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Article Article May 27th, 2015

Tapping the government talent in Indonesia

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Millennials cite career development and salary as their top priorities

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Advances in Indonesian's civil service tends to be focused on length of service

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Indonesia's government must be an environment that rewards strong performance

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Let's face it. You don't decide on a career in government service to make the big bucks. Or for a life of executive perks. Or for an easy ride, free from public scrutiny. No, you join the government in order to make a difference to people's lives. To contribute to the greater good. To strengthen your country and society. When you think about it, few jobs are as important.

That's why the latest figures about graduate jobs in Indonesia are increasingly worrying. Ours is a country on the up in many ways. But while GDP, employment rates and life expectancy are all pointing in the right direction, the lure of the multinationals is proving hard to resist for university leavers - only 4% opted for the government in 2013 according to recent BCG research. No longer does job stability loom large; instead, millennials cite career development and salary as their top priorities.

And that's not the only cause for concern. Indonesian government institutions are ranked only 67th on the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index, well behind its regional neighbours and other G7 countries. The World Bank report also highlighted inefficient bureaucracy and high corruption rates - both of which underline the need for an effective and high-performing civil service. So, how can government go about attracting a highly talented workforce?

It's not just about the money

Even in Indonesia, a nation free of the austerity that has gripped so many other countries, there is little chance of our government being able to compete with the salaries on offer from the private sector. Instead, the government must become a working environment that values and rewards strong performance, and provides a clear and fast advancement track for high performers. This can be done, however.

For example, several Indonesian government institutions have tried to increase their value propositions by offering scholarships to attract high-quality employees. And Singapore has also made great strides: its Management Associates Programme provides a high entry point, frequent rotations within the civil service, and a significant compensation premium of up to 50% over other services.

Digital domain

The prevalence of new technology means that government talent in Indonesia must also adapt and grow to meet the ever-changing demands of an increasingly digital world. Although various training programmes exist, there is clear room to improve their scope and reach. One option would be to collaborate with private and educational institutions to provide up-to-date, best-in-class training and professional development, mirroring the approach in the UK where civil servants have continuous and easy-to-access online training.

Measure for measure

Currently, career advancement in the Indonesian civil service tends to be more focused on length of service than on quality of performance - primarily because there is a lack of simple and measurable KPIs for evaluating employee performance. Until recently, employee compensation was fully fixed, meaning that there was no link between employee performance and salary paid. New regulations in 2013 added a variable component based on performance and were a step in the right direction - much more needs to be done.

Take Singapore, for example, where policymakers identify and value talent early, and then create a strong link between performance and reward. Singapore has done this by implementing a pay scale that is based on an individual's grade and potential, as well as the country's overall performance.

Time to team up

Indonesia is not alone in struggling to implement greater coordination between its government institutions. However, processes could be better streamlined in order to clarify roles and responsibilities - thereby avoiding duplication of effort and additional bureaucracy. A dedicated monitoring unit - like the US Government Accountability Office - could be created to mitigate overlap and minimise inefficiency.

Over the horizon

In recent years, there is no doubt that Indonesia has made significant economic progress. But while our government has played a crucial role in promoting and leading this development, there exists no guarantee of perpetual growth. A talented and motivated government workforce, fired up to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, will help ensure that our trajectory - social, economic and environmental - remains on the up.



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