World View: Focus on Indonesia

cross cultural training indonesia
You can’t go into the Indonesian market with 
a “business-as-usual” attitude when it comes to training.

Reprinted: “Training: The Source for Professional Development” by Dr. Neil Orkin

From the beaches of Bali to the high energy of the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia is a fascinating country. It is the fourth most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 230 million and 280-plus different ethnic groups, so organizations are interested in tapping this marketplace. Indonesia also is the largest Muslim country in the world. By selling to this large market, or exporting products from there, global companies see participation in this economy as critical to their global business 

This land is blessed with tremendous natural resources, including vast amounts of oil. Indonesia is a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). With an ideal global location, and reasonable labor costs, global organizations cannot ignore this country. The 
Indonesian government has opened the country to foreign investment and has made great strides in developing its economy.

The State of Training in Indonesia

It is clear to the Indonesian leadership that training is key to the country’s success. In the past, the Indonesian business model was to export agricultural products, oil, and minerals, and to import finished goods such as machinery, computers, and processed foods. The government wants to turn this formula around by exporting higher-value finished products. As such, the labor force needs to be trained to develop and produce these goods, and a higher level of skills is needed. Currently, nearly 50 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture, and many feel this ratio needs to be greatly lowered.

Education is valued in this country. The literacy rate is more than 90 percent. Indonesians are 
eager to learn, and they understand why training can help them prosper in the workforce. Organizations have been pleased about this positive attitude toward training. Still, to run effective training, 
adjustments must be made. If you go into this market with a “business-as-usual” attitude, you will fail.

Training Tips

Most training programs in this country are 
short and focused; two- to three-day programs are popular. The most requested topics are strategic management, customer service, leadership, and sales and marketing. Some tips:

  • Cutting-edge concepts are expected.
  • This culture is formal, and the trainer is 
expected to lead. Small group discussion should be minimized. “Ice breakers” and games often are not appreciated.
  • English is not the first language in this country. Although many of the “elite” in this country have studied abroad, expect the 
majority of your trainees to not speak English. You will need to watch your vocabulary and your rate of speed when presenting information. Extensive use of visuals can greatly increase comprehension and retention of your material.
  • This is a group-oriented culture. Do not single out a student for praise or constructive feedback. Always include the group.
  • Age and job title are greatly respected. Do not call trainees by their first names unless invited to do so. Be aware of the “small talk” you use when interacting with your trainees. Do not talk about religion, politics, or family life if you want to connect with your trainees.
  • Silence is valued in this culture. Avoid filling the quiet in the room with words as your trainees may like to think about your questions before they respond. Keep in mind that they also may be quiet if they disagree with your point of view. It often is felt that challenging the trainer is disrespectful and harmful to the training environment.

Indonesia will remain an important country for your organization in the coming years. Having a corporate presence in this country is valuable to your company, and cultural diversity skills will be of great value to the trainer in Indonesia.

Dr. Neil Orkin is president of Global Training Systems. His organization prepares corporate professionals for global business success.