In the current post-COVID business climate, change and innovation are the only constant. To find new pockets of growth and thrive in 2021, it is imperative for companies to stay agile. 

In line with that, Randstad Malaysia yesterday released its 2021 Market Outlook & Salary Snapshot Report that delved into the economic climate and recruitment landscape for the year ahead. 

The market outlook report provided labour market intelligence, talent analysis and salary snapshots that employers in three key sectors - technology, manufacturing, and construction - can anticipate in 2021.

Jaya Dass, Managing Director for Randstad Malaysia and Singapore said: "Organisational technology readiness was a critical focus in 2020, and it will continue to be for the years to come. Companies’ increasing focus on digital transformation will drive talent demand and shape the local workforce in 2021. There will be demand for highly specialised talent, particularly in areas such as Internet of Things, software development, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, robotics, project migration and change management."

She added that COVID-19 will continue to impact business and consumer performance, and the country's growth will depend on both the recovery of global powerhouses and domestic market performance.

"With change and innovation as a constant, companies must stay agile and find new pockets of growth in 2021," Dass added.

3 key trends in Malaysia's technology sector for 2021

Within the technology sector, companies are preparing for two main types of hiring scenarios: 

  1. Companies that still have unused 2020 HR budgets will want to secure good talent from the current active job seeking market in early 2021.
  2. If the COVID-19 situation worsens, companies may freeze hiring in the first half of 2021 (or until when the situation improves).

In line with this, the three key trends in this sector involve more opportunities for local talent, an evolving set of in-demand skills, and a more conservative approach towards switching jobs.

More job opportunities for local talent

Lockdowns, global demand for tech talent, and new labour policies have made it more challenging for companies to offshore and hire expats.

The above factors, combined with the launch of MYFutureJobs by the Malaysian government, has resulted in more job opportunities for local talent. 

While this is good news to job seekers, it may create new workforce management issues for tech companies. 

The success of the technology sector depends heavily on having a mix of local and foreign talent to facilitate knowledge transfer and build processes that take into account global knowledge and local nuances. Hence, these changes mean companies will need to find alternative solutions to overcome this workforce challenge.

A longer-term strategy should include a robust collaboration between organisations, educational institutions and the government to map in-demand future skills and ensure that their local talent are up-to-speed with their skills development.

In-demand tech skills and jobs in 2021

Aligned with Randstad's projections on market growth, experienced talent in cybersecurity, app development, DevOps and digital marketing would be highly sought after in 2021.

At the same time, many employers are looking for candidates who have strong communication skills (across all tech roles). It is an increasing requirement for technologists to effectively communicate their progress, needs and outcomes with the business, senior management and investors. More often than not, they will also have to explain advanced technology in layman terms to help others better understand the progress and get organisational-wide buy-in for a new tech initiative.

Candidates’ appetite for changing jobs

Given the current climate, candidates are expected to be more conservative when it comes to switching employers in 2021.

The ‘pull’ factors have to be extremely compelling for the individual to consider the job. Some of the most common factors that candidates currently seek are corporate financial performance, workforce changes in the past few months as well as the organisation’s longterm investment plans in Malaysia.

At the same time, passive candidates will be harder to attract, and will only consider switching employers if the new role offers them exposure to new technology or the opportunity to do new things in their jobs. They will likely be looking for companies that can offer them the platform to develop their skills and experience in new technologies, such as AI, online payment gateways and fintech, rather than just a highly-attractive salary package.

Due to the surge in talent demand, app developers and cybersecurity experts can expect up to a 20% increment when switching employers in 2021.

3 highest paid roles in the technology sector (based on basic monthly salary): 

CTO / head of technology (enterprise) with 12 to 20 years of experience

  • Low: RM50,000
  • Mid: RM60,000
  • High: RM80,000

CTO / head of technology (start-up, SME) with 10 to 15 years of experience

  • Low: RM20,000
  • Mid: RM28,000
  • High: RM35,000

Security architect with five to 10 years of experience

  • Low: RM18,000
  • Mid: RM22,000
  • High: RM26,000

Top 4 trends in Malaysia's manufacturing sector for 2021

Hiring activity is expected to remain stable for the manufacturing industry in 2021, as the sector is expected to be resilient despite the pandemic. That said, the sector will still have to transform in line with the broader changes brought about by COVID-19.

The workforce model will become integrated

The workforce model for the manufacturing industry is shifting from one that is fully-permanent to one that is more integrated. This means that the company’s workforce will gradually consist of a mix of permanent employees, professional contractors and freelancers.

This brings about significant advantage for companies, as a highly-skilled and competitive workforce will always be available.

However, for the shift to be successful, companies should offer competitive remuneration packages that include training and development opportunities as well as leave and medical benefits. This will further strengthen the company’s employer brand in the market, raising their ability to attract high-quality talent and retain their valuable employees.

From the employee point of view, many may feel anxious about this shift due to the belief that contract-based work is not as secure as a permanent role. In reality, however, contract-based work can work to their advantage, developing their skills and building their network across different industries with each job opportunity.

Digital technologies will transform job responsibilities

As part of digital transformation, manufacturers are required to restructure their business models. This will mean that while job titles may remain the same, the roles and responsibilities will differ.

To drive better ownership and with the help of integrated digital tools, manufacturers may also no longer need a dedicated headcount for health and safety officers. Instead, the responsibilities will be split and passed on to quality assurance or quality control teams, who will oversee health and safety as part of their role in the manufacturing process.

All jobs in manufacturing will have a digital element

In the future, most jobs in manufacturing are likely to have a digital element, so it is important for candidates to be equipped with strong digital skills so that they can do their work more effectively and efficiently.

For example, managers involved in production will need to know how to monitor the production floor system remotely. Supply chain managers will also need to know how to use supply chain management software to create processes and workflows to manage the data that suppliers need from clients. 

On the support side, sales & marketing professionals will need to use digital solutions to grow and retain their customer base, track sales and marketing return on investment (ROI), and increase sales channels through e-commerce to claim a bigger market share. Accounting & finance professionals will also be required to use financial management systems that are integrated with other parts of the business to be more efficient in financial planning, control and analysis.

In line with this, organisations are likely to increase their hiring appetite for technologists, especially project managers, solution architects, software engineers and cybersecurity experts.

Candidates are looking for job stability

After a year of confusion and uncertainty, candidates are expected to be more willing to change jobs in 2021. However, the caveat is the prospective company should be financially stable not only in Malaysia, but also in their overseas markets. Companies that remain committed to their global expansion and investment plans will be perceived as having the financial ability to offer a more stable income and job security.

Candidates are also likely to favour roles that can give them exposure to digital technology, so that they can upskill and keep up with the digital transformation within the manufacturing industry. Employers should note that some job seekers are even willing to accept offers that are of the same position and salary if the job comes with the opportunity to further develop their digital skills and knowledge.

While candidates may have a realistic view of their salary increment in view of the unstable global economic outlook, employers should still make an offer that reflects the candidate’s skills and experience, and their expected contributions to the company.

3 highest paid roles in the manufacturing sector (based on basic monthly salary): 

Chief executive officer / managing director with 20 to 25 years of experience

  • Low: RM35,000
  • Mid: RM50,000
  • High: RM85,000

General manager / operation director with 18 to 25 years of experience

  • Low: RM22,000
  • Mid: RM35,000
  • High: RM40,000

Plant manager with 15-20 years of experience

  • Low: RM15,000
  • Mid: RM23,000
  • High: RM30,000

4 talent trends in Malaysia's construction sector for 2021

Overall, in the construction sector, companies are likely to remain conservative in their hiring activities in 2021, until a widely accessible viable vaccine is available.

In-demand tech skills and jobs in 2021

Hot jobs in the construction industry next year are those with a crucial part in ensuring cost efficiency and profitability throughout the project lifecycle. For instance, roles in contract management, tender management, quality assessment and control, as well as project management.

Common technical skills that employers look for include BIM, IBS, Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC) and the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS).

Other in-demand soft skills would include stakeholder management, time management and vendor negotiation. Those who can communicate fluently and present themselves well during the job interview will stand a higher chance of securing the job.

On the other hand, design-related jobs in the construction industry will decrease in 2021 due to the decrease in the number of new projects in the market.

Improve your employer brand through training & development

It’s no secret that employees with updated qualifications are very attractive in the job market. Employers who do not have these highly-skilled professionals will be actively looking to hire them, and companies that have the talent will be working hard to retain them.

Companies that offer a robust training roadmap to upskill employees will be able to access a larger pool of candidate and secure good talent. Skilled employees will also help increase the human capital in the company as they are able to expand their portfolio or take on more specialised roles, which would further strengthen the employer brand of the company in the market.

Digital interviews are here to stay

We anticipate more employers to conduct job interviews over video conferencing or phone calls in 2021 and even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

After experiencing the benefits of virtual interviews during MCO, both employers and candidates have reportedly favoured digital interviews over the face-to-face format. Instead of applying for annual leave to attend job interviews, candidates can schedule them before work or during lunch breaks.

Employers also prefer to conduct interviews over video or phone, as they tend to be more structured and quick to process. Video interviews are better for evaluating candidates’ communication and presentation skills. The recording function also allows recruiters and hiring managers to share the interview with other decision-makers to determine if the candidate is a good fit, which helps speed up the hiring process.

Candidates’ appetite for changing jobs

As hiring remains quite active in the construction industry due to a scarcity of good talent in Malaysia, more candidates are expected to switch employers in 2021.

However, the ‘pull’ factors have to be very compelling to job seekers, especially passive candidates who will have a long wish list. For example, these candidates would seek to work with companies that have a strong project pipeline, good financial performance during COVID-19, no recent record of retrenchments or pay cuts as well as a strong management team that is capable of leading the organisation through the pandemic.

With lower hiring budgets during the pandemic, in-demand candidates who switch employers in 2021 can negotiate for a 10% to 15% salary increment, a downward trend from the 20% to 25% offered pre-COVID.

3 highest paid roles in the construction sector (based on basic monthly salary): 

Chief executive officer / director with 20 to 30 years of experience

  • Low: RM30,000
  • Mid: RM40,000
  • High: RM50,000

Chief operating officer / general manager 15-25 years of experience

  • Low: RM25,000
  • Mid: RM30,000
  • High: RM35,000

Project director with 15 to 25 years of experience

  • Low: RM20,000
  • Mid: RM25,000
  • High: RM35,000

Photo / 123RF

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