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Brain drain

Four ways to reverse Malaysia’s brain drain



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Part of ensuring a local core workforce includes attracting talent working and living overseas to return home. But are the 1.4 million Malaysians working overseas willing to “balik kampung”?

Thankfully, according to a new whitepaper by Robert Walters,  60% of overseas Malaysian professionals are interested to return home for reasons including “to care for ageing parents” and “affinity with the culture back at home”. These professionals also recognise the demand for local talent who have worked overseas and feel that they are able to command higher pay and greater career progression.

However, just because these people are interested in returning doesn’t mean that local employers will have a very easy time attract them back. In fact, 88% of hiring managers polled in Southeast Asia said they faced challenges in attracting and recruiting talent.

In order to attract these overseas talent to return, here are 4 things employers have to take note of.

Be prepared to negotiate
The top three concerns of overseas Asians thinking of returning home include less work-life balance or poorer quality of life, lack of ability to assimilate back into the culture sue to the length of time away, and an under-developed infrastructure and public transportation back home.

The whitepaper pointed out that returning Asians are likely to look for a salary increment (over local rates), clear career progression, and flexible working arrangements in an employment package. In line with that, according to the overseas Asians surveyed, the three things employers can do to ensure a smoother transition back home include

  1. Offering an attractive salary increment (32%)
  2. Offering holistic employment packages and benefits (30%)
  3. Mapping out a clear career progression path (12%)

Fun fact 1: Most returning Asians are looking at around a 20% increase in salary (35%).

expected salary increase

ALSO READ: Malaysia plummets to 15th place in talent competitiveness

Go beyond the standard employment contract
It is logistically challenging for these employees to move their lives back to their home countries. Hence, in order to attract them back, hiring managers can help ease this process by offering to pay for the shipping of items back home, assisting with accommodation search, and allowing for time off in the first few weeks of settling in (especially for those with children).

Retaining these talent is just as important as attracting them and in order to do so, hiring managers must follow through on what they have agreed on.

stay or leave

Fun fact 2: 86% of hiring managers polled see hiring returning locals as a viable option to address their recruitment challenges.

Fun fact 3: Job disciplines of interest to overseas Malaysian talent are accounting and finance, banking and financial services, and supply chain, procurement and logistics.

Focus on career growth
As seen in the points above, most returning Asians prioritise career progression. This is because after returning home, they will have to re-build their lives and careers back in their home countries.

An earlier report by Robert Walters pointed out that the most sought after types of career progression include

  1. Expanded portfolio and work experience
  2. Internal mobility (both locally and internationally)
  3. Education and training
  4. Set pathway to promotion especially for candidates with children

Fun fact 4: 80% of overseas Asians will not return before having secured a job back home.

Fun fact 5: 42% of overseas Asians would engage a recruitment consultancy or a headhunter when looking for a new role back home.

READ MORE: Malaysia’s home-grown talent ranked fifth in the world

Do not overpromise and not deliver
The whitepaper highlights that to retain these overseas professionals who have returned, hiring managers have to be honest about what the organisation can offer and what these professionals can expect to make sure expectations are alligned from the start.

Sally Raj, managing director or Robert Walters Malaysia said: “Employees today want to know if companies can provide a clear career path and progression to support their growth in the organisation.”

“When hiring managers are clearer about the goals and progression during the interviewing process, they will be more inclined to hire the right candidates and also retain them for a longer term.

Fun fact 6: 26% of overseas Asians would request for an internal transfer home with their current employer.

Fun fact 7: 14% of overseas Asians would use social media channels such as LinkedIn to assess the hiring markets and job positions available.

Photo / 123RF



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