In 2020, Malaysia's labour market can expect to see female labour force participation rate to increase, and more employers turning to contracting as a key workforce strategy, Randstad Malaysia's 2020 Labour Market Outlook report predicted.

According to the report, highly-skilled local talent with regional exposure, cross cultural management experience and senior leadership capabilities continue to be highly sought-after by companies. But similar to other countries, such high in-demand talent tend to pursue opportunities abroad. Hence, the brain drain witnessed in the local labour market is likely to persist going into 2020.

The report also delved into the labour trends from three key industries and specialisations - information technology, fintech & banktech, and manufacturing & supply chain.

Information technology

With more companies choosing to expand in Malaysia and creating more jobs, candidates’ intention to switch employers is expected to be significantly higher in 2020.

Experienced tech professionals in the applications space may see a 20% to 25% salary hike when they change employers. Those in infrastructure may receive a salary increment of 15% when moving jobs. Employers looking to secure high-performing tech talent should also consider offering onboarding and contractual bonuses.

Experts equipped with niche skills in new technologies such as machine learning (ML)/ artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics process automation (RPA) will be highly sought-after. In particular, talent experienced in programming languages like Python and Golang will be in strong demand.

Despite an increase in hiring appetite, there remains a shortage of skilled talent in the labour market. Technology has made many rapid advancements in the past decade, but many workers are still playing catchup in acquiring new skills.

In light of the shortage in skills, employers should select candidates based on their learning potential rather than wait for one who has the perfect skills-match, and fill those gaps after employment through training programmes.

Fintech and banktech

Due to the growth in this space, middle-level professionals in banks and FIs are more likely to make the leap to join fintechs, especially if they are not promised a promotion or a substantial salary hike in the next 12 months.

Professionals who have prior experience in cyber security, either from agencies or with portfolios in banks and financial institutions (FIs), will be highly in demand in 2020.

With fintech firms and banktech teams are highly focused on building their capabilities in ML/AI and RPA, experts equipped with niche skills in new technologies such as ML/AL and RPA will also be highly sought-after. In particular, talent experienced in programming languages like Python will see strong demand. While enterprise Java applications and other programming languages like Golang are popular, employers are placing a higher priority on Python as the foundation skill for tech talent.

Similar to the talent challenges in other mature markets, fintechs in Malaysia faces a shortage of skilled professionals. Instead of relying on past working experience, firms have been assessing talent more on their transferable skills such as learning potential, ability to problem-solve and stakeholder relationship management.

To meet acute shortfall in skills and high demand for talent, fintechs must offer a robust onboarding plan as well as adequate training and development programmes to help their new hires better adjust to the new environment. These could include on-the-job training, mentorship programmes and even buddy systems.

Manufacturing and supply chain

As the manufacturing and supply chain industries continue on its digital transformation journey, skills required to do the jobs will be significantly different, leading to an even wider skills gap if companies do not act fast enough.

Some of the new roles expected in Industry 4.0 include process development engineers, robotics engineers (hardware and software) and artificial intelligence specialists. Professionals equipped with these emerging skills would be highly sought-after as they will be the ones who will be leading the charge towards Industry 4.0.

Firms are expected to focus on optimising efficiencies with the existing resources. However, this does not mean driving employees to work longer every day. Instead, it means increasing per head output in the same number of working hours, which can only be achieved with a highly-skilled future-proof workforce.

Employers that are moving forward with their digital transformation plans should be able to identify the skills gaps and be willing to invest in training and development to get their workers up to speed.

Across all three industries, while salary remains a highly attractive factor, other factors such as employee benefits, culture, career progression, and ample learning opportunities have also become increasingly important to the local workforce.

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