Even before the pandemic, there exists an evident gap between the promise of digital transformation and the skills that employees are realistically equipped with. It is estimated that more than 80% of jobs currently require candidates to be equipped with a certain level of digital skills.

COVID-19 has undeniably put a spotlight on every organisation's technological readiness. A study released by AON revealed that 56% of respondents expect companies’ digital transformation agendas to accelerate following their initial response to COVID-19.

Companies are not only expected to enhance their digital infrastructure, but to expedite the process as well. These digital enhancements will exacerbate the need for the workforce to possess technological capabilities.

For organisations that have invested in ensuring their employees are digitally literate, it is of no surprise that they experienced greater ease when transitioning their workforce from office to home. Others struggled with ensuring data security and providing the necessary technical support and infrastructure. Some had even stopped operations altogether during the Movement Control Order (MCO) due to prior unpreparedness.

According to MITI, the nation observed a 45% drop in productivity during MCO. This is close to one in two people who are not able to work from home, increasing their stress on their employability and livelihood.

If companies and employees do not upskill and be digitally ready, then they risk losing their place in the race before they even realise it.

ongoing flexible work policies call for greater technology enablement

The initial shock of shifting from office to home has passed, and companies are starting to feel the pinch of how much exactly COVID-19 had and will cost them. Governments and businesses are also taking a very conservative approach to their outlook. Many fear that possible future waves of COVID-19 cases will result in a U-turn on lockdown measures.

To wiggle out of the double whammy of high overheads and low revenue, many are looking towards reinventing their infrastructure and operations with technology and innovation.

digital transformation in malaysia
digital transformation in malaysia

The Malaysian government has released initiatives aimed at helping small businesses and local entrepreneurs digitalise to maintain and even expand their services to customers. As part of this nation-wide effort, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has also launched a campaign to equip local talent with the skills and opportunities they need to penetrate and excel in the digitally-driven market.

These initiatives can drive skills advancements, which will enable businesses and employees to make progress more quickly.

reshaping the business landscape with e-commerce capabilities

When wholesale markets and restaurants were left with no choice but to shut down their services during MCO, many merchants were forced to dispose tons of perishable products.

Alibaba’s Lazada, which already had the infrastructure to facilitate the buying and selling of non-perishable items on a digital platform, stepped up and opened a virtual store that links farmers in Cameron Highlands to local customers. This platform expansion helped reduce food wastage and create new business opportunities. Within three weeks, close to 70 tons of food were delivered from farm to door.

Lazada’s Group CEO, Pierre Poignant, was on-point when he said, “COVID-19 is a catalyst of digital transformation in Southeast Asia, when consumers build a habit, it doesn't easily go away. E-commerce will become a way of life."

This goes to show how technology can open up new opportunities that businesses could tap into, if they are willing to pivot from their traditional structures and strategies.

COVID-19 will change the tech talent landscape

Tech talent has always been highly sought-after by companies across different industries and verticals, and now, the demand is higher than ever. The bidding war among companies to attract the best talent would intensify in the coming months, as employers become more laser-focus on building their data science and process automation capabilities.

However, even when companies are hiring, most talent are not willing to switch employers amidst a period of uncertainty. They may either turn down the chance to move in favour of job stability or take a longer time to consider their options.

3 ways to seal the talent deal

Here are some suggestions to help employers like yourself remain attractive and successfully attract and hire your much-needed talent.

how to build a talent pool
how to build a talent pool

1. influence others with your vision

The future of technology lies heavily on the organisation’s ability to improve the quality of lives.

Companies need a highly-motivated, driven and creative workforce to realise their visions. Employers must also be able to effectively communicate the organisation’s visions to create excitement amongst the workforce and talent pool.

As an employer, you need to articulate your vision, “sell” your future and convince candidates to join you in your journey. Rather than expect the employees and candidates to be loyal and deliver long-term value to the business, employers need to properly evaluate their fit within the organisation and the role they get to play in the journey. Managers will also need to live and breathe their organisation vision to be able to influence their employees and candidates to think the same.

2. advertise your company’s technology developments and aspirations

AI, automation, virtual reality and augmented reality have been touted for several years now. Most companies have been exploring the use of big data in their own way.

However, from a candidate’s viewpoint, all these efforts sing the same tune, which sounds similar to “investing in big data to enhance experiences”. Without any concrete evidence of the progress of your research and product developments, it’s difficult to convince and influence a customer, and likewise, your ideal candidate.

People won’t know what they don’t know. When researching for an employer to work for, job seekers will study the company from many different channels, such as news reports, company’s web pages and review sites, and from their own connections. If they are unable to find information about your investments, developments and visions, job seekers don’t have a reason to want to join your company.

Companies that are successful in talent attraction are those that can “wow” job seekers with their tech developments or transformation vision. Leveraging the power of marketing and advertising, companies will be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors, lead the conversation at the frontier, and secure the best talent that the market has to offer.

Samsung and Apple are very powerful examples of this point. Every year, they push their design teams to the limit to create new and unique selling propositions – bigger screens, fancier functions and sleeker designs. Customers are impressed with their innovation in creating something better every time and job seekers would want to be a part of the dream team.

3. integrate candidates into your culture and team

Many employers make the mistake of evaluating their candidates based on a piece of paper. Interview questions are also mostly centered on the job responsibilities based on the candidate’s past experiences, such as their ability to design, code or project manage.

But there’s more to people than what’s on paper. Interviewers must establish the human connection with their candidates. Spend more time talking about the team structure and personalities that the potential employees will be working with. Employers can also share more on the events that the potential employees get to be a part of, such as in-house seminars and after-work activities with the team. If possible, bring your candidate on a walk around the office and introduce them to direct team members on the last stage of the interview. This will ease the integration between the new and tenured employees.

By taking the time to introduce your potential candidates to your organisation during the interview process, you could keep them engaged and excited, and allow them to not focus on just the salary package, but the overall attractiveness of your company.

know the skills your company needs, not the person

Companies should never make business investments and decisions before consulting their human resources on talent management.

If disruption is a goal, then make sure that you already have the right talent to make that a reality. Pausing or delaying deadlines after you’ve already started on the project due to unmet skills gaps would only cost the company more money in the long-run. Since hiring qualified talent is an investment as well, discussions on the type of skills needed for success should start from the beginning.

Human resources teams should also work closely with their business partners to make sure that the job description or advertisement is not a template that has been used and reused. Similar to marketing and advertising efforts, the job description that talent acquisition and recruiters use to speak with potential employees should be customised to highlight the culture and exciting work. These first “touch-points'' are a great opportunity to engage and convince candidates to want to know more about how they can contribute to you.

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randstad blue suite

The Randstad Blue Suite is a collection of personal insights from the Randstad leadership team.

randstad leadership insights
randstad leadership insights
about the author.
fahad naaem randstad malaysia
fahad naaem randstad malaysia

Fahad Naaem

associate director, information technology, randstad malaysia

Fahad has more than eight years' recruitment experience and joined Randstad Malaysia in 2017. As an Associate Director, Fahad manages seven consultants who deliver specialised talent recruitment services to firms ranging from start-ups to MNCs across cybersecurity, big data, applications, infrastructure, blockchain, fintech and more.