Mariawaty Santoso - Remote Working Is Inevitable These Days and This Is Actually the Future


Maria brings more than 20 years of experience as a Human Resources professional. She started her career as an HR consultant with Korn Ferry Hay Group and Willis Towers Watson.

She has extensive experience in the Life Insurance industry where she spent 15 years as the Chief HR Officer of Prudential and AIA.

In 2016 she received the Conscious Business Leadership Awards for Asia Pacific in the Culture Champion category from Linkedin.

Recently she switched industry by joining PT Mitra Adiperkasa Tbk, the #1 lifestyle retailer in Indonesia as the Corporate Head of HR.



1. Tell us about your background and journey. 

I have more than 20 years of experience as a Human Resources professional. I started my career as an HR consultant with Korn Ferry Hay Group and Willis Towers Watson.

I have extensive experience in the Life Insurance industry where I spent 15 years as the Chief HR Officer of Prudential and AIA. In 2016, I received the Conscious Business Leadership Awards for Asia Pacific in the Culture Champion category from LinkedIn.

Recently, I switched industry by joining PT Mitra Adiperkasa Tbk, the #1 lifestyle retailer in Indonesia as the Corporate Head of HR.



2. What is your opinion about remote working?

Remote working is inevitable these days and this is actually the future, therefore all companies should be gearing up for this type of work.

With this future way of working, we need to ensure that employees are committed, independent, reliable, proactive as well as have the courage to reach out to their colleagues or supervisor if they have any queries.

Though new graduated employees will face some challenges with this remote working arrangement as they will receive less guidance from their colleagues or supervisor comparing if they are working at the office.

However this might not be suitable for all people and for all functions. Operational side this is not possible for our business, therefore the company appreciates highly all the frontliners, as they are the key to the business. We ensure their safety by providing all the required equipment to support their roles.

For office people though it was also a challenge for sure in the beginning, but we managed to maintain productivity despite the distance. The key is to exercise trust and minimize micro manage. Maintaining communication and engagement are very important since working remotely limiting the human connection.


3. How do you keep your employees and team engaged? What are some of the shifts in engagement strategies?

Again communication is the key with different strategies, from weekly virtual meeting to virtual townhall session. But the one that keeps the team also engaged is when they understand their target and purpose of work.

The presence of HR team is important to be felt by the employees, therefore we also designed MAP Peeps, it’s a dedicated WhatsApp based HR contact center where all MAP Employees can reach out to ask not only HR related matters but also other supports needed by them. The main purpose is to ensure that we are available and reachable at any times. Not only that, even our Learning & Development department has established the same platform be able to ensure that all programs developed are applicable, relevant and impactful for the business.


4. How important is skill development for employees and how do you do that?

This pandemic has impacted all industries, including retail. With the business slowing down, now is actually the best time for all employees to be reskilled and up-skilled in order to be prepared for this new normal and even beyond that.

Everything has gone digital, including the selling processes, therefore digital mindset and literacy is important. MAP through MAP Retail Academy has developed programs that support digital literacy, building sales and customer journey, but at the same time also paying attention on their wellbeing. It is an amalgam of technical retail and soft skills programs with blended learning approach combining self-led reading materials & quiz using our LMS platform, with virtual sessions.

Aside from that, building the career, preparing MAP’s future leader is also important to support business sustainability. Hence a comprehensive learning pathway for all employees across level has been developed to support bench strength. In addition, the focus is really to build retail ecosystem with plenty of business partners especially from educational sectors. From the collaboration we were able to build a scholarship programs for our team members in pursuing their bachelor degree.


5. How according to you has HR as a profession evolved over the years?

It has shifted from paperwork to people. HR leaders in today’s workforce are increasingly becoming strategic partner to the business. They now work alongside management to influence and direct employee engagement and experience, company culture and company transformation. 

With this evolution, it is required for HR practitioners to have new skill set i.e financial, change management, marketing and analytical skills. This evolution happened because many companies need to transform their organization and they realize how HR plays an important role in this transformation as no matter how good is the technology, the system but without people transformation, it means nothing.


6. What are some of the qualities you look for in a person when hiring for leadership?

Everybody defines leadership differently but I really like the way John C Maxwell defines leadership, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” It is very important for a leader to know their “Purpose” in addition to Courage, Humility and Integrity.


7. Which is your favourite book and why?

God is my CEO by Larry Julian. I like this book because being an HR sometimes can be very challenging as we are dealing with people instead of numbers. To me it is very important for and HR to be someone Neutral, meaning we have to be in between employees and the company. 

Many times, when I am in doubt which way to choose when making my decision, I always remember this book, as our CEO is also human and he/she might takes wrong people decisions. It is our role to always follow our conscience and have the courage to do the right things for both the employees and the company.


- Interviewed by - Sanjana Jain 

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