the nature of the job will become different. HR should guide efficient people about the benefits of the technology, ease of working, the accuracy of the information, and the retrievability of the information.
- HR should ensure that the term demotivation does not exist in the company. It will be more than enough to motivate the people.
- To imbibe technology in the organisation, the HR should keep patience as people need time to change.
- Anthems should be played during lunch time in the canteen or while travelling by office buses. It is a human tendency to adopt things easily and get influenced when a person listens about something repeatedly. So, encouraging the employees to listen to the songs and anthems will make them inclined towards technology easily.
- HR should put posters about the 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 spreading mission and vision of the organisation amongst the employees. Each employee, no matter at what level in the factory, has a different understanding of mission, vision, and statement. So, in order to be on the same page, HR should make the employees understand one definite mission, vision, and statement. He explained the concept by stating the example of constitution of India, “It is just like constitution of India, if there is some section in it, implement it so that it can be demonstrated”.
‘The Clock’ within a human, a team, a company, and an Industry:
Supporting the above concept, Anita Stogel, Founder of Business Coaching Academy, Germany, explained the seven-step process to conquer the fear that engrosses a person when the technology is being implemented in the organisation/factory and most importantly the key role of HR in imbibing the technology among the employees. She compared the role HR plays while enlightening the employees about the benefits of technology with a clock. Just as a clock has four phases, similarly HR has to go through four phases: Warming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
In the first phase that is Warming, something new is coming up and HR starts to develop a sense of purpose and define certain goals. HR is accountable to share with the people the Vision and Mission of the company. They should make them understand the brand essence and the USP of the company. Optimizing the recruitment process is required by the HR and hiring of good people is needed.
Second phase is Storming which is a short phase. As an 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.
Next is the Norming phase, and 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. It is responsible to provide the valuable feedback to the managers.
The last phase is known as 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 for more 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, it should help people to develop learning culture within themselves, team as well as company. Learning and proofing will always help overcome the fears and will lead to improvement. This can be inculcated by training the workforce and peers,” concluded Anita.
Different phases of technology adoption in an organisation:
1. Deception: This is the first phase of technology adoption. During this phase, employees feel little uncomfortable with the technology. Employees are unable to see the human interventions reducing, moreover they could only see disturbances happening due to technology adoption, for instance employees may take little time to develop purchase order via ERP systems, however it will reduce the time, it is easy to access, share, and distribute. In this case, HR needs to explain the benefits of digitalisation to its employees. With time, they will start realizing the benefits of technology and will be able to adopt digitization
2. Dematerialization: This is the second phase in which all the bulky files and equipment can be thrown out. Expensive gadgets such as Cameras and GPS systems are not to be used. Instead, sleek equipment is used.
3. Demonetization: In this phase, everything happens with the help of digital payments.
4. Disruption: Once people start accepting technology, the manual system fades away. This is mainly known as disruption of technology
5. Democratization: It is one of the most important phases, as everybody in the factory can easily access the technology, starting from operators, workers, supervisors, middle man, contract laborers, to the higher authority.