Bringing Indonesian talents to the global arena

Pambudi Sunarsihanto, Vice President of HR at Danone Aqua, says it is imperative for Indonesia to develop talents to tackle the world stage.

Indonesia is entering a critical phase. Business is growing and our GDP is growing higher than in other countries, even more than our friends in Asia. There are very promising business opportunities in Indonesia. Consequently, foreign investment in Indonesia is growing over the past years. We are on the right track on becoming the seventh richest nation in the world.

So, we need to wake up and build our confidence.

Talent gaps

This is a critical condition that we need to fulfil. In order to be the seventh power in the world, we need to develop highly-skilled Indonesian talents. Unfortunately we currently don’t have the capacity and capability required to enter the global arena.

We have a huge population of 260 million people; however, the number of highly-skilled talents is unfortunately small. This is why the talents that we export to other countries are mostly domestic workers, such as maids.

Meanwhile, our friend from the Philippines manages to export thousands of skilled nurses, engineers and accountants.

Our challenge is to build and develop our talents in terms of both capacity and capability for our nation.

This is recognised specifically in multinational companies. They enjoy the contribution of smart Indonesian employees. Unfortunately, being smart and competent are not enough. We need to combine competence with confidence and communication skills.

This is an area lacking in a majority of Indonesian talents. Our talents are neither as confident nor as articulate as talents from other countries. This creates a challenge in enabling our talents to perform and compete globally.

Competence, confidence and communication skills

It is time to challenge an old paradigm that may have held true in the past, but one that is no longer relevant.

In Indonesia, there are lots of sayings asking our people to keep quiet.

One of which is Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya, which literally means that empty vessels make a lot of noise.

Actually, it means that silence is golden.

Hence, extroverts are labelled as "noisemakers", and those who can only talk and not execute ideas or plans.

The new paradigm, however, is to combine both competence and communication skills.

Curiosity, creativity and innovation

We need to continuously change the way we think.

For instance, innovation is encouraged in other countries. Likewise, Indonesia should also encourage creative thinking and diversity of ideas.

We need to be more creative and to broaden our horizons in this space.  Indonesia needs to change.

The paradigm, dogma and knowledge that we know will be irrelevant in the future.

We should ask ourselves this question, “What if whatever we know is wrong? What if there is a better way to achieve our objectives?”

Learning agility

My daughter got a scholarship to do her Bachelor’s degree in the United States.

She asked me which major should she take.

"I dont know,” I said.

“The job that you will do in five years’ time doesn't even exist today."

So, she studied chemical engineering in the US.

In fact, my previous boss who is now the CEO of a global bank is a chemical-engineering graduate.

I have friends who work as social media and digital marketing experts.

Those jobs did not exist in the past.

We are now educating, training and preparing our children for jobs that do not exist yet.

The most important thing is to cultivate agility in their learning; they need to possess the ability to learn new things and to “un-learn” old concepts that are no longer relevant.


Indonesia is a rich and diverse nation and we can create something wonderful that our next generation will be proud of. The future looks very bright.

Let’s use this momentum to build, develop and make a quantum leap for our nation.

About the author

Pambudi Sunarsihanto is Vice President of HR at Danone Aqua and Chairman of the Indonesian Society of Human Resources Management.


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