Finding the right talent matters

  • Business
  • Tuesday, 06 May 2014

TWO months ago, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) announced that Selangor would undergo water rationing due to water reserves in several dams running low. As my home and office are both located in Selangor, I was one of those affected by the water rationing exercise.

But here is the irony — as I was writing this article, there was a downpour outside and it has been so for the past few weeks.

In fact, it rained almost every other day each week. So all should be well, the dams could now be filled and we were saved, surely?

Apparently, not. According to the water authorities, although the rain helped somewhat, it was not raining in the right areas — the water catchment zones.

The water rationing exercise would go on, and it seemed like a line straight out of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner — “Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink”.

Frustrating indeed!

As I pondered this, I could not help but think how similar the situation was to SME business owners on the hunt for talent.

Just as water is important to us for survival, human resources are also vital for our business to be healthy and continue growing.

Sure, some business people run their businesses as a one-man show for years and they do fine. But there is only so much one person can do. If they want their business to grow and expand, hiring and investing in talent is a must.

The problem for SME business owners is getting talent who will be willing to work in a small company as oppposed to the larger, multinational companies.

Most of the brighter and more suitable candidates would choose to work in the bigger companies and not small start-ups.

One girl whom I interviewed a few months ago told me she would not be interested in a permanent position with my company.

When asked why, she said she was only keen to join multinational firms.

Apparently, she had gone for interviews with those companies but she had not heard from them yet. So, while she waited for that dream offer to come her way, she said she did not mind doing temp work in my (obviously small) company.

I was surprised at the girl’s audacity but at least she was honest enough. Others would have just faked the enthusiasm to work in your small company during the interview, taken the job first and then bolt as soon as the multinational company’s offer came along.

This can be as late as several months later, after you have “painstakingly” invested time and energy training the new employee. And then, you will have to repeat the process all over again. And sometimes, again and again! For a small company, this can be exhausting and disruptive, as I mentioned in one of my previous columns.

Before starting my own company four years ago, I had worked in both start-ups and multinationals. In one particular start-up I had worked in, there was a time when the company could not pay us salaries for three months due to cash flow problems.

Yet my then colleagues and I continued to turn up at the office every day to work. In retrospect, I marvel at our commitment to our job and to the company. I do not think it will be easy to find people these days who are as dedicated as we were then.

Like the case of the rain and the dams in Selangor, it is not because it is hard to find people, as there are many unemployed people out there.

It is a case of finding the right people who will be committed to the company. Many among the new generation entering the workforce now either lack the commitment and hardiness to work in an SME or they do not have good communication skills. Nor are they able to grasp the true meaning of the word ‘work’.

So you can see the disconnect with more than 90% of SMEs in Malaysia on the lookout for talent but there are still many unemployed graduates.

That is why I think the search for talent for SMEs is akin to mining gold.

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Opinion , Jeanisha Wan , Starting Out , Column


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