What is the recruitment market like in Malaysia at the moment?

 The Malaysia market currently is buoyant and we are optimistic. This is driven by a host of factors including the relative cost to quality of highly skilled staff on offer, which is attracting businesses to set up hubs in location, and business-friendly policies that are acting as a catalyst to investment and corresponding business growth and skills development. The Malaysia market is not without its challenges though, as whilst companies are on a ‘warpath’ for talent in areas such as software development, data and digital marketing, this is putting a strain on the availability of candidates. Added to this, many of the skills in demand are new to Malaysia, so the talent pools are fairly shallow in certain areas. Thankfully, the picture is changing in terms of the talent ecosystem as it catches up with demand, but this will be a gradual process, so employers need to be mindful of this and adopt, at least, a medium-term view on fully equipping themselves with the talent they need in line with objectives. That said, Malaysia is a relatively visa friendly setting, so for certain subject matter expert positions, the best path to go for is the ex-pat route. This can provide more expensive in the short term, but offers a knowledge transfer opportunity for companies looking to up-skill in a short time frame. So successfully recruiting for companies in the Malaysia market requires an ability to navigate the considerations above and provide expectation management and solutions to clients accordingly.

What are the current opportunities for your business in Malaysia?

 There are many excellent opportunities in view that relate to our core global objectives and align well with our brand.

These include Malaysia’s growth as a digital hub, especially in Technology across the following areas: Full stack engineering, mobile development, UI & UX; Business intelligence, Big Data & Data Science; Digital Business transformation; Cybersecurity; Digital & Performance Marketing; Adtech, Martech & programmatic; and Social Media.

This growth comes from many business types, though most notably digital native companies such as fintech & cashless payments, ecommerce, travel sites, social media and classifieds. We are also seeing a significant uptick in demand from corporates embarking on a journey of digital transformation, such as financial services, wealth management and insurance and FMCG.

 As companies look to up-skill and drive transition effectively as possible across short time-frames, the role of ‘contracting’ is also becoming more prevalent, especially in technology implementation.

What about the current challenges?

 The biggest challenge currently is based on 2 related factors.

 As mentioned above, given the spike in demand in niche digital areas this is putting considerable strain on certain talent pools. Consequently, we are seeing issues of attrition come into play as candidates are drawn to the highest bidder rather than consider their long-term future based on personal and career development opportunities and company culture. For Malaysia to brace itself during this period of economic transition, it’s very important therefore for companies to invest in their employer value proposition, general quality of management, and training and development to promote retention culture and counter the ‘merry-go-round’ effect.

The other related point is expectation management on the part of clients. Companies coming to Malaysia may be drawn to cost point and relatively business-friendly culture. However, this does come at a cost in terms of relative skills availability in certain areas. Companies need to be realistic and think about hiring 80% skills match and 100% culture alignment to build a ‘dream team’ over a 2 year period rather than expecting a ready-made solution on day one.

How do your Malaysia operations compare to the rest of your APAC operations?

 Our Malaysia operations broadly reflect our global vision, and a business model based on the specializations we have set up. It’s best described as a mid-sized operation, though given growth in the region, we do expect it to be one of our fastest growing. This is most likely to be in areas such as Technology and potentially Contracting which is an area we are currently exploring. The goal, however, is always to keep things consistent to enable us to ‘join the dots’ regionally and globally to provide our clients with the best customer experience possible. What’s changed perhaps in the last 5 years is the extent to which many of our global accounts in more mature locations now have a presence in Malaysia, which is certainly good news for Salt!