Meet Andrew Hairs, an executive recruitment specialist, who every year places hundreds of people in new jobs in Indonesia and other emerging economies.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Indonesia?
I was born in England and raised there until my family immigrated to Australia when I was 10 years old. After stints of work in the UK and Australia, I was hired by Monroe Consulting Group to open a recruitment office in Tokyo. This led to them sending me to Indonesia for a six-month assignment to help open a recruitment office in Jakarta. That was 10 years ago. I’m now Group Managing Director and our Jakarta office has 45 employees. Our success in Indonesia has allowed me to expand to other emerging markets, such as Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Chile and Mexico.
What were the main challenges in getting the company established here?
Ironically, like many companies starting in Indonesia, finding the right employees was the biggest challenge. As for regulatory challenges, 10 years ago, the answer to most questions about regulations was “that’s a grey area”; although the process of setting up and getting licensed was relatively painless back then.
What are the major skills shortages in Indonesia?
While all industries are suffering, the biggest skills shortages at the moment are in the digital sector. The more senior the position, the harder it becomes to find the skills. The hardest human resources challenge across all industry sectors in Indonesia is finding sales and marketing people with a proven track record. In a recent survey we conducted, 89% of companies in Indonesia said they found hiring senior managers very or extremely challenging.
Why is there a skills gap?
The shortage of skills can be attributed to the low quality of education available to the general population, with just two Indonesian universities appearing in a list of the world’s top 500 universities. Only a limited number of Indonesians have access to reputable Indonesian universities or international education. The problem gets worse because a large percentage of those people are then lost to overseas employment, or they join a family business after returning from education abroad.
We don’t have precise data, but more and more companies are relying on the services provided by recruitment companies. In Monroe’s 2014 survey, companies ranked executive search as the third-most successful source of candidates; by 2015 that had increased to first place.
How do Indonesians compare to other nationalities for company loyalty?
Loyalty is hard to find in any emerging markets, especially when salaries are rapidly increasing. Indonesia is no different in that respect, but what is interesting is that Indonesian professionals feel less guilt than other professionals in the region when resigning to take a better offer. Based on our surveys, only 8% of Indonesian professionals who received a job offer from another company decided to stay with their original employer because of feelings of guilt or regret. This is substantially lower than in other emerging Southeast Asian economies, where 30% decided to stay for these reasons.
Which industries have the highest turnover of staff?
Wherever there is a shortage of skills you will find high staff turnover. In the digital and online sector, companies are fighting for the limited talent available. We are seeing a lot of movement in the sector, with approximately 35% of middle- to senior-level professionals changing employers in the last year.
Do you think future Indonesian professionals will eventually replace most expat workers?
I’m always positive about Indonesian professionals, especially the younger generation that are starting to break through. Many of them are motivated and demonstrate a genuine desire to learn and develop. While there is still a need to use expatriates to fill some talent gaps in the short-term, all expatriates should be ensuring that they are giving something back by transferring their knowledge and developing the people around them.
Are Indonesia’s manpower regulations getting better or worse?
Indonesian manpower regulations are focused on the protection of workers, with very little consideration for the rights of employers.
While I admire and understand the spirit of recent regulatory changes, I believe that further changes are needed to develop a system that balances the needs of companies while respecting and protecting the rights of employees.
Any tips for expats having difficulties with Immigration and the Manpower Ministry?
Keep calm and work with the system you have. Getting angry and frustrated won’t achieve anything, so identify the problem and then find a solution. Following last year’s elections, Immigration took a very hard line against expatriate workers, which caused problems for companies reliant on expatriates. The good news is that the Government and Immigration now seem to be listening to employers, so work permits are becoming a little easier to process.
Any regulations you would like to wave a magic wand at?
As a long-term guest of Indonesia and as the father of an Indonesian son, I would like to see some regulations adjusted that would guarantee me the right to live and work in the same country as my son. I would also allow foreign ownership of apartments and houses in certain designated zones.
What are the greatest rewards of your job?
Being able to develop people’s talents and giving them opportunities to grow professionally. The office I opened in Indonesia 10 years ago now has an Indonesian managing director and second-tier management. All of the management team started out as trainees and they have worked hard to develop their skills. To see them become such strong professionals, whom I can rely on and trust, is a very rewarding feeling.
How do you unwind in Indonesia?
Jakarta can be a stressful place, so it’s important to remember to leave the city and breathe a little fresh air to help unwind. If I can’t get out of the city, then soundly thrashing a New Zealand friend, whom I will name only as Cameron Bates, on the tennis court always makes me feel better.
Your favourite thing about Indonesia?
I’m not sure there is just one thing. The natural beauty you find here, the friendliness of the people, the energy of Jakarta and pisang goreng keju coklat (fried banana with cheese and chocolate) are just some of the reasons to love this country.
Your least favourite thing about the country?