The challenges plaguing HR leaders in Indonesia aren’t very different to other parts of the world – yet they are intensified owing to slower penetration of technology, a vast workforce without access to gadgets like laptop, and all battling the employee anxieties that arise from working from home.

All the highlights from recent Virtual CHRO Roundtables held by HRO, in partnership with Workday, and reporting by Aditi Sharma Kalra.

Have you catalysed transformation at your organisation because of the pandemic? Is digitalisation one of your top strategic priorities? Are you working hard to enable a fine balance between employee productivity and burnout during this prolonged work-from-home period?

Well, I’d like to believe that most of you reading this article are nodding along.

The challenges plaguing HR leaders in Indonesia aren’t very different to other parts of the world – yet they are intensified owing to slower penetration of technology, a vast workforce without access to gadgets like laptop, and all battling the employee anxieties and disengagement that arise from working from home for over nine months.

Recently, Human Resources Online partnered with Workday to host two Virtual CHRO Roundtables, devoted to rounding up challenges to HR management in Indonesia. Over two days, we gathered rich insights as to not only the talent issues, but also the remarkable solutions that these HR leaders are putting in place to combat them.

As explained by Fitrah Muhammad, General Manager, Workday ASEAN (not including Singapore and Malaysia), the pandemic has truly identified that organisations need to be agile, market-ready, and have the ability to transform their operations as the market situation changes. "The pandemic has accelerated many organisations to transform, whether it is for their survival or for their growth," he said.

Second, he added, planning for the unknown is simply impossible. "The pandemic has taught us the importance of leveraging a robust and agile HR platform. It must have the capacity and capability to give end-to-end access to your employee data, to allow you to mobilise your workforce, identify liability risk in your organisation, provide guidance to your finance department on employee costs, and enable upskilling and reskilling of the the workforce to stay relevant."

Read on for an in-depth look at the challenges facing the HR landscape in Indonesia.

#1: Employee health & safety

The top challenge this year has been to keep the workforce safe and healthy, all while keeping their productivity levels high as well as business operations running smoothly. With work from home inapplicable for some industries, specifically manufacturing and essential providers such as energy or banking, the steps go beyond implementing split operations, distanced seating and touchless technology. In manufacturing, for example, routine testing, short-term accommodation, and COVID-19 treatment is adding a hefty cost to employers, when revenue is already in decline.

#2: Integration of technology

Working from home hasn’t been as easy as packing up our laptops from the office and setting them up at home, would you agree? For many employees, stable connectivity at home is an issue, so is the lack of access to a laptop. On the flipside, for employers, it has been immensely challenging to move processes to a format that is online, contactless, paperless or conducive to remote working. Many have also cited coordination and collaboration being hit owing to a lack of effective technology.

#3: Emotional fatigue of working from home

Let’s admit it – the charm of working from home faded off after a few months in, when we all realised we were working longer hours slouched over our laptop screens and responding to emails that came flying in at odd hours. One organisation found employees were having between 10-12 Zoom meetings a day! With the pandemic going on for the long-term, HR leaders agree that employees don’t need a sprinter’s spirit and energy, but rather the marathon mindset. So the challenge is to address this mental aspect of remote working, without affecting team spirit.

#4 Monitoring productivity and motivation

Linked to the previous challenge is the limited capability of managers in gauging how someone is feeling or how engaged they are behind a faceless screen. The challenge we face is on how we manage our team motivation and productivity. Even if an organisation has tools to monitor productivity regularly, the lack of human interaction has added a layer of complexity to conversations regarding performance and engagement.

#5 Changing mindset towards technology

Many HR leaders profess that the infiltration of technology is relatively easier compared to getting people to actually use it. Adoption can be slow, especially in organisations where papers has dominated. This phenomenon is age-agnostic, Baby Boomers and Millennials alike may hesitate in moving to a new way of working. The reasons could vary – all the way from the fear of job security (“will I lose my job?”) to the inertia of doing things a certain way (e.g. contacting HR for help instead of using employee self-service).

Having had a look at the top challenges that HR leaders have highlighted, we hope these resonate with you. What comes next is exciting - the solutions that these CHROs are putting in place to tackle the impact of these issues. Scroll right along!

Solution #1: Communication is key

Don't take my word for it – HR leaders vouch that communication is the employer's number one job, more so when we are fighting a pandemic that's impacting mental and physical health. This year, with COVID dominating crisis communication, employers have gone all out, namely, creating new-normal employee handbooks, continuing to hold townhall meetings, and surveying employees on their health every morning to determine who can report to office the next day.

Crisis communication centre meetings, led by HR, are held daily, including weekends. Organisations are also setting up three main types of taskforces – COVID (monitoring how it is progressing and government policies), WFO resumption (protocols and facilities for going back to office, deep cleaning, distancing, etc.), and social impact (assess how these conditions impact the community).

Solution #2: Maintain the human touch

Championing the human side amidst a digital working environment is a responsibility for HR to lead. While flexibility, remote working, and virtual interactions may dominate the workplace of the future, maintaining the human touch requires a finer interplay between managers and employees.

Compassion, trust and empathy are the cornerstones of tomorrow's work relationships, be it virtual or in-person, transcending generations, hierarchy and job roles. This approach will also help ease anxieties that arise from prolonged remote working, such as emotional drain and team disconnect.

Solution #3: Tech adoption is urgent and necessary

HR leaders in Indonesia are making a passionate case for HR transformation - be it through digitisation, automation, or remodelling of structures and accountabilities to be more agile. The silver lining from the pandemic is that it catalysed time and investment devoted to transformation, thus promising people managers access to workforce and business data at their fingertips for better decision making. In the future, HR team members could come from math, technology or engineering backgrounds, as long as they are fluent in the language of data and predictive analytics!

Solution #4: Adapt and anticipate for the future

Upskilling and reskilling will be the foundation to doing business. Not only are organisations equipping employees with capabilities such as virtual selling, negotiation and presentations, but also new-normal skills, such as data analytics, storytelling, and human-centred design.

What this also means is a majority of training is currently being digitised for easier, anytime access. HR teams are taking this a step further by equipping internal facilitators with digital methodologies to ensure their participants are engaged.

Solution #5: Evolving Indonesia as a talent engine

It's gratifying to know that all HR leaders are deeply committed to playing their part in grooming Indonesian talent, be it in engineering, fintech or data-related competencies. Many have suggested forms of public-private partnerships, where Indonesia-based multinationals team up with the respective government authorities or institutes to generate courseware that fulfils their criteria of 'employable' talent.

Others have talked about building in-house learning academies that supplement universities by offering courses in real-life industry topics as well as much-needed experience on corporate projects.

Melissa Bowden, HR Director – Asia Pacific and Japan, Workday, aptly summed up: "We are a great cross-section of industries, yet we face the same challenges. For us at Workday, we have to eat and breathe our own technology. Our employee data has fed into so many decisions globally – things like flexible working, employee benefits, design of programmes etc.

“We have also focused a lot on our people managers – skill development and support. Hats off to people managers who have been trying to engage and motivate teams.”


The virtual roundtables, held on 13 October and 2 December 2020, were moderated by HRO and supported by Fitrah Muhammad, General Manager, Workday ASEAN (not including Singapore and Malaysia), as well as Melissa Bowden, HR Director – Asia Pacific and Japan, Workday.

Human Resources Online and Workday would like to thank the following HR leaders for being a valuable part of this discussion:

  1. Heriyanto Agung Putra, Human Capital Director, PT Bank Danamon Indonesia, Tbk
  2. Steven Augustino Yudiyantho, Head of Human Capital, PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk
  3. Riksa Prakoso, Chief Human Capital Officer, PT Bank Muamalat Indonesia Tbk
  4. Aditia Sudarto, Human Capital Strategic Development Senior Manager, Bina Nusantara Group
  5. Alvina Cadenza, HR General Manager, Ciputra Group
  6. Apriza Dewi Mufrisno (Lisa), Head of People Development, Strategy & Culture, Dana
  7. Agustina Samara, Chief Human Resources Officer, Dana Indonesia
  8. Magdalena Anggreini, Associate Director Human Resources, Gunung Sewu Kencana
  9. Lisna Sepriyanti, Assistant Vice President - Organisational Development, Indonesia Stock Exchange
  10. Whisnu Thomas, Head of HR - Pharma Division, Kalbe Farma
  11. Risdhianto Budi Irawan, Director, Komatsu Indonesia
  12. Andy Julianto Effendi, Senior HR Manager Centre of Excellence, Medco Energi Internasional
  13. Mariawaty Santoso, Group HR Director, Mitra Adiperkasa
  14. Yussy Santoso, HR Director, Mulia Group
  15. Swasono Satyo, Chief Human Resources Officer, Sinarmas Mining

Image / Virtual CHRO Roundtable II

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