Original Research

Empowering employees for digital transformation in manufacturing enterprises: A case study

Meirong Zhen, Wenfeng Ding
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 55, No 1 | a4207 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v55i1.4207 | © 2024 Meirong Zhen, Wenfeng Ding | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 August 2023 | Published: 29 April 2024

About the author(s)

Meirong Zhen, Department of Human Resource Management, School of Management, Jiangsu University, Jiangsu, China
Wenfeng Ding, Department of Business Administration, School of Management, Jiangsu University, Jiangsu, China


Purpose: This study explores how manufacturing enterprises can effectively promote digital transformation through employee empowerment with ability, motivation, and opportunity empowerment at different stages.

Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on ability, motivation, and opportunity (AMO) theory, this qualitative research takes the Jiangsu Shangshang Cable Group as a typical case to discuss manufacturing enterprises’ evolving employee empowerment model. Gioia structured data analysis method was adopted to analyse the data.

Findings/results: In the stage of information technology (IT) application, the main task of employee empowerment is strengthening the employees’ abilities (‘can do’) and motivation (‘want to do’) by training their IT knowledge and skills, changing their mindset towards IT application, and letting them experience the efficiency of the latter. In the intelligence manufacturing stage, training employees to do better is the core content of employee empowerment. Enterprises can strengthen employees’ intelligent manufacturing skills, practice data-based performance appraisal and salary management, and let employees participate in intelligent manufacturing. In the stage of digital transformation of the whole process, employees are required to ‘do their best in the long run’. Enterprises could improve employee collaboration capabilities, build growth mechanisms, and involve every employee in innovation.

Practical implications: In the digital transformation process, manufacturing enterprises could empower employees according to the different goals and requirements in the three stages of IT application, intelligence manufacturing, and digital transformation of the whole process. It has reference value for manufacturing enterprises to achieve digital transformation.

Originality/value: This study explores a three-dimensional evolving employee empowerment model to promote manufacturing enterprises’ digital transformation.


manufacturer enterprises; digital transformation; employee empowerment; AMO; Shangshang Cable

JEL Codes

M54: Labor Management

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure


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