Article: Urbanus Nangoy on talent crunch in the Palm Oil industry


Urbanus Nangoy on talent crunch in the Palm Oil industry

While the data from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) shows that the industry employs 5.9 Mn people directly and up to 50 Mn indirectly, the biggest people challenge it is dealing with currently is lack of availability of talent (in terms of both quantity and quality).
Urbanus Nangoy on talent crunch in the Palm Oil industry

Palm Oil is considered a strategic commodity for Indonesia’s economic development. Last year it brought $18.6 Bn in foreign exchange revenue into the country and about 50 Mn Indonesians in their everyday lives depend on palm oil and its derivatives, be it directly or indirectly, through multiplier effects the sector has created. However, the industry has its own challenges from government policies to sustainability practices. One of the fundamental challenges that the palm oil industry is dealing with is a huge talent crunch. 

In an interaction with People Matters, Urbanus Nangoy, HR Head of Karyamas Adinusantara, a Palm Oil Plantation Company based out of Jakarta, Indonesia discusses the talent challenges the company is dealing with and shares some strategies to overcome them. 

What are some critical talent decisions HR professionals are dealing with in Indonesia?

The top 3 important decisions faced by HR professionals in Indonesia are around:

  • The availability of the talent itself:  Where and how it can be obtained?
  • Skill+ability: Does the talent have the skills and ability to do the task given? Are they adaptable and agile?
  • Business Results: At the end of the day whether each and every investment made in talent is helping in delivering the results and achieving business goals. 

Which one of these is the key challenge for Karyamas Adinusantara?

For Karyamas, because we are in the palm oil plantation industry, our biggest challenge is the availability (in terms of both quantity and quality) of the talent itself. With the millennial generation not too interested in studying agriculture, we often struggle to find the best talent. To add on to it, most of the graduates from agricultural faculties are not interested in working in the field. 

Therefore, the responsibility comes on the HR to focus more on developing the current available talent and also to make sure that the company has a source of talent to recruit in the future.

What has been the company’s strategy to overcome the same? How has HR helped or is helping in this scenario?

There are two initiatives that have stood out for us. 

First one is around training and development. As we struggle to find the best talent, we ensure that we help the hired talent to build good technical competencies. To be able to bridge the skill gap, we changed our training methods and made them more fun, simple and applicable. 

As an illustration, our technical guidelines include a 15 cm thick book weighing 5 Kg. Our leaders simplified those thick guidelines into what we call "the 10 steps to build a first-class plantation". HR further translated the 10 steps guidelines into technical competency units which were then created as a competency-based training methodology. To make the training material simpler, practical and more engaging, we use various approaches and technologies, including mobile games, board games, short training videos and infographics. 

HR realizes that mastering technical competencies is actually not the most important thing. The most important thing is having a "diligent behavior." The leadership formulated that diligence is reflected by the discipline with which the talent stays on and oversees the area of their responsibility. In the plantation industry, there is a saying that "the best fertilizer is the staff's footprints". To ensure that talent is actually walking in the area, they are tracked with a GPS device which is set on their mobile. The area that is the responsibility of every talent is around 450 ha, so it's almost impossible if we don't use GPS to track them. 

HR makes a policy to map talent (using the traditional 9 boxes) not from potential and performance like it is usually done, but from fulfilling technical competence and this evidence of diligence. These aspects also form the basis of reward calculation and career development discussion and help us frame a development path for our talent.

Secondly, to make sure that the company has a source of talent to hire in the future, we began to invest in potential talent, i.e. high school graduates as well.  

These high school graduates are given roles like that of workers and field conductors and undergo training (with 1-year diploma certificates) and a technical competency assessment. This is a long-term program and it is expected that within 5 years 20% of the new cadets, usually taken from university graduates, will come from this program. Later we expect the number will increase to 50%

What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in 2019 in the HR landscape? How prepared do you think HR professionals are for these changes?

The entire space of work will change and technology itself will transform. In HR, learning technology is set to evolve and this creates new opportunities for HR. But the question is if HR is ready to take advantage of this change or will it only remain a spectator? If HR is not ready than it must prepare itself and respond to changes with a willingness to learn continuously.

Can you share some tips that you think will help current and potential HR leaders to stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing business scenario? How do you ensure the same? 

HR needs to be close to the daily operations of the company. Walk with the employees, get involved, interact with them and understand the business, the company and the industry. Identify the challenges industry is facing and get a hang of the disruptions to anticipate future talent needs and help them prepare for them. 

If winter is coming, the HR leaders’ task is to prepare the talent to stay resilient and help them to migrate to where the sun is shining.

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Topics: Skilling, Talent Management

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