Would Indonesian State (Government) be a ‘Model Employer’?

In the previous term, I was asked to discuss about whether the state (in the UK) can be a model-employer or not. As I had no classes due to lecturers’ strike, I then tried to apply the same question to Indonesian context, but focused on civil service institution:

In employment relations context, the state is not as a single actor but is an ‘open system’, as it consists of various powerful actors with different function and purposes to carry out the government’s planning (Dundon and Rollionson, 2011: 168). The way the state becomes an important actor in employment relations is because the state produces laws which shape how employers and employees (with its associations) as the ‘rule of the game’ (Dundon and Rollinson, 2011: 168). Aside of a rule-maker and legislator, Dundon and Rollinson (2011: 170) further describe some other roles of the state in employment relations including a regulator of incomes and prices, an economic manager, promoter of social citizenship guidelines, a protector of standards, and an employer of its own right. This writing will focus on the role of the state as an employer in its own right. By saying that, Dundon and Rollinson (2011:170) emphasize that ‘as an employer, the state can set the standards of employment practice’.

My discussion focus here is more on civil service rather than state-owned enterprise. They’re both different in nature, as the state-owned enterprise would also focus in gaining profit; which then, most probably applying more contemporary HR management/new-public management/private-like management.

The role of states as a regulator and at the same time an implementer (as employer or work contractor) of employment law pushes it to keep some balances between their law products and their own reaction towards it. As such, some political agenda, the ideology, and believes of the leaders would influence the employment laws produced by the ruling government which somehow makes degree of uncertainty or instability in employment.

Anyway, various surveys resulted a list of organizations as best or model employers in Indonesia have been released by some institutions. Although private sector was dominating, it is interesting to see that some public sectors in Indonesia were also listed. A Sweden based global employer branding research firm, Universum, listed some state institutions, such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Tourism as big 10 of the most attractive employers in the Indonesia. It’s interesting that Ministry of Manpower, which has the ‘biggest responsibility’ on the ‘working regulation/policy’ was not listed.

Some characteristics of good, best, or model employers were designed by some firms (e.g. Universum, Glassdoor, Bloomberg, etc.) in making the list based on various concerns. As I am studying in the UK, it might be interesting to see what happened here as well. The British government was aspired to be a ‘model employer’ with some characteristics: aside of offering the best pay rates, to become a model employer, the state is also aspired to be able to ensure job security and its stability, and to employ a fair employee representation for consultation of remuneration and work conditions of its employees (The Priestley Commission, 1953-5 in Carter and Fairbrother, 1999). In 1995, the concept aforementioned was expanded to address gender pay gap.

In short, in the UK, many literatures show some working conditions in public sector (civil servants) that seems better than private sector. Some conditions such as better pay than the private sector and its pension scheme, still become a significant consideration which makes civil service/public sector institutions became one of ‘attractive employers’ in the market, despite of speculations that private sector might be able to offer better pay rates in the near future. Seeing the historical journey, especially after the Margaret Thatcher’s era, which privatization and ‘economic reform’ happened, Carter and Fairbrother (1999) argue that the previous concept of state as a ‘model-employer’ was ended. Further, it has been said that ‘model employer’ concept was gradually replaced to follow conditions in market, which recently named ‘economy, efficiency, and effectiveness’ concept, and lately as ‘best value’ as well as ‘best practice (Carter and Fairbrother, 1999).

Thus, as mentioned earlier that some conditions of wages, stability and job security, gender pay gap, and industrial relations needs to be improved to certain standards, it is unlikely to say that state in the UK has been acting as a model-employer so far.

Illustration: State Buildings (Personal Collection)

Now, let’s try to take a look in Indonesia’s situation using the previous characteristics of ‘model-employer’ that UK used: offering the best pay rates (and pension), ensure job security and its stability, employ a fair employee representation for consultation of remuneration and work conditions of its employees, and lastly gender pay gap.

Offering the Best Pay Rates (and Pension)

Looking at the salary structure of Indonesian civil servants (the version that I accessed HERE – please advise if you find the newest one), it seems that some private sectors entrance level in Jakarta would have better number than some of these layers. Yet, these numbers are only the base salary in which the civil servants have also some other statutory allowances. The base salary of a high level national/multi-national private sectors employee might be higher than a high level civil servants; yet with the allowances that the civil servants receive, the story might be different in some cases.

I am not sure how the civil service institutions do their salary survey or detail conciliation process to determine salary increase (aside of states’ financial condition and its projection), yet it’s reported that the base salary did not increase since 2 years ago (read HERE). Some news recently informed that the government plan to increase the salary and change its structure, which some degree of ‘performance management’ will be included (see HERE). Also, it’s just being reported that the pension scheme fee will be increased by 10-15% (see HERE); which means that the amount of pension for civil servants will increase as well. For private sectors employee, however, the government provides a welfare system and pension scheme under ‘BPJS’ with 5-6% monthly fee/contribution since 2016, and apparently will increase to 8% later (read HERE).

Ensure Job Security and Its Stability

I personally have never heard such a massive lay-off/redundancy of the Indonesian civil service. Yet, in 2016, the Minister of National Apparatus Empowerment and Reformation of Bureaucracy informed that the ideal amount of civil servants is 1.5% from the population. He explained that current Indonesian population is about 250 million, it means that the ideal amount of civil servants shall be around 3.5 million. In fact, in 2016, he said that Indonesia has 4.5 million civil servants. The 1 million surplus created rumors of lay-off/redundancy (see HERE).

Nevertheless, the handbook of Indonesia civil service management ensures that when it needs to be structured, the civil servants will firstly be transferred to another institution, if available (read page 108 HERE). It sounds like a pretty safe situation, doesn’t it? Yet, various circumstances might cause a civil servant being transferred to another institution without proper notifications and preparations. Thus a common jargon among civil servants would be “ready to serve (the country) anywhere”. The most heard problem in this circle of employment might be that many civil servants are in a short-term contract (that most probably continuously renewed) which positioned them to receive monthly fee, lower than the average civil servants’ wages; or named as “honorer” civil servants.

Employ a Fair Employee Representation for Consultation of Remuneration and Work Conditions of Its Employee

I saw some grievance manifestations through mass demonstration and picket lines from civil servants on some cases; one of the issues was about aforementioned “honorer” case. However, the only union for civil servants that I have ever heard is KORPRI (Korps Pegawai Negeri Republik Indonesia) / Indonesian Civil Servants Coop which firstly founded in 1971. Based on its mission statements, KORPRI also aims to provide prosperity for its members (statement number 3 – read page 8 HERE).

In regards to KORPRI’s programs and its relation to consultation of remuneration and work conditions of its employee, most of the programs are focusing of external orientation program (such as building a hospital etc.); and only 1 consultation to the government, which is about religious holiday allowance (see page 9-12 HERE). The wages numbers were also given by the government, I suppose, designed by a chosen team without any fair consultation with civil servants. Well, it actually happens as well in lots of private companies in Indonesia where employee representation is not well valued. However, in order to be a good model, I guess civil service institutions shall be giving examples on how this fair employee representation and consultation being done.

Gender Pay Gap

In general employment, the gender pay gap in Indonesia reported by ILO was narrowed from 40% in decades ago to 19% in 2016 (see HERE). One factor of this ‘good news’ might be the increase of minimum wages in manufacturing industries lately, as reported by World Bank (read full HERE). However, it is interesting to see the report of gender pay gap from the Asian Development Bank in 2014 that public administration has 33% gender pay gap between male and female (see page 31 HERE).

Seeing those data, it somehow implies that female workers most probably are yet to get opportunities to be in higher level/layers in organizations, which allow them to earn more money. Gender pay gap data is only a glimpse, a top of an iceberg, which contains lots of challenges from equality (towards opportunity), women empowerment, stereotyping, etc. Thus, seeing the fact of 33% gender pay gap in public administration, shows that the government has lots of ‘homework’ to do in terms of this issue.

Other Aspects and Conclusion

I believe there are some other aspects we can see further to define a ‘model-employer’ these days. In this particular context, some indicators like, whether civil servants receive equal opportunities to learning and development process (or in contrast, experiencing ‘de-skilling’), whether civil servants well-being in working are well-managed, etc. However, in this writing, looking at 4 categories above: offering best pay rates, ensure job security and stability, employ fair employee representation, and gender pay gap; as well as putting those aspects in political tensions as part of the government which produces employment law and needs to implement it; the Indonesian state would be hard to be an ideal model employer.

Wait, but why the admission number for being part of civil servants were so high? I guess you have the answer for this?



Is Posthuman (or Superhuman?) Resources Management Needed?

McKinsey & Company (2016) released a research based article entitled “Where machines could replace humans – and where they can’t (yet)”. The conclusion they made were involving analysist of 2000 plus activities from more than 800 occupations from US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net. It is worth noting that the report was not considering only the jobs but rather the details of activities (within the jobs). Activities were categorized based on their feasibility to be automated by current technology and machine, such as robots and artificial intelligence. In conclusion, jobs that involve predictable (routine) physical work (78%), processing data (69%), and collecting data (64%) might be replaceable. In another side, jobs that involve unpredictable physical work (25%), stakeholders’ interactions (20%), applying expertise (18%), and managing others (9%) are still less likely to be automated with currently demonstrated technology.

Frey and Osborne (2013) from Oxford University Engineering Sciences Department and the Oxford Martin Program argue that 47% of total employment in the US is in the high risk category. By saying high risk, Frey and Osborne (2013) refer to the automation expectancy at a decade or two. It is true that computerization has already taken some tasks with explicit rule and routine based activities (Autor, et al., 2003 in Frey and Osborne, 2013). However, big data, artificial intelligence, and robots are rapidly entering the area of pattern recognition for doing non-routine tasks, even enhanced with senses and various skills which previously were done manually (Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2011; MGI, 2013 in Frey and Osborne, 2013). Thus, it is believed that nature of work in various industries and occupations will be changed significantly, although Frey and Osborne (2013) see that some bottlenecks of computerization and automation will make the process longer, especially in the activities and jobs that involving perception and manipulation, creative intelligence, as well as social intelligence.

In other released article, McKinsey & Company (2015) stated that less than 5% of whole jobs can be automated using current technology. Yet, 60% of jobs could have 30% or more of their activities to be automated with current technologies, including robots and artificial intelligence. In other words, most jobs would need quite significant redefinition as well as business processes transformation in the near future. Bessen (2017) argue that based on the data of manufacturing employment in the United States since 1950, there is a strong evidence that the view that automation eliminates jobs wasn’t always true, with consideration of globalization as well. This statement is supported by other evidences, for instances from Gaggl and Wright (2017) which stated that “technology tended to raise employment in wholesale, retail, and finance industries, but had no statistically significant effect on other sectors, including manufacturing”. Gregory, Salomons, and Zierahn (2016) find “that automation of routine tasks tends to eliminate certain jobs (activities), but that net employment increases”.

As a scholar in human resources management and industrial relations, who have been working for 4 years as an HR practitioner and consultant, some reflections related to that issue will be discussed in this article. I will try to deliver two important perspectives related to whether HR jobs will still be relevant and what kind of HR leader is needed in the future.

In a book entitled ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’, Harari, (2016: 56) argued that “Human species is not going to be exterminated by a robot revolt. Rather, human is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process…”. He added that ‘humans will make a bid for divinity, because humans have many reasons to desire such and upgrade, and many ways to achieve it”.

Sophia, a robot that received a citizenship from a country. Photo source & article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/an-interview-with-the-artificially-intelligent-robot-sophia

Clearly, Harari believes that human species (in his term Homo Sapiens) would continue to experience kinds of evolution to be ‘more than human’ or I will use the term ‘posthuman’ in this writing. ‘Superhuman’ could also be an alternative term, yet more references and previous writings by scholars we found using ‘posthuman’ term. The term ‘Posthuman’ is actually not a new concept. The origin of it was at the cybernetic movement in 1940s. It became quite explosive in 1990s because Donna Haraway’s Simians Cybors, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature in 1991. Haraway’s doesn’t use the term ‘posthuman’ in explicit way, yet her believes that boundaries between human and other creatures (in this context is technology) is ‘no longer secure’, and is able to be a hybrid, or cyborgs. However, in this age of technology, posthuman is being used to describe “a time in which ‘human is no longer the most important things in the universe’, where ‘all technological progress of human society is geared towards the transformation of the human species’, and where ‘complex machines are and emerging form of life” (Pepperell, 2003:177 in Gane, 2006). The term ‘posthuman’ gains various critics in previous years, but it becomes clearer today that “a new culture, in which the ‘purity’ of human gives way to new forms of creative evolutions” is being more acceptable (Gane, 2006).

Some evidences show that the process of this kind of upgrade or creative innovations are already happening for marking the ‘posthuman’ era. Gray in BBC Story (2017) uses a term of “another level of convenience” to describe how an employee of a software firm Mozilla was voluntarily being implanted with a rice-grain-sized microchip, which enable to open doors, log in into computers, and contain his all contacts address. Further updates related to this matter, the New York Times reported that on August 1st 2017, employees in Three Squared Market, a technology company based on Winconsin, were offered to be injected a chip in between their thumb and index finger. Once it is done, anything related to RFID jobs such as accessing office building or make payment for foods in office cafeteria can be done with waving the hand. It was not a compulsory, but as much as 50 out of 80 people were voluntarily being injected with the microchip. This program, as believed to be the first in the United States, was cooperated with a Swedish Company, Biohax International, which also already applied in another Swedish Company, Epicenter.

Despite of the debates whether it’s risky or any other perspectives among employees and society in general, this phenomenon is as exactly as what Harari (2016) mentioned above. Slowly, human will upgrade and evolve themselves to be integrated with robots, that would enable them to redefine jobs, create new employment systems / environments, and transform existing business process. Indeed, this will not be happened in a day or in a year, but slowly, the ‘posthuman’ will be new normal.

Reflecting to aforementioned two perspectives related to HR and referring to automation feasibility from McKinsey & Company’s report, some activities within HR related jobs are already automated (personnel administration, payroll, some parts of learning and development, some degree of recruitment process, and some of compensation and benefits). Yet, some other activities that involve managing others (e.g. talent management), stakeholder’s interactions (e.g. industrial /employee relations), applying expertise (e.g. organizational development, employee selection), and even unpredictable physical work (e.g. organizing employee events) might yet to be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence. With the raise of ‘posthuman’ in the making, HR practitioners will also need to be ‘upgraded’ in order to be relevant and to be able to shift from human resources management to posthuman resources management.

Before going deeper to posthuman resources management, it is important to note that HR team would be dealing with managing people in business transformation process affected by robots and artificial intelligence. As some predictable and routine activities and jobs in, for instance, manufacturing are replaceable by machines, HR team would be in charged to determine redundancy (laying off certain number of employees) or design and implement relearn / reskill for its employee to be allocated to other activities or jobs in order to avoid redundancy. This indeed will depend on business strategy, financial condition, and board management’s goodwill.  Nevertheless, high level skills of project management, communication, interpersonal, and emotional intelligence would be needed to be equipped by HR team to make sure the process run smoothly.

The Circle movie, starred by Emma Watson and Tom Hanks which released on April 2017, tells a story of an employee in giant technology company and how she’s worried about damaging implications resulted by the company. Albeit receiving many negative comments and critics because of its story plotting and flat content, some movie segments show the condition of how current technology transform some HR related jobs such as performance management, employee engagement, as well as integrated employee health, compensation, and benefits. In the time forward, when business transformation came into its shape by embodying robots and artificial intelligence in most sectors. AS posthuman are coming to the workplace, a new face of posthuman resources management needs to born.

In 2015, The World Economic Forum, in cooperation with Accenture, released a report entitled “Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services”. One of the highlights is discussing how the emerging job market will demand new and different skill set of the workforce. This ‘new skill set of workforce’ is underlined with an emphasize of ‘new mindset’ towards the emergence of robots and technology. By saying ‘new mindset’, posthuman resources management leaders need to equip themselves with the understanding of posthumanism and how to collaborate with them in making sure the organization’s goals are achieved.

In attempt to be a future leader in post-human resources management, some skills and technology augmentations need to be done. Organization design might be different in posthuman era, in which some kind of structures might be needed, some others might need to be dismissed. The recruitment process would also need to be improved in selecting the most suitable ‘posthuman’ with the new form of jobs. The learning and development process might be integrated into certain database embedded in ‘posthuman’ individual, and would be continuously aligned with the business processes. The performance management system would be easily assessed and recorded, yet needs to be adjusted with the posthuman conditions in new jobs era. The form of compensation, benefits, and even pensions might need to be transformed into different types of packages.

In conclusion, I don’t feel worry if my job as an HR practitioner (or at least I don’t feel anything yet) would be taken by robots and/or artificial intelligence – as from the perspective of ‘can’t do anything except to embrace’. It is believed that human species will be continuously evolved, transform themselves with creative ways, and being integrated with the robots (Harari, 2016), which in this writing is referred to ‘posthuman’ era (Gane, 2006). Thus, the HR management field of jobs might also be evolved to PostHR management or any kind of it. Towards becoming a future PostHR practitioner, I believe that owning a ‘new-mindset’ which allow to open more learning processes in all HR management spectrums from organization design to compensation, benefits, and pension scheme. At the moment, it is important to keep being relevant by following the updates and gaining understanding of what is happening, as well as being relevant with the updates of technology in HR management fields by being connected with employers and related innovators.

The next question might be whether the new set of ethical leadership / management is needed for this era. Will see 🙂


Commentary: Lecturers’ Right to Strike and Students’ Compensation Demand

Today is marking the first day of lecturers’ strike action in several universities in the UK, including mine. I received some emails from my lecturer earlier this week to confirm their participation on the strike action upon their grievance related to their changing pension scheme. You can see the updates of today’s rally and picket lines HERE.

I was informed from one of my lecturer’s email on this matter. Here is his explanation:

USS (ed: read more about USS HERE) is a pension fund set up to provide a decent retirement for staff. Now our pensions are under attack.  Employers want to end guaranteed pension benefits so our final pensions would depend on how the stock market perform. That means huge uncertainty and a reduced retirement income for all. A typical lecturer will lose £10,000 a year in retirement. Our union has repeatedly tried to negotiate with employers to no avail. So now we have no choice but to strike. 88% of UCU (ed: read more about UCU HERE) members voting supported for this strike in a legal ballot.”

I was personally surprised to see how strong is this action as it involved 88% of the union members. As far as I know, the renewed Trade Union Act (2016) which seems to ‘weaken’ the power of union by setting a 50% threshold and 40% support from its members for a strike to be happened. I also observed some online discussion and found a comment in a financial times article (read HERE):

“Last year in our department, a grand total of 1 person out of 25 in the union (and 37 in the department) heeded the call to strike. This year 23 are intending to. Not only is that more than half the department, but it is also the half that are more teaching focused. On one module I am currently teaching for example, the entire second half of the module is going to be missing.”

I personally fully respect this action as it is indeed a fundamental right, as long as lawful and align with the industrial relations guideline. However, if there is nothing happened (negotiation or etc.), the strike will continue in these days: Feb 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 27th, and 28th also March 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 13th , 14th, 15th,  and 16th (total of 14 days in 4 weeks).

Nevertheless, not all lecturers and staffs are in favor of this strike action. It seems that not all lecturers in the UK is eligible for the USS pension scheme. A lecturer from the University of Sussex, for instance, shared my Facebook post related to this issue with comments:

Whilst I feel guilty walking past the picket line this morning, I will not be eligible to draw any pension for at least another thirty years. Meanwhile academia seems pretty determined to deny me a permanent job, and I have kids to feed. I also don’t want to let my students down, and have sent emails confirming that my seminars will be running as normal. I don’t know whether they will be pleased or will chant “Scab!” at me when I walk in.”

1 out of 4 courses’ lecturer of mine in this semester declared that he would not join this strike action. This lecturer once said that he’s respecting the action, but didn’t want our classes to be missed as he thought that his job is to ‘serve’ the students.

Illustration: Classroom (personal collection)

On this stance, I basically try to respect both lecturers who join strikes and who keep ‘doing his job’ whatever the reasons are. Yet, I thought I would only experience 3 days’ strike action by my lecturers in last semester (previously was about redundancy). Yet, now is even longer (and I might say, worse) than before. Although am studying with a scholarship, I could imagine how it feels to pay a lot for an education in the UK (esp. for international students) and lost 3 weeks of classes and opportunities to have a proper interaction with the dissertation supervisor. In my degree, for example, UK and EU students pay 9000 pounds while the international students pay 18000 pounds for a year master degree. This my vary, based on the courses and universities. No wonder that compensation call is amplified by lots of students (read more HERE)

In my university, an online petition for students’ compensation via change.org was circulated and gained more than 5,8K signs (and counting) from the students (see HERE). The online petition was firstly created by a student named Melis Royer, which later she sent a message to thank the supporters with a statement, “You wouldn’t pay for a meal you didn’t eat so why should students pay for 3 weeks of teaching we didn’t receive?”. It is worth noting that this students’ demand was not a form of not supporting / respecting the strike action, but more on a sense of balance transaction in economic process: you pay what you get.

I am personally not sure if the universities would be willing to give the compensation (refund) to the students for losing some classes, as ‘business might be in trouble’ if they spent lots of money to refund the students. Although, the university is not paying the lecturers’ whilst striking. Thus, if the university is not paying the lecturers but also not refunding the students’ fee, I don’t think it’s fair enough.

The universities are in pressures from both the lecturers and the students. I have no idea what might be the decision of the universities: the students’ demand/pressure might be used by the universities to ‘blame’ the lecturers, but can also be used by the lecturers to strengthen their position (to press the universities for making a ‘desirable’ decision so they get back to work’. The basic ideas of strike, which are to create a disruption in the system and to raise ‘public’ awareness seems achieved so far. Yet, I wonder if this action would also drive to ‘desirable’ decision and situation for both parties; and wonder what would happen next if the ‘desirable’ decision was not made by the universities.


‘Good’ Questions, ‘-Bad- [The Other Type]’ Questions

I just received some results of my first term exams. I personally have more confidence in doing case study / discussing an issue and making / delivering presentation in front of examiners; rather than writing an academic essay. Thus, I know how to set my expectations when I submitted my papers and received the results. Anyway, I started to contemplate as I don’t think the important part is how much the score that I received; but how much I learnt from the processes (to be applied in ‘real/professional life’).

As much as 3 out of 4 courses’ exams in the first term involved academic writing (essay). The other 1 was actually quite the same, but the students needed to sit in the exam room to answer few questions in only 2 hours. The lecturers gave us several questions related to the courses’ contents and the students were allowed to choose 1 question to be explained in maximum of 3000 words. Here comes the considerations and dilemmas of choosing the question. Some people might choose the question that they think the ‘easiest’ one (or that they ‘master’ in) so they could expect high score, and some other might choose some questions that would help to learn more things related to the issue but with an uncertainty of score.

If it’s a competition, and I really wanted to win, I might not need any further discussion since I would definitely choose the easiest one (or that I ‘master’ in). However, in this context, I might be too skeptical with an assumption that those who achieved the highest score in class were not necessarily have the guarantee of smooth career progressions in the professional journey. Although, receiving highest score (or at least a good one) is kind of pride as a student, as a form of responsibility to be shown to our sponsors (might be our parents, scholarship organization, and even ourselves), and also a good start to show to the employer that we ‘have something’. So, before I continue, I need to say that achieving a high score (or at least a good one) is really important, but to me, is not the most important one.

Learning, to my believe, should not (only) be measured by the exam score. The exam score itself is somehow needed as learning is being institutionalized. By saying institutionalized, an ‘economic’ process of learning happened in which then results need to be measured (and shown by score / grade / rank). However, beyond institutionalization, the process of learning within an individual shall not be limited with score or other written/tangible results. An individual will experience the process of learning, re-learning, and unlearning within their minds during the processes. Thus, it is important to be aware that as students, our role is not only to learn as part of the institution, but also as an individual (with goals, dreams, desires, etc.).

Going to ‘School’

Back to the topic of exam questions above, when I received the questions from the lecturers, I was fully aware on how much my skills and capacity in academic writing, yet I also wanted to learn more from the question that I would spend my time to discuss about.

I avoided to choose the questions that previously I had worked on (from studies or works), and tried to explore more the questions that I have never worked on and/or would be important for my future career aspirations. Nevertheless, in making the final decision, I reconsidered my choice of question with my capability of academic writing, so still could balance my role as a part of institutionalized learning and as an individual. In results, I am currently not having any kind of disappointment with my score (although not the highest) and also with my learning experiences.

To close this, I believe that the questions from the lecturers were all good. Yet, it indeed depends on our perspectives, needs, and contexts/situations. Some of us, in a situation and a need, would prefer to choose the ‘easiest’ question (or that we ‘master’ in) to achieve high score, although we might not learn much things from the exam process. Some others, in this case, including me, might prefer to explore the ‘challenging questions’ in order to ‘maximize’ the learning opportunity.


Make the Dots, Connect Later …

Today is the first day of the second term for MSc Human Resources Management and Industrial Relations program in Manchester Business School (@lifeatambs), sponsored by the Government of the UK through Chevening (@Cheveningfco) Awards program. I was so excited in joining the International HRM course in the morning and Employment Policy and Practice course in the afternoon. What I really like from today’s lectures is the way the lecturers delivered the sessions (and indeed other previous sessions); by not telling what have to be done in organizations (based on best practices etc.) but by equipping the students to understand why certain things have to be done based on several contexts we need to consider.

This, in my perception, is an attempt to equip the students to have (higher level of) wisdoms in making decisions in the future career. Of course ‘best practices’ based learning sessions would be interesting and beneficial as well, but gaining knowledge, understanding, and wisdom on why certain HR policies and practices need to be designed, again to my perspective, is essential. Yet, you know that owning wisdoms (for decision making in organizations) is not easy. A nice quote from Confucius said “by three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”. Well, I am not going to discuss the Confucius way, but I was trained to do a reflection on almost everything that I see, hear/listen, feel, and experience.

By reflection, I am saying that everything that have been known and already happened, planned or unplanned, would give more understanding, lessons of life, and wisdom. It’s too hard to do a reflection for what’s not happening yet (and indeed for the unknown). Just like what famous commencement speech from Steve Jobs in Stanford University back in 2005, he said “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards”. So, what to reflect or what to connect if we don’t have our (significant) dots? Thus, it’s important for me to always remind myself to make the ‘dots’ in every opportunity that I have.

Illustration (personal collection): we can only look backward to connect the dots

I never know what will happen in the future, but I always try to experience as much things as I can, based on my value and goals that I review in every certain periods of time. My job today, as a young learner and early HR practitioner and consultant, is to make as much ‘dots’ as I can, so then in the future I could look backwards, connect them, and (hopefully) gain more wisdoms from the reflection of connecting those ‘dots’. It’s basically the reason why I always try to join learning sessions, forums, conferences, networking, volunteering, and other initiatives which I think will be good and significant ‘dots’ in my career and life journey.

I recently attended my very first ‘Connecting HR Manchester’ (#ConnectingHRmcr) event in Manchester. The idea is to provide an offline platform for HR Professional in Manchester and its surrounding area to meet and to connect. Unlike other events that discuss certain topics, people who come are allowed to talk about anything related to HR and related people issues. And of course with some drinks, as the meeting is (usually) in a bar. How relaxing!

I heard that this initiative is organized 3 times a year, firstly by Coach Ian Pettigrew (@KingfisherCoach) and some of his colleagues since years ago. I get connected with Coach Ian initially in twitter and then LinkedIn. I saw the registration link for this event and decided to come along once I read the event description. I asked Coach Ian if student(s) would be welcomed to the event. He said yes. So I filled in the registration form and spread the link out to my classmates through our Facebook group. Nobody seemed really interested – they might have plan for the scheduled day already, they might not see this as a good opportunity to learn, or they might think they didn’t need it now. But no worries, I used to be a kind of ‘outlier’ in an event or forum 😀 – in this, a student who attended an event for professionals.

I was so grateful to be at the event, although honestly as a student and first timer, I needed to be extra confident to speak with professionals in the forum. I got some chances to connect and to talk with professionals in recruitment, learning & development, HR generalist, HR tech consulting, and also employment law. I learned quite a lot, not only from the talks, but also from observing people (their interactions etc.) and some other things (how the event was organized, etc.) on that evening.

Back to previous discussion: if I look forward, I wouldn’t be able to reflect / to conclude why did I came to that event or in another perspective, what did I got (as a student) from that event? Up to this moment, I am happy that I learned a lot from that event. But, I am sure I would learn more by the time I could connect what I learned from this event to another ‘dots’ in the future.

Well, I know we might also connect some dots that we didn’t make by ourselves (through reading people’s stories, etc.); yet I suppose connecting our own dots would be more exciting as it contains our own life stories and to reflect our own journey.

So far, I enjoy (and feel grateful) to connect my own dots from my childhood until this age. However, I would love to have more remarkable dots to be connected in the future. I don’t know how it will be, but for now, my task is to make the dots to be connected later, to be wiser and to be able to contribute more.


To be Happier at Work: Craft Your Job, as this Son of Desert does

The Harvard Business Review released an article entitled ‘To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think about it’ to end the year of 2017. Written by John Coleman, the article suggests some steps on finding work meaning. Those steps are to connect work to service, to craft your work – make work a craft, to invest in positive relationship, and to remember why you work.

I am interested to discuss more about craft your work (job), as I did this discussion for one of my assignment and found out that the other steps mentioned by Coleman are actually part of job crafting process (refer to cognitive crafting below). Aside of that, in my recent trip to Morocco, I met a tour guide named Yosef (yep, almost similar to mine) and learned a lot about how he crafts his job at the Sahara Desert.

In one of their article (released in 2011) Wrzesniewski and Dutton defined job crafting as individuals’ proactive behavior in changing their physical and/or cognitive aspects of the task or relational boundaries of the job to modify meaning of the work and its identity. By meaning of the work, it relates to our understanding of the purpose of work or what we believe is achieved in work. By work identity, it means how we define ourselves in work.

It is believed that employees are not passive jobs recipients but actively redesigned their jobs from what have been given by the organizations. We will try to see how this could be done.

This job crafting activities have 3 types, namely task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting. Task crafting talks about an activity when employees adding or dropping tasks, modifying efforts in various tasks, as well as redesigning how a task could be done. Relational crafting happened when employees change their intensity or quality of interactions with other people in their work. Lastly, the cognitive crafting comprises the moments when employees modify their cognitive boundaries to ascribe meaning and tasks and relationship purpose of their work.

We might choose the type of crafting based on our personal and situational boundaries. Here, boundaries refer to limits around “physical, temporal, emotional, cognitive, and/or relational” aspects. Other scholars described that boundaries might be in physical, social, and psychological forms.

The way we deal with boundaries and crafting the jobs reflect our values, motivation, and preferences. Yet, we might also be influenced by structural constraint such as cultural, social, and economic environment where we are working. It is possible that some factors might trigger stronger influence than the others in the way we craft our jobs. As an example, those who have less work experiences might not be able to do much on task crafting, and prefer to occupy cognitive crafting. Those who in the mid-level might apply relational crafting for being able to ‘stay longer’ in an organization. Yet those in senior level with low social skills might occupy task crafting then relational one.

So, back to Yosef, the son of desert that I met in Sahara. On the night after we enjoyed our dinner in the tent, we sat around the camp fire and shared our personal stories. A visitor from Netherland started to ask Yosef about his daily routine. The questions then continued to whether he enjoys his job and whether Yosef is willing to go abroad or not.

Yosef, our guide in the Sahara Desert

Yosef confidently told us that he enjoys his job in the desert. As for your information, he meets the tourists from the assembly point outside the desert, and guides them for 90 minutes’ camel ride into the tent inside the desert in afternoon. Arriving at the tent, he would help other team to cook and serve the dinner for tourist, play music around the camp fire, and sit and talk with the guests until everybody sleeps. The next day, he guides all the tourist to ride the camels out of the desert, started at 6 am. Everyday.

It is lovely to hear his statements that through his job, he meets people from around the world, listens to their stories, and learns many languages and histories. He also mentioned that although he is in the desert, his imagination goes beyond the tent through the stories from different people he meets every day. Sounds like happiness takes place in his job!

Nevertheless, when we pushed him to answer our question about willingness to go abroad, he started list some of boundaries he has such as: needs of visa and amount of money needed. We stop our questions on that issue, as it might turn him down, and we came back to questions about what are the most memorable things he found from the tourists he guided, etc.

During the conversation, I imagined if I were Yosef and whether I would deliver the same response for such questions. I was impressed by the way Yosef ‘craft his job’, on this case that I observed the most were cognitive crafting (by thinking the other side, that he doesn’t need to go abroad because people from around the world coming to him), relations crafting (by sitting around camp fire until everybody sleeps to talk with different people every-night), and by task crafting (by walking outside the tent with some of us to enjoy the stars on the sky).

I reflected and contemplated during my way back to Manchester: we might not be able to abolish all the boundaries we have or we face in the workplace. Yet we indeed have the ability to ‘play’ or ‘to modify’ things we have – started from how we think about it (cognitively). Before deciding to resign or to quit for something, try to be happier with your job or responsibilities by crafting your job. Push until the limit. When you find no more happiness even after you craft your job, then you might consider to continue your journey with other kind of adventure 😉

Good luck!


Time is Ticking

I arrived at a restaurant where my friend and I agreed to meet for an end of year dinner. We did not book our seats at the restaurant, yet knowing that the restaurant allows customer to spend only 90 minutes for a buffet menu and 120 minutes for another buffet menu. I arrived at around 15 minutes earlier than my friend and met the restaurant manager. He offered me a table for the 90 minutes’ buffet menu, but I said that I needed to wait for my friend. In less than 10 minutes, the manager came to me 4 times and asked if I was ready or not, with a convincing sentence on the last as he said, ‘time is ticking’.

This kind of restaurant relays on the time power, which few minutes does matter for them. Yet that sentence from the restaurant manager stuck on my head until now, reminding me that in this very limited time of life, we can do many things. However, we need to consider that just because we can do things, doesn’t mean we should do those things.

It is interesting to observe how people use their time, as meaningful as they believe. It is indeed will be varied from one to another as different people have different perspective in seeing time and seeing their meanings of life. Yet, the way they construct those perspective and meaning would be good to listen to.

Time is ticking: Where do you want to go? What will you do?

I was just spent a week traveling to Morocco and met an old friend of mine in the desert trip. She quitted her job to live her dreams by working abroad and travelling all around the world for almost 2 years now. We talked about how each of us make use our time and found so many differences between us. As she currently has more flexibility than me, the way she organizes things are not in as tight as me. Yet, I met some people from some open trips in Morocco that I joined, who brought their laptops and worked while they were traveling. After talking to some people during my trip here, I realized that how people define their life goals and its values strongly influence the way they manage their time.

Some people said that they want to do good things for society and start for volunteering, some others want to achieve such a high career path and stay up late in the office, some others would believe on saving money and prefer to stay at home, while some others go everywhere but don’t really know what to do with their life. Such definitions would help people to prioritize activities and manage their time to achieve things, in every condition. Thus, those who want to excel in their job but also need to travel might still do their work on the roads. Those who want to do good things for society while traveling would stay in a location longer and be involved with local initiatives. Some people do more than 1 thing in their very limited time.

Those who travel know that life could give more than they deserve, as they meet various people and experience various things in the roads. While traveling, people can get inspired or even feel bad about their own life. These kind of feeling might redefine their life goals and values. As time is keep ticking, we might consider to look back our life goals and values and how we manage our time to make use of it so far. And before we judge how others manage their time, it’s always better to contemplate ourselves. We always can improve our life; we always can be better than who we are today.

Follow @yosea_kurnianto for more photos of my journey in Morocco!