Malaysia’s brain drains not just about salary

It is also attributable to the working environment, standard of living and career growth opportunities


THERE may be more reasons for Malaysians seeking greener pastures elsewhere than just the money such as safety, the standard of living as well as career growth opportunities.

Randstad Malaysia head of operations Fahad Naem said employers can do more to bring these talents back to Malaysia for knowledge sharing and improve the skills of the local talent pool.

In Randstad Malaysia’s recent Workmonitor survey, 64% of respondents said they want a safe work environment, 52% want the opportunity to do meaningful work, while 49% want job flexibility to accommodate commitments outside of work and at the same time recording a change in career priorities.

“Employers are increasingly meeting these heightened expectations to secure skilled talents. Talents that are equipped with niche skills and relevant experience may negotiate for up to a 10% pay raise when they change jobs while those who work in specialised areas within technology such as cybersecurity and blockchain may negotiate for up to a 35% pay raise when they switch employers

“In addition to salary, companies are also introducing initiatives such as flexible work arrangements and better healthcare support,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

Fahad said abroad, the job security depends on the employment laws as well as the industry and career choice.

“The more in-demand the job, the more likely it is for the worker to gain a sense of confidence in their job stability.

“However, there are many factors to consider when moving abroad, especially the psychological impact of leaving your safety net and social community,” he added.

On the other hand, Mercer’s Market Leader for Malaysia Koay Gim Soon said it is appropriate for local talent to work abroad given the opportunities available there, should the depreciation of the ringgit and inflation affect Malaysia.

“With the depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit, it may be more enticing for talent to consider relocating overseas especially Singapore due to the variance in currency.

“However, currency value which is linked to compensation is only one of many factors for talent to consider before moving overseas, that may include the practical relocation and family considerations, cultural barriers, tax implications, as well as lifestyle and cost of living.

“Currency value impacts the remuneration for employees so it may be a push factor, especially those who are open to the idea of relocation. Employers who want to retain and attract top talent must continually review and factor this into their overall compensation packages,” he added.

Although salary is still a key consideration for most employees in Malaysia, employers can do better by taking action in areas such as enhancing workplace flexibility, providing better health benefits and offering more opportunities for their staff to expand their skills portfolio (pic: MUHD AMIN NAHARUL/TMR)

According to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study, employees are reconsidering their priorities and employment choices around balance — how they can fit work around life and not life around work.

Therefore, apart from compensation, this renewed focus on the employee experience will also be a major push and pull factor for talent who are considering leaving Malaysia to pursue job opportunities overseas.

In terms of benefits offered by companies to retain their employees, Koay highlighted two perspectives to the matter.

Firstly, multinational companies would be able to offer international assignments as growth opportunities for their best talents and relocation packages are usually more attractive than local packages in most cases.

Meanwhile, for companies that do not offer talent mobility, increasing the rewards package would be the most direct and effective talent retention plan.

“From our observation, companies in Malaysia have been putting a greater focus on the rewards component since the pandemic to make their reward packages more competitive as they ramp up hiring efforts.

“However, even though salary is still a key consideration for most employees in Malaysia, employers can do better by taking action in areas such as enhancing workplace flexibility, providing better health benefits and offering more opportunities for their staff to expand their skills portfolio,” he said.

While off-cycle salary reviews are an option, insights from Mercer’s pulse survey conducted between January and February 2022 showed that salary increase budget adjustments were fairly divided amid rising inflation.

Across Asia Pacific, almost three in five companies reported that their salary increase budget is already aligned or they have increased their budgets to align with inflation.

“When companies were asked if they were planning to implement more frequent or off-cycle salary increases in 2022 due to inflation, 61% reported that no additional reviews or increases are planned,” Koay added.

Local talent leaving to work abroad is certainly detrimental to the country, however, in a long-term perspective, he opined that working abroad enhances the personal and professional growth, and development of individuals, thus, increasing Malaysia’s talent pool and diversity when they return.

On the same note, according to Hays Malaysia, employers have plans to increase salaries this year, besides providing flexible working arrangements that would largely be dependent on company or role type as well as company policy.

Based on their findings across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore in the 2022 Asia Salary Guide, 52% of organisations intend to add to their workforce in the next 12 months, 80% plan on increasing salaries, while work-life balance is the top reason why employees want to remain in their current company.

Previously, TMR reported that 72% of Malaysian workers considered working abroad and were amplified by several factors where 45% want salary increment, 32% want more rewards and recognition, 28% want promotion, 28% want introduction of a bonus structure and 24% want flexible working options.