We speak to Dhiva Karthik, Managing Consultant of CXL Executive Search Division, to tap the pulse of the job market and identify what’s trending in the labour market.
According to Dhiva, an anomaly has occurred where there is a record breaking number of job openings in the market per candidate yet the unemployment rate is low at 3.7% as of 3Q 2022 and down to 3.6% in October (source: Department of Statistics Malaysia). In terms of job openings, 3Q 2022 also saw a 9.9% surge compared to the previous quarter, registering its highest growth since 4Q 2021. Based on this, candidates in Malaysia are actually spoilt for choice, what more when they can choose from permanent, contractual, part-time, freelance to the casual assignments in the gig economy.
To decipher the demand and supply issue, it’s dependent on where you’re looking from because gone are the days when employees are content with just a paycheck. Among others, they now put an employer’s offer letter under the microscope and scrutinise attributes such as the company’s vision, the job’s purpose, potential exposure and work-life balance. Just on the latter alone, it is also worth noting that the talent market has just begun prioritising it in a much larger way, right after the endemic phase began.
The “Balanced” Variant of the 21st Century
The bold demand for a “balanced lifestyle” has in fact become a double edged sword for some smaller companies because the quest for “freedom” somewhat levelled the playing field these SMEs too can vie for the best candidates. Like the paycheck consideration, gone are also the days when everyone will flock to the big boys and sacrifice their waking hours to work around the clock and toil over the weekends just to be part of a large or international company. These days, talents have an affinity for close knitted companies where freedom and respect are the inseparable twins at the workplace, particularly so for SME service providers in Penang.
In terms of job openings, we now see a sudden rise in demand for talents in the Finance, Key Account, Customer Service, Supply Chain and the IT industries. These are mainly a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic which led to a mass drive for digitalisation.
As for the hot jobs in the big cities like Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru, they are:
- Revenue or Treasury-related – to cope with the high interest rate environment, manage a company’s cash flows;
- HR – in particular tech companies to restructure and redesign their organizations to meet changing business environment;
- Supply Chain – impacted by global supply chain issues and shortages of key components;
- Customer Service – a result of digitalisation & business process simplications;;
- Tech or IT – evergreen, highest in demand now; and
- Communications – PR, corporate communications, government liaisons as a reactive measure to the change in government.
Whether employers in these cities are able to find suitable candidates quick enough to fill the vacancies, it is up to how nimble the hiring managers are in looking in the right direction. It’s no rocket science here but the magic rests on where these talents are usually located, like a symbiotic relationship along the food chain.
For example, IT talents are mostly located around Klang Valley and employers from other states will inevitably have to come to the city to search for them. For the engineers, Mechanical Engineers, which by the way is the most popular type of engineering variant in Malaysia, are generally in Johor, Perak, Terengganu, Pahang etc.
Electronics & Electrical Engineers have a higher presence in Penang, attracted by the industrial, electronics and advanced manufacturing ecosystem there. Chemicals-related professionals on the other hand like the Chemical Engineers are mostly found in Terengganu and Pahang due to the presence of raw materials, more relaxed emission control regulations and proximity to maritime terminals for export.
If we hear you right, it sounds like some roles might be more difficult to fill in certain cities than they are in others, is that right?
Yes because like in Penang, which is currently experiencing the fastest growth because of the new opportunities over at the mainland in Batu Kawan and also influenced by Kulim’s growing market in Kedah, it is short of talents for roles such as the customer-facing Technical Engineers, Key Account Managers, Application Engineers, Service Engineers and Supply Chain talents.
Over in Johor Bahru, the single biggest challenge to retain talent is the Singapore-factor, and this is an across-the-board issue plaguing all industries. As such, companies in the southern capital are encouraged to be more innovative and competitive so they stand a better chance against the Republic’s offerings.
For the tech roles, and as already indicated above, every state in the country faces a shortage and they have little choice but to source for them in Klang Valley. Sharing the same concentration area is also the shared services sector like finance, banking, HR, marketing (and digital marketing) and customer service.
Then for companies looking to hire the very senior executives for the strategic and visionary roles, it can be a daunting task to persuade them to relocate due to the risks associated with leaving a steady career which are sometimes complete with cushy retirement plans already well in place. A change to an uncharted territory can be quite nerve wrecking.
The rationale behind these nucleuses of talents can be traced to how government and industry agencies are at work. Like in Kuala Lumpur for instance, the stricter emission control regulations in the metropolis has driven the manufacturing sectors somewhere else and with that, the talents suited for the jobs have also followed suit. But because KL has traditionally been the country’s financial centre, this has motivated education institutions to offer courses related to such disciplines so graduating students can immediately plug in to the hiring companies.
Along the same vein, agencies like Invest Selangor (Invest Selangor Bhd), InvestPenang (Invest-in-Penang Bhd), JCorp (Johor Corporation), just to name a few, have also propped up incentives, economic thrusts and re-drafting policies to convince companies to set up shops and offer up jobs to talents in their respective states. But the billion Ringgit question is this, will the jobs and talents find each other?
In the next and concluding part of this 2-part series, we’ll take a look at the pivotal factors companies and candidates ought to factor into their hiring formulas and resumes to facilitate a better match between man and job.
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