Not only does the objective of employee mobility need to be clearly defined, but the process should be end-to-end – from the compensation, career development, transfer of knowledge, company requirements, statutory requirements, and more. This point was affirmed at Workforce Mobility Interactive 2019, Malaysia.

Produced by Human Resources’ Low Yee Ching, Workforce Mobility Interactive is an annual conference devoted to solving the challenges faced by global mobility and HR professionals across Asia.

[Check out photos from the conference]

To kick off the event, we dissected workforce mobility in Malaysia and distinguished emerging, in a session led by Jacob Jacob, Group Chief Human Resource Officer, Columbia Asia Healthcare.

"Mobility strategy is not something that is to be looked at in isolation. It is very much a part and parcel of your business strategy and the environment within which the company operates – the markets you are present and your ability to scale up," he said.

Therefore, the starting point of any employee mobility strategy, he said, is where the business is today and where it wants to go. "The how-to-get-there is determined by your mobility strategy which forms one component of the tenets of enterprise growth.

Per Jacob, the thinking should start with the following:

  • Assessment of your company priorities and what it takes to scale up?
  • In scaling up, what are the components in your talent design framework?
  • How will my talent design look at current skill sets and future skill sets?
  • How do I bridge the gap?
  • What roles do I grow? What roles do I move?
  • A thorough relook at my talent repository and does it really give me a competitive advantage in terms of my business strategy and workforce mobility?

Post his session, Human Resources caught up with Jacob Jacob with some of the key questions that the delegates were most curious to know more about:

Q How much do we need technology and automation to implement the tenets of the global workforce strategy?

Technology has to always be an enabler. Can technology help me take decisions in terms of talent readiness and potential assessment? This will play a key role in predicting the quality of talent and its ability to perform in different markets.

You need to have a pulse on where your organisation is moving to and the current skill sets that exist in the organisation. Without knowing your current status of talent, there is no way a company will be able to implement the tenets of a global workforce strategy.

Q In companies with a high population of expats, how can we make them feel a sense of belonging rather than just relocating to Malaysia for the job?

What is most important are the culture, values, leadership principles and purpose of your company. If these are the fundamental foundations on which your company is built, then there is a story to tell, a good experience to enrich and most importantly a binding force which excites people to come and work for the organisation.

These have to be thought-through and only then can the other factors of role, compensation, etc. be decided. This way, the culture of the organisation permeates right through each and every individual and can make that difference rather than just a job or an expat posting.

Q How do you propose to balance the perceived inequality in compensation of the expat and the local in a similar grade?

Your compensation philosophy has to be clearly articulated and the principles for the same must be clearly laid. Jobs which come with a  premium must be highlighted and postings which come with a premium too must be highlighted. This way you have different strands for different roles, grades etc.

There must be perceived equity in every job. Deviations must be justified.

International companies place a premium on expat talent without having too much of a differentiation in monthly income and benefits. Deviations exist to about 25% premium levels for expats.

The big difference, however, will always lie in the bonus system that takes into account delivery mechanisms for output delivered.


Other speakers at the conference included Sharmeel Kaur, Head of Human Resources, DHL Asia Pacific Shared Services; and Daphne Lok, HR Director, Oyo Rooms.

Throughout the day, delegates were also engaged in four roundtable discussion topics, each led by a table moderator across both sides of the room:

Workforce mobility planning

  • Lim Phing Phing, Director, Global Mobility Services, PwC International Assignment Services
  • Subetra Maruthamuthu, Head of Human Resources, Infinity Blockchain Ventures
Compliance & risk management
  • Kenneth Z Tan, Head of Human Resources, Sunsuria
  • Steve Burson, CEO, Orientations Inc.- Relo Network Asia
Revamping the expat package
  • Syahrul Azmi, HRBP and Manager, Talent Management, Green Packet
  • Dr Loo Leap Han, Group Head of Human Resources and Administration, Kota Menara Ufuk
Technology-empowered mobility
  • Ariff Azmi, Senior International Mobility Subject Matter Expert, Shell
  • Lim Chee Gay, Chief Human Resources Officer, Teledirect
Thank you to the sponsors and partners of Workforce Mobility Interactive 2019, Malaysia:

Silver sponsors:

  • AGS Worldwide Movers & Records Management
  • Nilai International School
  • Orientations Inc.- Relo Network Asia