Survey: 50% of employers plan to reduce headcount, freeze hiring


APPROXIMATELY half of Robert Walters consultancy service’s Malaysian employer clients are planning to reduce headcount or freeze hiring this year.

Robert Walters Malaysia and Philippines country head Kimberlyn Lu said the 2021 market will continue to be challenging for employers, employees and job-seekers.

“Nevertheless, there are opportunities out there and candidates will need to be well-rounded, with not just technical skills and experience, but the ability to adapt and learn the dynamics of an ever-changing marketplace,” she said.

The overall conservative hiring approach during the year also means that hiring proposals will be strictly scrutinised and many organisations may opt to recruit internally to manage costs.

“On remuneration, job-movers can expect a lower-than-usual salary increment of 12% to 15% or even down to a direct match of their last drawn pay as companies attempt to manage cashflow and employee headcount.

“For currently employed candidates, it is likely that wages remain stagnant across this cycle or with very moderate pay increases, with the exception of top performers who may still be able to draw good increments, bonuses and even promotions,” the Robert Walter’s Salary Survey 2021 noted.

However, the study also found that 53% employers plan to train or upskill their staff while 42% plan to increase their investment in technology, apps and tools.

The study also found that accounting and finance, banking and financial services, engineering, human resources, legal and supply chain job markets are expected to remain conservative for the months to come, while high-demand sectors such as essential services, technology, pharmaceutical and healthcare, insurance, risk and compliance, and renewable energy to have some bright spots.

Meanwhile, sales and marketing positions are expected to recover especially in jobs focused on e-commerce, digital marketing and overall sales as companies are looking to strengthen their income streams in the new normal.

Roles in technology and transformation are expected to grow further as companies are paying more attention to digital operations and protecting that framework to ensure business continuity.

In the northern region, the recruitment market sees more dynamic movement in the engineering, technology and transformation, and sales, which is driven by the proliferation of manufacturers of medical devices and electronics as well as IT shared services.

“On an operational level, this year will see the rewiring of professionals’ and organisational expectations towards work and work-life balance.

“As professionals adapt to remote working and managing remote teams, organisations will need to further evaluate the long-term impact of a remote working style, and determine unique approaches in areas like having a virtual or hybrid workplace,” the study noted.

The 2021 survey is the consultant’s 22nd iteration of the report, based on an analysis of placements made across its network of offices and specialist disciplines throughout 2020 from approximately 650 employees from various levels and industries and 180 employers.