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Digital Hiring in Malaysia - Home truths to address post COVID

War on talent


The current status in Malaysia, when it comes to digital hiring, is nothing short of a local talent grab as COVID thaws and confidence resumes. This applies across the key skill spectrums of Technology, Data, Product, Design, Marketing, Creative and Strategic and Commercial functions. This syndrome is felt most acutely in areas like Software Engineering, though let’s face it, this is a global phenomenon. To address this, most businesses are looking at outside the box solutions, which may include use of offshore solutions and similarly, use of remote workers employed through an international B2B style contractual set up or ‘gig worker’ type solutions to compliment local resources


Suffice to say, the current conditions are having an impact on salary rates, as developers in particular, are commanding more based on supply and demand. On this, I would urge companies to be flexible and think seriously about their internal benchmarks. Is it worth losing a candidate that you've invested significant time in, that can have a material impact on your business, for the sake of a 5-10% salary difference? This takes judgement to get right. At the same time, we don’t want to contribute to a bubble, though I still think companies should think seriously about rates, because the reciprocal benefits are so tangible.


One redeeming factor at the moment, however, is the gradual opening up of international borders - the visa system never went away, it just became impractical! Now that the situation is thawing, we should see a return of foreign worker options, though this is more practical currently for those on EP and currently resident in Malaysia. Given foreign workers in Malaysia, conservatively, accounts for 30% of the developer population, this development should have a significant impact on availability as normal service resumes. I would urge employers to make use of the services available, via the likes of MDEC and Talentcorp and invest the time necessary to work through the steps. Many companies are now doing so and I think it's up to all to follow suit.


Employer branding - some big No Nos!


It's a competitive market and consistent with the digital paradigm, its critical for employers to look at their 'candidate experience', to ensure they make their employer brand as attractive as possible. Despite improvements we are seeing in this area, there are still some areas employers must improve in.


With the advent of enterprise platforms, that are supposed to improve candidate experience, they appear to be used to do the opposite in certain cases! We are seeing the use of faceless platforms being used to provide an entirely dehumanized, bureaucratic experience, hell-bent on duplication of data. Employers should avoid this at all costs!


Testing before any human interaction has taken place is an issue. Granted, it’s important to benchmark your prospect staff, but most developers need to be headhunted from competition, so why would they want to give up time to perform a test without knowing anything about the prospective employer? I have seen good examples of companies that have addressed this, where they batch interview candidates as a first screen to ensure a human element is introduced from the outset and I would encourage all employers to follow suit.


Lack of feedback is still a big issue. As companies interview droves of candidates, they leave 90% of the candidates they speak to in their wake with a negative view of themselves. Feedback needs to be provided in all cases, whether it’s a test score, or results of a face to face, qualitative assessment. Results need to be compiled and shared. It’s so important to leave a positive impression with your candidate audience, as it’s a small market and you don’t want the community you are trying to seduce to form a negative view.




The power of retention


Whilst a certain amount of churn may be healthy to provide a degree of organizational ‘ventilation’, there is undoubtedly a correlation between successful digital brands and their ability to retain top talent. Organizational continuity is key as it creates momentum and stability as the positive chemistry between people builds. Constant replacement and reshuffling of management is disruptive as people have to continually get used to new people and establish new ties.


COVID has been a force for good in some respects, as leadership has had to raise its game to drive engagement and the connection between people in remote settings. I am also seeing digital employers invest more in pure people functions, e.g. the emergence of Chief People Office or Head of People, which is a blend of the HR and Talent Acquisition Head function, a role which entails to driving talent acquisition, as well as taking care of onboarding, through to ongoing engagement and culture building - the key metric ultimately being staff retention.


In a market where there is a war on talent, it’s critically important for businesses to look very carefully at what is right in front of them. The questions to ask are as follows…


  • What does the onboarding process look like?

  • Malaysians want to learn and build their career, so what does L&D and succession planning look like?

  • What is the vision of the business and how well are your team engaged around this, e.g. what type of culture are you building and what big problems do you want to solve?


If you seek to focus on and improve in these areas, you will start to ask and address the right questions that will have a material impact on retention. Those that ‘nail it’ will inevitably win the war on talent and, the fact is, some are already leading the way on this.




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