No great resignation in Malaysia

Professionals in Malaysia highly value salary packages, good leadership and healthy workplace culture 


THE much-publicised “great resignation” appears to be more muted in South-East Asia, according to the Robert Walters Great Resignation Reality Check survey. 

The global recruitment firm recently surveyed over 2,600 professionals and more than 1,100 companies in the region to understand the attitudes held towards resignations, staff turnover situations and unlock retention motivators. 

It said that professionals in the region are valuing job security during uncertain times, with more than half, or 59% indicating that they are uncomfortable quitting without a new job offer. 

Meanwhile, 81% of those who have thought of resigning are willing to change their minds if conditions are right. 

“Professionals in Malaysia highly value salary packages, good leadership and healthy workplace culture. These are contributing factors that will retain talent,” it said. 

However, the survey found that hiring new talent remains challenging in South-East Asia, especially in Malaysia, which saw 83% of companies finding it more difficult to do so in the past year. 

“High expectation on salary and benefits was cited as one of the biggest challenges for sourcing talent (66%), followed by high competition for candidates (55%) and lacking industry experience (44%),” it added. 

Last year, about 79% of professionals across South-East Asia had the intention to resign which is close to half, or 42% have yet to do so. 

“Malaysia saw the most professionals or 82% who have thought of quitting their jobs in the past year, followed by Singapore and Thailand both at 80%. 

Additionally, 87% of companies think employee turnover or resignations in their organisations have increased in the past year. 

“However, 62% of professionals in Malaysia will not quit without a better opportunity lined up, just slightly behind Singapore at 64%,” it noted. 

Rather than a great resignation, the firm views that businesses can expect an accelerated hiring market across South-East Asia in the coming year. 

Robert Walters MD for South-East Asia Gerrit Bouckaert foresees that professionals in the region are not quitting on a whim, but rather looking to move between jobs. 

“In the face of a possible recession, we expect more cautious professionals, who would only move when they have another job offer on hand,” Bouckaert said. 

Of the 82% of professionals in Malaysia who considered resigning in the past year, 39% eventually stayed on because they have not found a new job yet. Reasons provided for the retention were 58% did not find a new job yet, uncertain about the new workplace’s culture and suitability (26%), and concerned about job security at a new company (25%). 

Nonetheless, about 81% of Malaysian professionals would reconsider their intention of resigning if the conditions are right. 

While salary increment continues to be the main determinant, the survey noted that changed job responsibilities (26%) and a change of leadership (24%) are the other crucial factors that will make the professionals change their minds. 

“In view of this, employers have stepped up efforts in taking necessary measures to retain staff, such as matching or increasing salaries (58%), offering training and upskilling opportunities (56%), and providing a clear pathway for career development (44%),” it added.

A staggering 86% of professionals also revealed that they have re-evaluated their other life aspects when it comes to career, now prioritising their mental and physical well-being (76%), time spent with their loved ones (70%) and the meaning or fulfilment of their jobs (68%). 

“This corresponds to this year’s findings by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), noting that many employers are now adopting flexible work arrangements to cater to employees’ evolving needs such as having a work-life balance, as well as physical and emotional health,” it said. 

On the other hand, Malaysia may be experiencing a “great layoff” scenario, as opposed to a great resignation. 

Recently, major companies in Malaysia were already announcing layoffs including e-commerce platform Shopee and tech firm Carsome. 

According to Syed Hussain, the number of employees that lost their jobs up to September 2022 is still manageable and lower than the average alert line

MEF president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said that the layoffs came on the back of looming economic uncertainties and an increase in the interest rate by the US Federal Reserve. 

“Thus, the cost of funds for business operations is getting more expensive. Most businesses are trying to maintain and are forced to focus on their bottom lines instead of expanding their operations,” Syed Hussain said in an email reply to The Malaysian Reserve. 

However, he said that the number of employees that lost their jobs up to September 2022 is still manageable and lower than the average alert line, compared to 5,000 job losses in a month in 2021, according to the Employment Insurance System (EIS). 

“Based on the data provided by EIS, the situation on the ground is not as bad as what had been reported in social media,” he said. 

Nevertheless, he noted that the days ahead can be challenging for the private sector’s employers and employees. 

“MEF had always been calling upon the government to be slow in introducing new policies that add costs of doing business. 

“It is all about timing and it is not the right time to introduce such policies now,” he said. 

He said that most employers in the private sector are focusing on recovering their businesses due to Covid-19 and the big floods last year. 

“We hoped that there should be closer collaboration between the employees, unions, employers and the government to minimise layoffs in the event where the economic situation becomes more uncertain,” he added. 

Meanwhile, he suggested that the stakeholders should abide by the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony in which employers should take the necessary actions if retrenchment is inevitable. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition