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Working for a modern agribusiness


What comes to mind when you think about working in a palm oil company? For many, the image might be plantations, trees and rural areas. Well, I work in a palm oil company, but it is not what you expect. I work in the heart of a bustling city district in Jakarta, on the 23rd floor of a high-rise office building, in Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food’s Central Business Services (CBS) division.

What is CBS and why does a palm oil company require it?

As the name suggests, CBS is a centre for shared services, like Finance, IT, HR, General Affairs, and Procurement, in our organisation. Three years ago, GAR created CBS to increase efficiency, transparency and standardisation in the company. At that time, the concept of shared service centres like ours was just starting to gain traction. But most agriculture-based companies were not yet on the bandwagon. Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food was one of the first palm oil companies to implement it.

Me with my colleague Fonny (left), Head of Talent Acquisition in HR CBS, at one of the discussion spaces in our CBS office situated in downtown Jakarta. (Photo was taken before COVID-19)

When I first came across the role of Head of HR in the CBS team, I was intrigued. How would the role of HR contribute to standardising processes in a conventional plantation group company? Answering this question is what attracted me to apply for this new division in Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food.

At CBS, we focus on automation and standardisation. Teammates here need to be digitally savvy as we leverage tech tools daily to support our operations and initiatives such as e-learning. Here, we also place a lot of emphasis on customer satisfaction – the customer, in this case, being colleagues from the rest of the business, because we are a service provider to them. We conduct an Employee Engagement Survey every year for the CBS staff members because an engaged and happy service provider equates to better productivity and better customer service for the rest of the company.

Happy, engaged employees are better employees, which is why we organise events for our people to have fun and get to know one another better. Pictured here is an employee performance during an Independence Day celebration at CBS. (Photo was taken before COVID-19)

A mindset change
Introducing CBS was a major structural change for the company – not just operationally, but also culturally. In the industry, most people are used to divisions like upstream (plantations and fields), and downstream (refineries and end-products manufacturing). However, creating CBS meant merging employees from the different streams, with different cultures and organisation styles, into one. And that was the most challenging part. To ease the transition, we introduced leadership surveys, and feedback mechanisms, to promote a more transparent and open culture.

The HR CBS team at the annual CBS Townhall event in 2019. (Photo was taken before COVID-19)

I feel proud seeing what we have built at CBS. What I like is that we are always learning new things and sharing them. We are vibrant, fast, focused and competent.

Today’s modern agribusinesses are no longer just about the work in fields and factories. They are also about continuous improvement of processes, even in the simplest of daily transactions. CBS centralises all transactions under one roof, to make the standardisation and automation easier. With CBS, we are transforming our company, and potentially the industry, into a more efficient and effective one.

Interested to learn more about working in a modern agribusiness? Learn about job positions here.

About the writer:
Lilianawati is GAR’s Head of HR Central Business Services. She has 15 years of experience in HR with companies AXA and Adaro. She was also working in Finance for over a decade prior to taking on HR roles. She likes travelling to see the world, learn the culture and connect with people from different backgrounds.
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