DESPITE the sluggish market, it isn’t all doom and gloom – if you’re a senior specialist in candidate-short markets.
Top-tier skilled talents in accounting, finance, banking, human resources, IT, legal and compliance, supply chain, procurement and engineering fields can still expect a 10per cent to 25per cent jump in salary, the latest Robert Walters Global Salary Survey shows.
Sally Raj, managing director of the specialist professional recruitment firm in Malaysia, says candidates with relevant, specific experience will be in demand throughout the year, particularly sales and marketing professionals and those with tax and cloud computing expertise.
Companies will even pay for candidates in their 20s if they have a solid education, at least four years of experience in a reputable company, and the potential to take on leadership roles, she says.
With technology growing rapidly, more firms will use digital channels to boost revenue so they need IT specialists skilled in big data and e-commerce, she says.
“We’re anticipating growth in IT with companies moving their development hubs to Malaysia for cost efficiency.”
In banking, regulatory and risk governance experts will be priority hires. Malaysia, she says, remains the biggest player in the global Islamic banking industry, which will drive more opportunities especially for Islamic asset management professionals.
“The hiring process might take longer because of the increased scrutiny of candidates. Getting approval to hire is slower because banks have adopted a more stringent candidate vetting process.”
As more multinational corporations move to Malaysia, there will be a higher demand for accounting and finance professionals experienced in project management and shared services.
“The accounting and finance industry’s growth is slower than previous years but there are vacancies, especially for those who speak Japanese, Korean and Mandarin. Also, commercially-minded accountants and tax professionals skilled in GST are scarce, so we expect companies to consider candidates from other South-East Asian countries.”
Some 6per cent of foreign workers are in high-skilled jobs, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan shares. He admits there’s a need for more highly skilled expatriates to meet demand for specialised skills, adding that there were 151,687 expatriates in Malaysia from January to August last year.
The majority came from Bangladesh, followed by India, China and the Philippines. They were mainly employed in the services, ICT, manufacturing and construction sectors.
There’s a growing call for the Government to review the current policy of bringing in expatriates for mid-level categories as they would be competing with locals for jobs, he says.
“Recruiting foreign talent will be more expensive, as they’re given extra benefits like free housing. And their personal tax is paid by the employer.”
Key talent and returning Malaysians can command premium salaries, Raj says. Across sectors, however, hiring is only for replacement positions or within critical business units. And major cuts are expected in the oil and gas industry.
“We have had no news of perks being slashed or employers demanding that their new hires do what’s beyond their job description. We haven’t had a situation, for example, where the employer says: I want a sales manager who’s also great in marketing or product management.
“It could be the case for those who are already employed. The company might want to upskill them to take on another role but if you’re applying to join a company, they don’t expect you to do two jobs.”
Whether 2016 is an employer’s or an employee’s market depends on which sector you are looking at, Raj says.
Shamsuddin agrees. He says during a slowdown, the rate of job creation would depend on the economic growth of the specific sectors. While the oil and gas sector was negatively impacted by falling prices, the electrical and electronics sector has registered positive growth of 7.9per cent, he says, citing an example.
Many companies are “right sizing” to ensure that the right talent remains in the company so that when the economy picks up, they can resume full operations. If job opportunities are available, they will be offered to those with experience. But job hopping just for more money may not be the right strategy going forward, he thinks.
“It’s risky for employees to change jobs during volatile economic conditions because of the possibility of retrenchment.”
With a slowdown in recruitment, employers are upskilling their teams, Raj says. This will help companies retain their top talent in preparation for the economy’s recovery, as hiring is expected to rise in the latter half of 2016 as Malaysia’s economy stabilises.
“In times of market uncertainty, companies must see the long-term value of investing in their employees. Staff retention is now more crucial than ever as Malaysian professionals are highly motivated by training and development initiatives as well as leadership opportunities,” she shares.
And, to secure top talent, she advises hiring managers to focus on monetary benefits for lower-level employees, and on professional and career development for leadership candidates. Overseas or career secondments and involvement in rewarding executive programmes will be particularly attractive, she says.
Companies train staff so they can deliver greater value to the organisation but due to the economic uncertainty, the training budget will likely be cut, Shamsuddin says.
This year, and possibly up to 2017, will be very challenging for sectors like oil and gas, property, construction, and retail, he foresees. While companies would like to retain their talent, that is subject to the impact of the slowdown on their operations, he rationalises.
But whether you’re in an industry that’s in trouble or not, you should always keep your options open, Raj advises.
“Put your feelers out for better career prospects. Look up reputable recruiters that represent established clients. There are many so-called ‘recruiters’ with no authority to represent any company. These unethical outfits simply pick up job portal ads and claim to represent the employer.
“A good recruiter will suss out your prospective employer and ask important questions like how the position became vacant and how the company handled the last economic downturn. An employer with a good track record won’t simply let their staff go.”
Wages as a percentage to gross domestic product stood at 34per cent in 2014, and this is considerably lower than the level of a developed nation, which we aspire to become, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wrote in November last year.
With this, employees can expect a more equitable salary from their companies so long as they do not compromise on productivity, he posted on najibrazak.com.