As we are all too familiar, press coverage seems to come in waves regarding certain topics. If any kind of media analytics exercise was conducted into the number of ‘positive’ articles versus ‘negative’ regarding the Malaysian economy over the last year, we would definitely be seeing a trend towards the latter. This is a concern given that media can impact sentiment and sentiment can impact the economy in a number of ways directly and indirectly, which can create a downward spiral. Whether it's the state of the Ringgit, worries about the impact of the slowing China economy or dwindling oil prices, Malaysia is currently a little caught in the media fad stakes both locally and internationally.
As recruiters, we should not be claiming to be expert economists, as we are simply not qualified. However, 15 years of industry experience tells me we have a unique vantage point over what's going on in industry. On a daily basis, we get to speak, often with a very high level of detail to key stakeholders, regarding the plans and investments businesses are looking to make in their most expensive asset – people. We also see very directly the ebb and flow of one of the primary health indicators of any economy – job flow. Plus we also get to gauge the attitudes of the workforce by virtue of the conversations with the candidate community on a daily basis – sentiment. So on that basis, we have a compelling insight into 3 very strong barometers of economic health – people investment, job flow and sentiment.
I say with conviction that Malaysia, at this moment, is scoring very well in these 3 areas and that is something we must not lose sight of. Having worked in the UK, Singapore and Malaysia, I would say with confidence that this is the highest growth market I have ever operated within and there is significant, empirical basis for optimism.
Malaysia has a compelling cocktail of factors that is continuing to attract enormous international interest from the private sector, whether we are talking about business friendly legislation in areas such as shared services, very reasonable cost base factors, relative political stability, or English speaking internationally minded workforce. But I would be willing to put my neck on the line and say that Malaysia has an additional factor that stands in its favour above all else - its people.
The Malaysian workforce is extremely aspirational, ambitious, hard-working, internationally minded (though proud of its roots with a strong sense of cultural heritage), and generally very well principled and great to work with. Companies will be aware they can only benefit from these more subjective, cultural factors when they are weighing up whether to open up another 1000 technology, finance, business change or operations roles here, versus another usual suspect in the offshore services landscape. Whilst the factors I have just outlined may not come up in the final evaluation report which leads companies to give the green light for more hiring in 2016 – I would put my last Ringitt on the fact that these are absolutely key deciding factors.
So perhaps this blog does sound a touch ‘jingoistic’, but I do feel it’s high time that we ‘bang the drum’ for what is great about Malaysia at the moment. Anyone here has a massive opportunity and if we get too drawn in by what the media has to say, we will lose sight of what is sitting right before our eyes. When I moved to Malaysia 2 years ago, I was very much taken by the message of Wawasan 2020, and referring to my earlier point about media analytics, the volume of references to this phrase seems to have reduced dramatically over the last year. The vision calls for the nation to achieve a self-sufficient industrialized nation by the year 2020, encompassing all aspects of life, from economic prosperity, social well-being, educational standards and social cohesion. From where I am sitting, there is clearly work to be done, though the opportunity to reach this higher goal is still very much intact. Furthermore, the process of getting there presents a huge opportunity to the Malaysian population currently and to those ex-pats lucky enough to be in working here too.
by Sam Baxendale