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Employer Values in Malaysia – could this be the solution?

The biggest headache faced by HR Managers and Business unit heads in Malaysia at the moment is not just identifying and securing the talent they need to meet business objectives, but retaining them. Attrition is an inevitable aspect of operating within a growth economy.  A very high proportion of professionals with 5 years plus experience in a high demand discipline like Technology or Finance will be highly desirable to the competition at any given time.

Given there are approximately 500 shared services operations across the Selangor region, many of which are gearing up for a post budget hiring spurt of 100 plus heads for 2014, it comes as no surprise that many organisations are bracing themselves for battle. The interesting question is, what will determine the winners and losers in this war on talent?

If all companies are looking to grow in the region then something will have to give. The outcome will be that some businesses will not be able to successfully hire the local talent they need to satisfy their business case for a substantial IT hub in KL for instance.  So given the critical nature of the challenge and the competitive aspect, all companies looking to make a play will need to very seriously address the matter of retention.  Put in simple terms, it’s of no value successfully hiring 10 staff if you lose 5 from the same department in the same period. This is the challenge many of our clients are facing right now.

Looking at determining factors, some obvious ones come to mind. Salary and moving up the food chain are the most obvious and the corporations I am aware of are all very actively looking to address budgets, benchmarking and organisational matters accordingly to accommodate this. Perhaps more subtly, we have areas such as strong management, learning, development and technical training to foster a retention culture, where staff stand to gain more longer term by staying put. We also see ‘high potential’ programmes in place, to create a strong sense of long term career visibility for the best calibre staff coming through the ranks.

Whilst the above strategies are highly commendable and are definitely an essential part of the HR package for any viable employer, I still sense a crucial part of the equation is overlooked in what does look like a rather commoditised job market where a candidate with 5 years SAP FICO experience is traded between MNC shared services hubs like bullion.

A principal that has gained significant airtime of late, thanks to many high profile proponents, is ‘values based management’.  Looking at the challenges faced here by employers from a common sense perspective, my view is that a lot more could be done to embrace this. The effect of this would be to enhance feelings of loyalty and connection between the employee and employee with the net effect of improving retention levels. Simply put, when an organisation and its team members are united around a shared set of values, staff will tend to work harder to achieve business results and will also gain a greater sense of fulfillment around achieving these, which truly galvanises the long term working partnership.

From a practical management point of view, this entails leading by example, or going out of your way to do the right thing for the right reasons and not compromising these principles. Whilst these could be deemed empty words, based on the feedback we receive from candidates leaving their existing employer, values alignment features very highly on the wish list. In my view, the MNC community in Malaysia would do very well to look carefully at their employer values proposition as they go into hiring mode. They should ensure it resonates well, is well defined and most importantly, ensure that the management team here, especially those responsible for high profile hiring campaigns, are 100% bought in and live and breathe these values.

On a personal note, I feel fortunate working for an organisation that takes the time to express a sensible and meaningful set of values to its employees, how its team members should be operating, and how the company as a whole wishes to be viewed both internally and externally. Based on first hand experience, this leads to a healthy business climate where we can overcome hurdles collaboratively, united in common personal and commercial objectives. Consequently, this has led to better retention compared to most businesses in Asia within our sector.

In the process of supporting our clients in Malaysia, we place great importance on opportunities available that will allow us to engage in meaningful dialogue on the topics such this, as we feel they are of critical importance and there are many practical steps we would advise clients to take during their hiring and on-boarding process to support these principals.

In addition to that, because of the insights gained from our day to day interactions with candidates and other clients alike, we are also in a good position to share and exchange ideas with our clients in tackling the unprecedented HR challenges we are seeing today in the Malaysia job market - this culture and knowledge sharing are also a big part of what makes Ambition one of the recruitment firms with the highest retention rate within its sector.

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