Ask The Experts

Melissa Norman answers your questions!

Kelly Services M'sia & S'pore MD answers...

How do we make sure that our workforce are more efficient and dedicated instead of wasting millions of ringgit on inefficient and ineffective workers? Ahmad Rizal Taib

Malaysia has one of the lowest retirement age in the region. At 55, majority of the workforce are generally fit both mentally and physically, and coupled with their years of experience they have much to offer. Research shows that the proportion of Malaysians age above 60 is expected to more than double from 7% of the total population in 2000 to 16% in 2020. With improved standards of living, life expectancy is expected to increase to 79 years (currently 76.5 years) for females and 75 (currently 71.1 years) for males. By 2040, one fifth of Malaysians is expected to be in the more than 60-year age bracket.

Understanding and leveraging the differences between generational groups is critical for organisations so as to continue engaging, motivating and retaining a multi-generational workforce with optimum performance outcomes based on their level of experience.

Retirees bring with them a wealth of experience and skills. They are good role models and mentors and they can share their knowledge to ensure long term business sustainability in an organisation. The engagement of the more senior workforce however, should be based on the expertise and experience they bring to the

In reality, have the attempts to bring back our own from abroad been really successful? Kenny Ling, Selangor

In November last year PEMANDU, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit in the Prime Minister's department, said the Government managed to bring home 450 Malaysian professionals working abroad under the Returning Expert Programme (REP) through Talent Corporation. The setting-up of Talent Corporation to manage talent mobility as part of their objective is timely given that talent mobility may not be a negative situation for organizations if it is managed well.

In fast-growing sectors such as engineering and ICT, science, life sciences and green technology, finance and healthcare, global demand presents personal rewards and career opportunities.

Being in the headhunting business, I for one can say that convincing a talent to switch career opportunities does not happen overnight. It requires time and effort. In fact it proves to be even more challenging as many have settled themselves abroad and the thought of uprooting can be fairly daunting.

An initiative as phenomenal as this has to be viewed as an investment.

With 71,000 unemployed graduates, the flood of foreign workers and the raising of the retirement age from 55 to 60 do you seriously think those brains' abroad would return home? Shahrul Ibrahim, Shah Alam

Let's start by looking at the reasons why people are going abroad for work. According to our Kelly Global Workforce Index (KGWI) survey which was conducted from October 2010 to January 2011, nine-in-10 Malaysian respondents were willing to relocate to another country or continent, in order to secure their preferred position. The survey also revealed the following :

An equal percentage (45%) of baby boomers (aged 48-65) and Gen X (aged 30-47) were prepared to travel abroad for the right job, followed by 40% of Gen Y (aged 18-29).

The desire to move to a different continent was driven by “the experience” rather than setting up permanent residence, with 47% cent prepared to stay for three years or less.

Global mobility is more obvious today then ever and will be far more obvious in years to come. It is important to note that the scouting of Malaysian talent abroad is also based on selected fields of expertise.

One would have to wonder if the brains' abroad would ever consider returning. There is no straight answer as each of us are motivated by different reasons. The most amazing thing about Malaysians abroad is their patriotism. Most leave for well intended reasons and many do seriously consider the opportunity to return. The quest to bring talents home is not the easiest and I don't believe it was meant to be. There must be continuous efforts to relook at the different road blocks and speedily address them.

The reason we are going abroad to bring talent home shows expertise and skill is in demand. We have all 4 generations working side by side today. We are constantly tapping into the skills born from the transfer of knowledge between the retirees and the younger experienced generation, new skills within the fresh graduates as well as the skills from talents whom we have successfully brought back home.

What is your view on Malaysian companies that are willing to pay extremely high pay with lots of benefits to expatriates versus less to equally competent Malaysians? This is the biggest reason of brain drain. Faizal, KL

In the corporate sector, Malaysian salaries are awarded on a performance-based reward system. However, our salaries still lag behind when compared to the more developed economies, which is one of the main reasons for the Government's High Income Economy drive. Unveiled on March 30, 2010, the New Economic Model (NEM) sets out the parameters for Malaysia's ongoing development. The NEM indicates that Malaysia needs to change its strategy to realise its potential, leveraging its resources more effectively. Malaysian companies that pay higher wages to expatriates are mainly those that invest in capital-intensive sectors and rely on highly skilled performance and for roles where skills within the country may be limited. Most of the expatriates hired are those with critical skills that are in high demand. Most of these expatriates come with the relevant experience and skills that allow them to hit the ground running' while some are also hired for knowledge transfer, mentoring and to help build a talent pipeline for the local companies. This is common in renewable energy, green technology, engineering and ICT sectors where there is a mismatch of skill sets in local talent.

It is also critical to remember that most expatriates are contracted for a specific period of time, as such their assignment would be with the intention of completing a project or transferring knowledge or skill.

With your experience in the service industry, how do you view the level of customer service and delivery here? David Tih, Malacca

Malaysians are generally courteous and friendly people with a high level of service culture. I am always impressed with the continuous effort through many media forms to build a population with sopan-santun and muhibbah spirit in mind.

Although I have personally experienced and seen service levels at it's best, I would have to say that it's inconsistent and needs much improvement. The main challenge today is definitely poor language skills and a lack of people skills. As a majority of retail service individuals are between the ages of 17 and mid 20, the inexperience of handling customers or inability to communicate with clarity could be why they shy away from serving customers or handling customer issues.

While the Malaysian economy has made steady gains, there is still a need to provide a strong focus on education to help better equip the younger generation as they graduate into the workforce. I am of the opinion that organisations will also have to play a bigger part in ensuring that continuous development programmes are in place to encourage employees to continuously develop their service skills.

What are the top three sectors of the economy that hire the most expatriates and in which state are they? Marcus Lim, PJ

Most of the expatriates are in the renewable energy, green technology and engineering and ICT sectors which are very capital and technology-intentive sectors. Most companies have their HQs located within Klang Valley, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.

How many expatriates were there in Malaysia holding mid and high level management positions before the financial crisis in 2007/08 and how many do we have today? Min Ying, KL

According to an estimate by the Ministry of Human Resources, the number of expatriates working in the country has been steadily declining. It was reported in 2009 that there were 38,000 expatriates working in Malaysia.

However, we do not have the current statistics at this point of time to provide an in-depth analysis or comparison on the year-on-year growth or decline. The ministry however has indicated strict criteria to ensure that the foreign talent is a justifiable hire and the objectives of having the talent clearly defined on a contractual period as per employment letter and work permit approved.

What were your previous experience and how did you get involved in the field of head-hunting? Kumar, Port Dickson I love telling this story only because it reminds me of why I do this every day. I was in the banking industry, at a time when our parents used to say that the most stable jobs were in the financial industry. I wanted something different, a little more challenging and something with more hype. I walked into a recruitment agency and by chance was offered a job, and by choice I have remained with Kelly for 16 years.

The reason why I've stayed with Kelly is probably more exciting. There was a time when being in a company for 16 years would have never raised an eyebrow but in today it would most likely raise both eyebrows. I've been termed antique, nailed furniture!

It's an interesting industry. The moment market trend changes, sourcing of talents is quick to follow suit. It's on every organisation's agenda and in every board room discussion. This is one of the few industries that have high human touch and the opportunity to partner a variety of organisations. There is much satisfaction in knowing that providing career opportunities could change one's life direction and placing a talent in an organisation could change the course of the organisation.

Do you see a shift in specialist professional recruitment consultancies moving or expanding to Asia as a result of high unemployment in the West and if yes, in which discipline or sector would their initial focus be? B K Tan, Malacca

There would be a high demand for headhunting experts with the skill and capability to partner organisations specifically in sectors of growth such as Oil and Gas, ICT, aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul, education, green technology and engineering, healthcare and wellness services and advanced electronics and electrical sectors.

What are the five main reasons keeping Malaysian professionals abroad? Timmy Wong, Penang

The reasons may vary depending on the specific motivation level. The top five reasons are:

a. Global exposure and regional work challenges increase their market value.

b. Economic reasons and the stronger exchange rate is a plus.

c. Better education opportunities for their children.

d. Graduates remaining abroad after completing their tertiary education in order to gain exposure.

e. Malaysians who have foreign spouses find it difficult to give up all the links they have built abroad over time.