Malaysia’s Talent: From Great Resignation To Great Burnout

image courtesy: Microsoft

From the Great Resignation to the Great Burnout, employers in Asia continue to grapple with shifting employee priorities,
Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study underscores how winning organizations are tuning into employee needs and values to rethink ways of working, upskilling, and well-being for success in Malaysia.

Talent attraction and retention are top of mind for executives across Asia, with seven in 10 executives saying they face a labor shortage crisis. The talent challenge also shows no signs of abating.

Despite 85% of employees in Asia feeling satisfied in their current role, nearly two in five still plan to leave in the next six to 12 months, reflecting that organizations have yet to keep up with evolving employee expectations of work and the workplace. Drawing on insights from nearly 11,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders, and employees globally, Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study, “The Rise of the Relatable Organization” highlights how winning organizations prioritize reskilling and well-being while partnering with employees to co-create the new shape of work.

Work in Partnership: Workplace flexibility is not a key consideration for employers in Malaysia One in two employees across Asia say the future of work is about balance – fitting work around life and no longer life around work. Compared to 2020, employees today say they are more likely to stay with their employer due to “life” related factors, such as flexibility and time off, compared to “work” related factors, such as career progression and development. One in three employees in Asia are willing to forgo pay increases to be able to work flexibly, closely followed by well-being benefits. Nearly seven in 10 employees say not being able to work remotely or hybrid permanently is a deal breaker when considering whether to join or stay with an organization.

However, more so than employees in Asia and organizations globally, executives in Asia are concerned about the impact of permanent hybrid and remote working, especially the ability to build and maintain colleague relationships (89%). Seven in 10 also believe fundamentally that work gets done in an office, not remotely. With 48% organizations in Asia saying they are struggling with scaling up and sustaining hybrid work, there is significant work to be done in evolving their flexible work culture.

Koay Gim Soon, Market Leader, Malaysia, Mercer, said, “Even though new, flexible work models have been implemented as a result of the pandemic, employers are still worried about how these arrangements might impact business performance. From our observation, workplace flexibility is not a primary consideration for employers when it comes to the attraction and retention of talent in Malaysia, as they recognize that Malaysian employees are still predominantly driven by rewards and opportunities to grow their careers.”

Build for Employability: Companies in Malaysia struggling to keep pace with emerging skill needs The pandemic supercharged companies’ race to reskill, with organizations globally investing more than US$2,800 per learner in reskilling last year, up from US$1,400 in 2020. However, it is unclear if the investment is paying off. Nearly all (95%) employees in Asia reported recently learning a new skill, yet a staggering 97% of companies report significant skill gaps in their organization.

While providing opportunities to reskill and upskill is top of the people agenda of organizations in Asia in 2022, barriers remain. Lack of time aside (36%), one in four employees said they are not sure which skills to focus on as well as where to go to learn a new skill for work. HR leaders, too, have their reservations. They find it difficult to keep up with the pace of change and emerging skill needs (37%), identify employees with the most potential to effectively leverage new skills (36%) and are concerned that upskilled talent will leave the firm (35%).

Addressing skill gaps is more pressing than ever for organizations to realize their strategy, meet evolving business needs and ensure the employability of their talent well into the future. The good news is HR leaders in Asia are looking to build skills internally rather than acquiring talent, a significant shift from prepandemic. They are also seeing the greatest impact from targeted learning investments (42%) and experiential learning through internal rotations (42%). Mr Koay added, “When confronted with competing priorities, both employers and employees in Malaysia are struggling to keep pace with change and emerging skill needs within their organizations. While companies globally are investing almost double of what they used to invest in reskilling, companies in

Malaysia is either keeping to its existing budgets or cost-cutting in this area. The lack of education and recognition for reskilling is getting in the way of these efforts in Malaysia.” Deliver on Total Well-Being: Employers need to focus on the holistic employee experience The percentage of energized employees has dropped significantly from 74% in 2019 to 63% this year – the lowest level in the study’s seven-year history. Eight in 10 employees in Asia also feel at risk of
burnout. With nearly all (98%) organizations planning significant transformation this year, the collective fatigue could put these plans at risk. Yet only one in four executives and HR leaders in Asia view employee exhaustion as a threat to transformation or a driver of attrition.

Mr Koay said, “Burnout is not the only driving force behind the Great Resignation, as many employees still value job security in Malaysia. What we’ve observed is that it can be just down to how work policies are communicated and implemented which is adding to stress levels, because employees feel they don’t have the autonomy to decide how work fits into their lives and the new norm. This renewed focus on the employee experience is something employers should pay more attention to.”

Understanding the Talent Drivers
A fundamental change in people’s values is underpinning a structural shift in the labor market. With a record number of employees switching jobs last year, understanding talent drivers is critical. Job security, organizational brand, and reputation is the #2 reason for employees who joined their current employer, up from #9 before the pandemic. Staying relevant requires organizations to listen intently to their stakeholders and walk the talk on their core values through company purpose and work standards.

Renée McGowan, President – Asia, Middle East & Africa, Mercer, said, “Recovery in the region remains fragile amid challenges of rising inflation, geopolitical conflicts, climate change, and digitalization. A top worry for executives in Asia is business resilience, which is closely intertwined with the resilience of their workforce. A thriving workforce creates a thriving business. Now more than ever, organizations need to consider the role of all their employees in shaping solutions and addressing challenges from hybrid work and well-being to reskilling and sustainability – so they’ll feel more relevant, connected, and valued.”

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