Tackling Indonesia’s Talent Challenges

Growing Pains, Lasting Advantage

By Bernd Waltermann and Dean Tong

In the mid-1990s, after the Indonesian football team was eliminated early in a regional tournament, President Suharto lamented: “We have more than 200 million people. There must be 11 of them with decent football skills.”

Indonesia has added 40 million people in the past two decades, but its shortage of talent has grown worse—and not just in football. Talent shortages threaten to undermine the country’s recent run of impressive economic performance.

Indonesia’s economy will likely break into the top 15 in the world in the next decade or so, but many companies may be left behind. They may need to scale back their growth plans unless they can recruit, develop, and retain the right people. This should be a top priority for chief executives in Indonesia. Fortunately, companies that act with foresight and persistence can become employers of choice and fulfill their growth aspirations. Others will falter.