Malaysia needs to reinvent workforce or risk losing competitive edge

Main pillar: A man works at an automotive plant in Pegoh, Melaka. The country’s large demographic comprising young talent, with a strong grasp of the English language and a wide variety of skills, is the foundation of the country’s economic growth.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia needs to reinvent its workforce or risk losing its competitive edge, according to HSBC Asia-Pacific general manager and head of human resources David Thomas.

In order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world with major developments in technology and to achieve its goal of becoming a high-income economy, he said it is crucial for the country to reinvent its workforce or risk losing out to more progressive countries.

This includes incorporating greater flexibility within organisations, as employees expect more choice over how, when and where they work, he told StarBiz in response to e-mail queries.

Thomas said it also includes supporting the country’s workforce to develop skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated trends like digitisation and challenged other notions like the ability to work from home.

“These advances have opened great opportunities globally. Simultaneously, it has forced organisations to rethink how they manage their workforce,” he added.

HSBC Asia-Pacific general manager and head of human resources David Thomas.HSBC Asia-Pacific general manager and head of human resources David Thomas.

Thomas said organisations in the Asia-Pacific are also recognising the need to move away from a singular focus of one or two strands to cover all strands of diversity such as generational, age, disability and cognitive diversity.

“We need to look to integrate all the strands, the intersectionality of diversity and move away from the targets that focus on only one or two areas.

“At the same time, it is vital to look at how we achieve inclusion and getting the diversity mix to work to achieve the maximum benefit for all employees,” he noted.

Furthermore, he said talent is industry agnostic as they have transferable skills which are highly sought after, particularly in technology.

Thomas said Malaysia is a hotbed of diverse talent. The country’s large demographic comprising young talent, with a strong grasp of the English language and a wide variety of skills, is the foundation of the country’s economic growth.

Supported by the government’s continued investment in human resource development, he said the quality of the nation’s workforce is superior.

Moreover, he said its unique location within the Asean region, robust infrastructure capabilities and competitive business landscape have been key reasons for attracting global talent to the country.

“For HSBC, these factors are critical for us as in addition to our financial services business in Malaysia, we also have one of our global shared service centres based in the country.

“This centre serves the operations of 39 different countries and is enabled by a diverse breed of talents to meet the varying needs of our global operations.

“The impact of the pandemic, and the rapid rise of digitalisation, has transformed how the labour force works today and the skills companies require,” he said.

Thomas said the government, the education sector and companies in Malaysia must work together to address this challenge and prevent an increase in the skills gap which creates greater inequality.

He added that corporations need to help their employees develop key skills in transferable areas like creativity and connectivity, as they underpin agile ways of working.

Other high-tech skills like data analytics, cloud computing and blockchain would continue to increase in demand, he said, noting that those who have expertise in these areas, in combination with strong transferable skills, would be even more employable.

To develop, attract and retain talent globally, Thomas said HSBC is building an inclusive organisation that prioritises well-being, invests in learning and careers and prepares colleagues for the future of work.

“We’ve introduced a hybrid working model, wherever appropriate, which allows us to strike the right balance between office-based work and home-based work.

“By implementing this model, HSBC aims to promote better health and well-being among its people while facilitating improved productivity as engagement between teams and customers becomes more purposeful.

“In Malaysia, HSBC’s move to Menara IQ at TRX is a reflection of the bank’s commitment to the future of work model, enabled by a hybrid work arrangement,” Thomas added.

He said that in the bank’s recent employee engagement survey for Malaysia, its employees reported an improvement when asked about whether the organisation cares for their well-being.

Various initiatives have been implemented in support of it, he noted.

Last year, HSBC invested nearly RM13mil in Malaysia in training opportunities aimed at building the capabilities of its employees.

For instance, the Digital Black Belt Programme launched last year is designed to equip employees with the appropriate future skills for themselves, the organisation and customers.

The programme, which is conducted virtually, comprises two streams, each with its respective cohort learning skills in data analytics and automation and machine learning. — By DALJIT DHESI

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