Be AGILE, Be RESILIENT, and be willing to LEARN at every stage of your CAREER.

Roma Tampubolon is the Founder and CEO of Strengths ID. He coaches managers and teams on how to drive success by maximizing their strengths. He also consults with leaders in Indonesia on employee and customer engagement.

Roma has extensive experiences in Global HR consulting firms: GALLUP and KORN FERRY-HAY Group. Roma was an HR practitioner in the Banking Industry in Indonesia.

Roma provides delegates with the top-quality training they need to further their skill set. US-educated, Roma, has worked in a wide range of training positions in his native Indonesia at companies such as The Ritz Carlton and J.W. Marriott. His transferrable skills add value to businesses from startups to enterprises. He specializes in conducting training for hotel staff ranging from front liners to senior managers.

Thank you, Roma, for giving your valuable time to this interview. Looking forward to learning from your journey and experiences.

Let’s Start!

We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview. 

The first job interview I had was actually at Starbucks Indonesia in 2002 when they opened their first store at Plaza Indonesia. It was an interesting job interview because the recruiter asked me “Why do you want to work at Starbucks?”

To which I replied, “Because I love drinking coffee while reading books.” She asked me back “How does that relate to Starbucks?” I explained to her that I grew up in New York City and I used to go to bookstores twice a week. There was a bookstore called Barnes & Noble where I always found Starbucks coffee in the bookstore, so I actually spent many hours sitting in a bookstore while sipping coffee.

My overall experience during my first interview at Starbucks was really good because I could be myself and being genuine during an interview, in my opinion, is key.

As the first job holds a special memory, let’s discuss your first year at your first job. How was your experience? What were your expectations of your employer and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

During my first year at my first job, I was actually having fun while getting paid. Serving coffee at Starbucks and learn how to manage a coffee shop was really something that I enjoyed. Even though other people told me to get a real job like in the Bank, or Telco the company, I did not really care what people said at that point in time because I wanted to learn how to make the best customer experience by serving great coffee with a smile that brighten someone’s day.J.

What attracted you towards HR Profession? What was the motive and what was the motivation?

Because I like to learn about human behavior. In 2005, I had the chance to join Ritz Carlton Jakarta when they opened the hotel in Mega Kuningan. I was given an assignment which was to measure the engagement of both customer and employee. At first, I did not really believe that there were so many positive correlations between engagement and business outcomes. However, in 2010, when there was an explosion (bombing) at Ritz Carlton Jakarta, I realized that the ones who were engaged employee actually stayed (others resigned/left the hotel) even though occupancy was only 25%. Engaged employees went the extra miles and worked hard to increase the occupancy back to normal again even though it took a year to do so and of course, it impacted their income because service charge (income) was really low for few months after the bombing.

Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience? Please share your thoughts about structured Employee Mentoring Programs. What best practices can make such programs impactful and successful? 

When I joined Gallup in 2013, management assigned me a coach who helped me to discover my strengths using the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment. At first, I thought it was kind of fluffy, but after the coaching session and how the coach helped me to set my goals and leverage my talent to perform better, I actually started to believe that self-awareness is key and having a coach helps because I had the opportunity to have ongoing conversations and getting feedback on my strengths. I felt like it was more a positive approach to help me in coping up with the workplace challenges.

COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics in many ways. What has been your learnings during this phase? What permanent changes do you foresee at the workplace post-COVID-19?

Currently, I am an OD Consultant and also a trainer. My top 5 dominant strengths are: Futuristic—Focus—Achiever—Competition—Ideation. When Covid-19 started to change the workplace dynamics in Indonesia, my business was impacted because most organizations shut down their corporate universities (training centers). I actually used my Futuristic and Ideation to brainstorm and think about a new way of delivering my training sessions. During the lockdown, I started creating learning content and learned how to deliver virtual sessions via zoom. Practice makes perfect. Today, most of my paid training sessions are done online. Coaching can also be done online, and it is actually better because it saves me time and also the participants’ time as well.

In my opinion, the permanent changes at the workplace post-COVID-19 are the mindset and the behaviour. We will be seeing more and more people adapting to the current situation and start doing things more efficiently at work.  

Organizational Culture is a key differentiator between successful and not so successful organizations? What determines the organizational culture? What is the role of HR in creating organizational culture?

Engagement is the lifeblood of the company. Leaders are responsible for fostering a great Organizational Culture because engaged Leaders drive values, values drive behavior, behavior drives culture, and culture drives performance.

The role of HR in creating organizational culture is to make focus on 3 things: talent, leadership, and culture. Those 3 things are key differentiators between great Organizational Culture and the not so great one.

What are your thoughts about layoffs? What is the role of HR in layoffs? According to you, what is the appropriate way of managing layoffs?

I think it should be the last option. HR should seek alternatives to layoffs including reductions in pay and hours of work, furloughs, and shutdowns of operations. I am not sure about the appropriate way of managing layoffs as I am not an expert in that field, but I am pretty sure that it can be managed as long as there is effective two-way communication between employees and the employer.

What is your take on “Career Gaps”? We come across many people who are forced to hide certain aspects of their employment history because organizations do not shortlist their profiles because of career gaps. How do you address such cases? 

I think there are many reasons why people have career gaps. I also had one. It was the time when I decided to open a coffee shop. I stayed in business for more or less three years. However, it was not difficult for me to go back to corporate because the hiring managers interpreted it positively. They thought it was good that I had experience in entrepreneurship and developed business acumen which was what they were looking for in a candidate.

Please share your experience when you consulted and facilitated your client in successfully managing change in the workplace.

It was a Bank that wanted to change the way of doing things from the Waterfall method into an Agile approach. Basically, they wanted to be faster, efficient, and adaptable to change because the market changes rapidly. There were many resistances because whenever you try to do something new in an organization with bureaucracy, it takes time, sometimes longer than you think.

The resistances were people and mindset. People were not able to learn agile because some people found it hard to learn something new when they were already comfortable with the way, they were doing things.

Mindset changing was more challenging, because not everyone has an open mindset and willing to change and innovate for better solutions and continuous improvement.

Through learning and development, my team and I have facilitated discussion and design thinking sessions to find real issues and solve them together with the business and supporting units of the Bank.

Share your experience of working with the most challenging client. What was the most difficult thing about that relationship from your perspective, and how did you manage it?

The most challenging client I had was pushy and impatient. The most difficult thing about the relationship was aligning expectations. What the client wanted sometimes was impossible to do, for example, the client would request to do something that is normally be done in 1 week, and the client requested it to be done within 2 days because the client did not understand the process.

The way I managed it was to use my influencing talent, by presenting the process flow to the client by using visuals or drawings and made sure that client understands how long it takes to finish that specific assignment.

How would you deal with frequent changes at work? And, in such situations how do you keep your eyes on the bigger picture?

I used my positivity and strength to keep my eyes on the bigger picture even in a challenging situation. Based on my experience, positivity made me feel calm and when I am calm, I can think clearly and see the bigger picture in any situation.

What kinds of experiences have you had in relating to people whose backgrounds are different than your own?

Diversity and Inclusion. I learned and experienced this when I was working at Starbucks. Baristas came from different kinds of islands in Indonesia and had different educational backgrounds. Diversity taught me how to respect other people who are not the same as me. Respect and tolerance are important for us to relate to people whose backgrounds are different than our own.

How do you prepare for a presentation to important clients or the executive board the day before it is due?

Practice in front of the mirror, record voice presentation in my phone and play it over and over and over again before I start the presentation.

What would your co-workers and clients say is the most rewarding thing about working with you? What about the most challenging thing?

My co-workers and clients like working with me because I am an achiever and focus on what needs to be done. They respect me because I get things done. Never over-promise, and always deliver.

If you need to draw a landscape of the future workplace, how will it look like? What workplace disruptions do you foresee over the next FIVE years?

It would look like my old office at Accenture Jakarta. The layout was built for the future workplace and radical collaboration. After COVID-19 most likely workplace disruption that we will see is more and more people will be allowed to work from home if his/her roles require to do so.

 Lastly, what is your message to young Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a successful career in the profession of their choice?

Be brave. Have the courage to do something unproven. Always be willing to learning and know that things are changing and being agile is something that they can do to have a successful career in the profession of their choice.

Thank you, Roma, for sharing wonderful insight. Appreciate it.

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