Ryan Carroll: 2019 - The Calm After The Storm

digital transformation will change the way people work

2018 has indeed been an extremely eventful year: politics have taken centre stage and created a sense of uncertainty in the local market. For the first time in 60 years, the incumbent government was voted out and Malaysia ushered in the world’s oldest leader as its new prime minister. This significant change in the local political landscape brought about a series of policy and economic changes, which have had an impact on both companies and employees.

Major projects and investments that were approved by the predecessor on an accelerated timeline were halted temporarily. The new government took the time to get their house in order, review development plans as well as re-establish trust with the Malaysia population.

Amid these changes, the World Bank said that Malaysia is expected to ‘buck the trend’ while our neighbouring countries continue to see resilient growth. In addition to cutting 2018’s gross domestic product forecast from 5.4% in July to 4.9% in October, the economy is expected to expand by 4.7% in 2019 and only 4.6% in 2020. While the economy is still recording positive growth, it is evidently a contraction from previous years.

However, the slower pace of economic growth could be a much-needed trade-off for long-term stability. Companies we have spoken to are taking this opportunity to re-evaluate their long-term growth strategies and workforce composition, talent needs as well as areas of improvement to narrow the skills gap.

addressing the skills shortage

If companies have not started on their digital transformation journey, they will definitely be doing so in 2019.

As companies digitalise their internal processes and services, the in-demand skills that employers are looking for will differ greatly from what the workforce is equipped with currently. For instance, digitally-adept individuals or candidates with niche technical skills will be highly sought after by employers who are looking to advance their technological capabilities.

Recruiting high-performing and innovative technology talent will continue to be a challenge for human resources professionals. Hyper-growth segments such as fintech startups and technology firms that are powered by blockchain are likely to see higher levels of hiring as they compete for the best tech talent in the candidate-short market.

On the manufacturing front, the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0, will also be looking to hire more high-skilled workers who are digitally-enabled to navigate the new environment.

Within the construction and property space, we expect to see companies focussing their hiring efforts on experienced talent with specialist skills, particularly those who can deliver more value not only to their own projects but also to those of their clients’.

The only way to narrow the skills gap is to provide robust and thorough learning and development programmes to the local workforce in the form of mentorship programmes, on-the-job training and internal mobility opportunities. According to our research, Malaysian employees have expressed a keen interest in training and development to keep their skills up to date and help them stay employable. The study also revealed that 96% of employees are willing to invest their own money and time to upgrade their skills and competencies through training programmes. Almost all of the Malaysian employees (99%) aged between 35 and 54 feel that they have to actively look for opportunities to stay competitive.

Employers should absolutely leverage this high commitment to learning and continue to provide specialised training programmes for their employees and upskill them as quickly as possible to meet their future talent needs.

employee experience is more important than ever

In our Employer Brand Research this year, the Malaysian workforce ranked salary and benefits as the most important driver when choosing an employer. However, it is important to not lose sight of other equally critical factors that help to create a positive employee experience such as work-life initiatives, flexi-work arrangement options and career progression opportunities.

When companies take an employee-first approach towards their human capital strategies, their people start to gain positive experiences from their time spent at work - leading to higher staff satisfaction and engagement. Besides having a more productive workforce that consistently delivers superior performance, companies that invest in employee experience also enjoy greater access to better quality candidates and higher staff retention rates. While salary and benefits remain an important factor for Malaysian employees, a positive employee experience is the key reason why people want to keep working for you.

As more millennials enter the workforce, we hope to see companies become more involved in their staff’s personal and career development - an element that the younger workforce expects their employers to provide adequate support and resources in. Companies should also consider investing in collaboration platforms if they have not done so, to enable remote working. When employees have the flexible option to work remotely, they will feel more responsible for the quality of their work and become more actively engaged in their workplace.

getting overseas malaysians to come back home

As more global enterprises open manufacturing plants and commercial offices in Malaysia to cater to the increasing customer demands, there will be job opportunities for overseas Malaysians who are thinking about coming home.

Employers are extremely keen to hire overseas Malaysians who can share the new learnings they have gained from other countries with their local workforce. Their international experience combined with their deep understanding of local nuances are increasingly sought-after by companies. We expect this high demand for returning Malaysians, coupled with their affinity for Malaysia’s way of life and be closer to family, will motivate them to search for jobs back home.

companies want to hire critical thinkers

We have also noticed the increasing popularity of competency-based interviews. Instead of putting candidates through a technical test, interviewers are spending more time asking job seekers how they have managed a difficult situation at work and what they have learned from such experiences.

As technology evolves to be more innovative and interactive, there are some mental skills that will become less valuable, such as having a good memory or recording a mass volume of information and regurgitating it back on reports. This means that employees will need to focus more on added-value activities that machines cannot do.

Hence, companies are actively looking for candidates who possess high levels of empathy and strong people management and leadership skills. Candidates who are critical thinkers, creative and innovative in the way they work, and able to have open conversations with others, will also be highly sought-after.

Download our latest Market Outlook 2019 to know the key employment trends that will impact Malaysia this year.

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