Incentives pay off in keeping workers happy

Lunch time: Loganathan (right) and Ramesh (second right) inspecting the flow of workers getting their meals in the factory cafeteria. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: A few thoughtful incentives can help a lot in keeping workers happy.

Since it is difficult to recruit foreign workers during the pandemic, a US-based multinational corporation (MNC) in Bayan Lepas has managed to reduce its first-month resignations of rank-and-file local workers from 52% to less than 7% through its incentives.

For starters, newly recruited factory operators at Lumileds Malaysia Sdn Bhd would get free lunches on their first week.

They are also given RM200 in their e-wallets every week on the first month. This is on top of their gross basic salary of RM1,200.

“Many new hires have zero money when they come to work. They can’t wait for their first pay to come in,” said its senior talent acquisition senior executive Noorsafwan Ensah.

“The free transport and housing, plus guaranteed overtime, are a big help,” Noorsafwan added.

New employees get RM300 extra if they stick to it for the first three months, another RM300 after the next three months, and RM600 if they work for six more months.

This is on top of the “specialists bonus” that they get every three months, a payout depending on the company’s profits and ranging from RM350 to RM800.

There is also a night shift allowance of RM15, morning shift allowance of RM5 and a permanent daily meal allowance of RM2.50 (but it is RM3.50 on Wednesdays because the canteen serves western food then).

All in, this gives rank-and-file employees a starting gross pay of RM2,400 a month.

The MNC’s talent acquisition global head Ramesh Manickam said more than a quarter of this MNC’s manufacturing specialists used to be foreigners, but who now make up just about 10% to 15% of the workforce.

With entry into Malaysia largely remaining closed to prevent Covid-19 infections, the MNC expects foreign labour participation to continue dropping.

Lumileds Malaysia managing director Loganathan Muniandy said in the past, more than half of the Malaysians who joined as manufacturing specialists would quit within three days.

But now, they lose fewer than seven out of every 100.

He explained that their manufacturing specialists would work in clean rooms that require them to don jumpsuits, which involved a long list of procedures.

“Then there is a regiment of steps to follow when operating the machinery. Many of the new hires could not cope and would resign after two or three days.

“I owe it to our talent acquisition team who worked out what it takes to make them stay,” Loganathan said.

But local industrialists said this was a tough act to follow.

“Even large hi-tech local companies cannot match the pay packages of MNCs.

“The government must allow us to bring in foreign workers again,” said Emico Holdings Berhad executive director Datuk Jimmy Ong, who is the immediate past chairman of Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers’ Penang chapter.

Ong said that an MNC had recently offered a RM4,500 monthly pay to fresh engineering graduates.

“The demand for workers now is more than the supply. It is at a critical stage,” Ong said.

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